Oct 20, 2007

2 Much

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance there's a section, early on, that suggests that we can never know what our life would have been like *if*.

If only I'd taken that high school teaching job upstate then... Then--nothing. Enormous gratification and success? Killed by drunk driving teenager on back country road? Impossible to know.

If only I'd kept dating that millionaire then... Then--nothing. Spa treatments and expensive clothing that fits me well? Lost at sea on the family yacht? Again, not worth imagining, because I didn't.

The image we've all grown up with is that of standing at a crossroads--looking ahead at all the possible paths. Our lives as the Game of Life, with all the colored squares laid out ahead. A stack of baby-pegs wait to be plugged into our cars. And will it be college and debt or shall we skip college and have lower paying jobs but get out there more quickly?

But imagine our backs are to that crossroads, and we can't peek over our shoulder. We're falling backwards through life--NOT walking forwards. We can only *know* what's already happened. We don't know anything else.

I liked that concept so much that I stopped reading the book.

If we hadn't had a third child--maybe we'd have been on a safari by now. Maybe we'd have been captured by rebel forces, stampeded by elephants.

If we hadn't had a third child, maybe I'd have gotten a Masters degree (in anything!). Maybe I'd have had a series of successful art shows. A retrospective at the Whitney? Maybe I'd have been slammed by reviewers.

Maybe I'd have written a book. Maybe Oprah would have had me on her show to tell me in person how offended she was by it. Maybe I'd be in a padded cell right now.

There is no way of knowing what our life would be like if we didn't have Piper. But motorcycles be damned, I have a few hunches.

Bedtime might run like clockwork, and involve long luxurious story time. Maybe we'd have read all of the Harry Potter books.

Maybe we'd have family game nights every night and protecting our scrabble tiles wouldn't be a crucial part of the experience.

I'd have won volunteer-of-the-year awards at the elementary school, the halls of which would be filled with imaginative and important murals overseen--of course--by me, Mom of the Year.

We'd pop over to London for long weekends several times a year.

Car trips wouldn't involve repeated playings of the Wonderpets soundtrack.

We could sit wherever we want in the minivan--and at the dinner table.

We wouldn't run out of ketchup every few weeks.

I'd enroll my daughter in as many after school programs as she wanted. Her friends could come over and play and they wouldn't have to find ways to include a grabby three year old at every turn.

We'd sleep in til eight, at least, on the weekends.

We'd have forgotten the numbers for the PBS channels, and we'd never have to hear the Barney song again.

When I was pregnant with her another mom stood in the playground and told me, while her own number 3 clutched her leg and sucked his thumb, that she often wondered what life would be like without him and that sometimes she thought it would have been a lot nicer.

I shuddered at her insensitivity then (judged her, told the story to other disapproving moms, all that bad mom stuff). And I think about her all the time now.

I could end this rant with a list of touching 'of courses'--(of course we love her ferociously, of course we wouldn't be a family without her, of course...of course of course--) but that would be so predictable and wouldn't really match the mood I was in when the first few sentences of this popped into my head as I brushed my teeth before going to bed a few moments ago.

We can't know what it would have been like without her.

There may have been no NOW for us. There may have been MORE now for us.

She's here. Now there are three. And sometimes it's too much.


Anonymous said...

This could be my life- I actually had someone tell me this week- "you know S, if you hadn't had your last little one I would have offered you this (my ideal position that would have been only 30 hours a week with room to grow and I could walk to work)job." I made a choice- a conscious choice- to bring a third in this world because I had recently lost the "surprise baby" that entered our life earlier that year. I keep that in my head when the going gets rough with one of the heftiest and most ornery 22 month old on the planet. At one time- lying in a bed with no goldfish crackers in the sheets and in a house that was relatively clean and full of productve fingerprint free work from all family members- I cried for a third.

Anonymous said...

Oh, great blog by the way.

Carolyn said...

Here's to hoping that your speculation as to what life would be life without number 3 remains speculation.

I'd give anything to get my number 3 back.

Anonymous said...

We had our third (surprise!) five years after our second, when we were well past diapers and nursing and strollers.

But I found that #3 has been by far the easiest baby--because of the age gap and the fact that #1 and #2 were in school all day, it was like having a first baby again, and for me it was a great opportunity to parent a baby with a lot more accumulated wisdom and a lot less angst.

It also gave me the perspective to realize that a lot of moms dwell too much on parenting issues. It was so liberating to have a baby and not really feel any guilt about anything whatsoever. I already KNOW I can raise pretty great kids despite innumerable mistakes along the way, so I get to have fun with #3 in a way I never did with the first two.

#3 also gave us the chance to savor "babyhood" because we weren't in "survival mode" anymore. Dh rocked #3 to sleep every night until she was 3 just because he could.

Of course, I never look back and think "what would my life be like if I didn't have my kids" because frankly, I remember my life at that point, and my high-stress professional career wasn't that hot. It definitely stood in the way of more stuff (travel, hobbies, interests) than the kids ever will. And the kids are darn interesting--they bring a fascinating new perspective to old issues.

Overall, parents need to analyze less, enjoy the moment more....and appreciate what they have right now.

Rob said...

You have a keen grasp of reality. Though perhaps a bit of a pessimistic one. When they come back for Christmas dinner in their 20s you'll feel differently about it.

fuzzywhitedogs said...
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