As my wife is currently chronicling over on her blog, we are potty- training our final child. I am finding that each step toward indepen- dence that my children take makes me inwardly sigh with some relief.
It's a wonderful thing to take down a crib and know we're not going to set it up again for many years and then only in a spare bedroom for possible use by visiting grandbabies. It's a wonderful thing for my wife to announce in Relief Society that she has a big Costco-sized box of disposable diapers available for anyone who needs them and to know that, unless I find myself compelled to provide primary care for an incontinent spouse or parent, I may never change another poopie diaper again in my life.
I love it how our two littlest boys are able to play between themselves for longer and longer periods. In fact, when two-and-a-half-year-old Zach goes down for his nap (which, by the way, is one thing I'll be sad when he grows out of), four-year-old Kimball often becomes higher maintenance because he's lost his playmate for an hour or two.
Even just the other day when Kimball successfully pushed play on the DVD player by himself, it gave me a little thrill. Eleven-year-old Sophie, who is currently living with us full time, is off for a week at camp, and later this summer she's flying by herself to visit her Denver cousins for a week. I love having her live with us because I was really worried about her situation at my ex-wife's, but these little breaks are exquisite!
Perhaps when we reach the empty nest stage, I will experience some loneliness and some regret that I didn't make better use of my time with my children—not that I'm a complete failure at fatherhood. But until then, I'm savoring each step toward that stage. If I didn't have any kids, I'm sure by now I would have wondered what I'm missing or perhaps even felt an uncomfortable void in my life. It's kind of like serving a mission: it sure was a pain in the butt to go, but if I hadn't gone, I would always wonder. Knowing what I know now in retrospect, I don't think I would have opted to go on a mission, but I would have opted for parenthood.
And by the way, neither Ann nor I have ever experienced any moment of regret about my vasectomy two years ago. Even when my wife is holding someone's newborn and I raise my eyebrows to inquire, she says, "No way, honey. We're done." And you know what's weird? I've enjoyed sex quite a bit better since fertility was removed from the equation. And since my wife got an IUD to pretty much cancel out her periods, it's been even nicer for us.
Not that I didn't enjoy sex before, but we had times when my wife was eager to get pregnant and I found that stressful. And even when she was not pushing for conception, there was always that fear still hovering in the background. Frankly, as a somewhat selfish, lazy person, I've never really consciously wanted children—in fact, when I got married the first time, one reason why I went along with it so fast was because the woman couldn't have kids. Of course, she later got the idea to adopt and I didn't stop her, although sometimes I wonder if I should have, since I'm concerned about her parenting approach.
Now I have five kids, and I'm grateful they're healthy and pretty much normal, although I'm sure they have some future surprises in store for us. I'm glad I have these people in my life even if I more often find parenthood draining and frustrating than rewarding. It has its golden moments and there are times when I feel successful at it and quite entertained by the cuteness and intelligence of the kids, but more often I feel stressed and inadequate about parenting, like there's so much more I could be doing for my kids and yet at the same time they're really bugging me and making unreasonable demands for my time and attention.
Even just keeping the household running smoothly with so many people living in it is surprisingly challenging and time- consuming, and it seems like we're never caught up. We're still working on cataloging our food storage so the software will help us manage it better. To my somewhat irrational relief, we've been able to pick up a few tubs of wheat to store, probably only enough for one person for a full year—but hey, as with most other things church-related, making just a partial effort assuages my guilt enough to feel OK. For some reason, we don't have a cleaning lady come anymore, which we used to once or twice a month, and lately I've really been wishing we could afford to have someone regularly clean our carpets and the windows... Maybe when the kids are gone, we can do a good remodel and start fresh.