Ooh child

I ran into an acquaintance at the farmer’s market on Saturday, a woman I hadn’t seen for a few months, a mother of three. I was holding Isaac, and she commented on how big he was getting. I told her that his first birthday was last Monday. And she asked me a question:

“Is it getting any easier?”

It was such an odd — such an oddly astute — question that it took me aback for a moment. I tried to remember the last time we’d spoken. Was I in one of those sleepless, near-hysterical phases? Were Rachel and I chasing Rowan around the market while Isaac screamed? “Were things not easy last time we talked?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “it’s just that....” and she let the sentence trail off as she glanced over at her partner and their three daughters, the youngest of whom is 18 months old. “... you know. It gets easier.”

She’s right. It is getting easier. I mean, I look back to the blog entries of a year or so ago and they are exhausted. Not tired, but exhausted. They are walking around the basement for hours with six-week-old Isaac in a sling. They are up all through the night. They wonder when they will be able to leave the house without feeling anxious. They don’t leave me or Rachel alone for very long with the baby, let alone both children. Their house is a disaster and they don’t know what’s for dinner.

Okay, that last one is still true, but for the most part things have settled down considerably. I mean, we’re still busy. We are often tired, often frazzled, often longing for more time to ourselves, less chaos. But things are getting easier. Today, right now, for example, I am in the house, in my office, alone — alone! — and I will be until today at about 4:15 p.m., when we will collect both Rowan and Isaac from their phenomenal babysitter.

I get to spend days alone.

Writing.

About them. But I digress.
No matter that large chunks of those days are also spent doing laundry and tidying the kitchen (such is the life of someone who works from home and who procrastinates by puttering — and has children, though I suspect that’s true of people who don't have children as well). I get to do the laundry and the tidying all by myself.

Isaac, yes, has joined his big brother at the babysitter’s two days a week. He loves it. We love it. In the fall, we’ll bump it up to three days, and Rowan will start junior kindergarten two days a week. Isaac climbs the stairs by himself. Rowan’s grandfather buys him his first two-wheeler (with training wheels) and he takes off down the street. Rachel and I know what it feels like to leave the house of an evening — together — and not worry or feel the need to rush home after an hour. Individual moments, hours, days — those really long weekends — can be challenging, frustrating, difficult even, but overall it’s getting easier.

Which is why, in part, there will be no third child. I just can’t see myself giving up any of this newfound “easier.” I don’t want to be trapped in the basement or up all night with an infant again, pulled in three different directions, none my own choosing.

I’m not ambivalent about being done. I know what I want. But a part of me wishes I felt differently. A part of me wants to be like the heroine of Alice McDermott’s short story, “Enough,” who wants more, more, more of everything — another bowl of ice cream, another baby on her hip, just one more dance into the wee hours.

But I’m not like her (and, I keep reminding myself, she is a work of fiction).

I remember dancing with Rachel and a months-old Theo to Molly Johnson’s “Ooh child/Redemption Song,” singing along to her promise that, “things are gonna get easier.” And they are. I love my boys. I want them. but I also want time for me. So for me, for us, two is enough.