That’s what she asked us, the stranger on the street, her eyes darting us over like she was watching some sort of curious circus performance.
Us and our three young children, our bounty of blankets and snacks, and enough miscellaneous mess to fill some minimalist’s living rooms. Us and our dishevelled hair, food still on our face and clothes from dinner (and that’s just Dr M and myself!) With our two prams, one of them a double-decker, one child perched on top riding high, the other closeted below like a surprise hidden layer in a rainbow cake.
It sounds rude, right? Her unsolicited enquiry about the quantity of our offspring. Maybe. A hint of criticism. Perhaps. Bewilderment. A discernible dash of that too.
Honestly, I think she just found us a little curious.
And I might be curious too, if I didn’t know the whole story, the multitude of twists and turns, many beyond our own making, that had brought us to this point. And I can’t say,even so, that I don’t ask the same question of myself sometimes. Verbalising it aloud at points of exasperation to Dr M. And he to me. Her question was one of quantity. It (and mine too) implies a question of resources. Of limits.
Is it just too much? Three children three and under. How did we find ourselves here? Will we ever survive the craziness of this crazy time?
Because with the gain of three children in rapid-fire succession comes losses. Mostly in the parental lifestyle department.
The loss of time. Of sanity. Of being able to do anything, really, with grace or dignity.
Then there’s the toll on the body. Three pregnancies in three years means more grey hair, more lines, more…well, just more, and not always where you want it to be!
And if her question weren’t rhetorical, how might I have answered it? We didn’t plan it this way. That’s the truth. In a perfect world we might have waited longer between each birth. But would we change it? Absolutely not.
Has it changed life. Yes. Some days I struggle to finish a page of a book without interruption. Or to eat a meal sitting down. And then other days, other moments, I can’t believe my luck: these children who laugh with such abandon, who make happy noise where there was once, at times, solemn quiet, who are, quite literally: gifts.
But is it a question of enough, or too much? Does it come down to our own satisfaction, or dissatisfaction. To what we lose…or gain. Can we even quantify such things?
I know some, far greater, far more generous than I, who answer this question differently. Not with a meditation on limits, or with consideration of cost-benefit as the final adjudicator in decision-making, but with open-armed, crazy, boundless giving. Families already apparently ‘full’ who choose, consciously, to give more.
In recent times, four separate families, dear friends of ours at church, have chosen to say no to the question of limits, of capped resources, of self-preservation, and have chosen instead to embrace more.
To my foster-caring friends, and the amazing expanded families they are now becoming, I salute you! You are light on a dark night. A beacon in a busy world. A curly-surprise on a straight street. Those who give, receive. May your love increase, and may you know boundless grace in all you do.