Outnumbered!

Raising a larger than average family.

How I Became Outnumbered

From none, to two, to four.

I've loved kids since I was a toddler myself. I just naturally gravitated toward younger kids, and they to me. It seemed to be in my genetic makeup to be a mother.

I started baby-sitting other people's children at ten. By the time I was thirteen, I was one of the premier baby-sitters in my community, watching little ones several times a week and booked as essentially a full-time nanny every summer. Baby-sitting fed a deep need I had to play the role of caregiver.

Despite my hours of very part-time parenting and a real passion for all things kid-related, I never planned on having more than two children. Now admittedly I didn't spend a lot of time counting my future offspring, but I had some vague thought that I didn't want three, the number in my family, because one was always left out. Four seemed almost irresponsible and only one was out of the question.

So two it was. The magic number, the average number.

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When I had an ultrasound at 20 weeks of gestation during my first pregnancy, and we found out I was carrying twins, little did I comprehend just how much this surprise would affect the shape of my future family. "Two for the price of one pregnancy!" I thought smugly. To have it all done at once β€” the births, the rearing, the sending out into the world β€” seemed a great blessing indeed.

As Rachel and Andrea got to be two, then three, we started talking about having another. I had read once in a book on parenting twins that having two at once is rather like having one complicated only child. This was a statement with which I tended to agree more heartily as the girls grew.

We decided to have one more, and little Cody was born when the twins were four. It wasn't long before we started talking about having another though, as we could see that Cody was going to be left quite firmly out of his sisters' twindom. "He needs a playmate," my then-husband rationalized, though coming from a family of six children, four wasn't above the stretch of his imagination.

I waffled, torn between not wanting Cody to feel left out, but unsure that I wanted to step across the precipice of being that greatly outnumbered. Four kids is a lot.

My decision was made for me (or so I thought) when Cody started having seizures at the tender age of seven months, similar to his sister before him, and I firmly decided that having any more children was clearly not a good idea. There was evidently some risk of our progeny developing epilepsy and after Cody went through a slew of tests, I was too tired to even think about dealing with yet another child with the potential for the same issues.

When I found out I was pregnant again a few months later, I bawled. Logan came along when Cody was 18 months old, an unwelcome addition to my lap in my older baby's eyes, but as it turned out, an incredible blessing to our family.

Now the twins are eleven, Cody is seven and Logan is five. I can't imagine my life without any of them and I'm eternally grateful for each one's existence, whether planned or not.

I'll admit it though β€” it's not an easy job being a parent of four. It's crazy, frustrating, often like living in a zoo and there are times when I want to run away screaming and never come back.

But when I think of my kids as individuals, there's (obviously) not one I could live without. Taken as a collective whole, the odds are frightening, the chances of messing up always lurking in the depths of my subconscious. Thankfully, I can usually deal with them one-on-one, or, at most, one-on-two basis.

Join me on my journey. I promise, it won't be boring.

Are you the parent of a "large" family? Did you plan it that way?

 

Sarah E. Ludwig is a writer and mother of four. She has written for The Christian Science Monitor, Parenting, and Twins Magazine.

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