Jack died two years ago right now: 6:30 PM, February 20, 2013.
One of the things that means is that we have four children. This is the wrong number: we’re supposed to have five.
Backing up a bit . . . when Mrs. New John and I were dating and things turned serious, we discussed how many children we wanted to have. From the very beginning, we agreed that we wanted five kids.
It was our perfect number because we both wanted a big family but not so big that we didn’t think we could manage it. Five was just right.
After the girls were born, along came Jack. We were the typical two- to three-child American family. Then came the happy surprise of our twins. Suddenly, we were going to have our “right number of kids” sooner than we expected to . . . and with one fewer pregnancy to boot. We were so excited!
The twins arrived 26 months after Jack and we paid our parenting dues once more, this time with the added “bonus” of having three children (all boys!) under three years old.
For the next 17 months, we had the family we’d always wanted: a good balance between girls and boys, nice age spread, good kids, the right number, etc.
We just didn’t know how much we should have treasured that time.
Since Jack’s death, our family just isn’t . . . right.
For example, when we go somewhere, we load into the minivan. You know . . . the one we bought specifically because it could seat eight (our family of seven plus one more)?
Now, as the kids pile in, twins hopping into their car seats and trying to buckle themselves and girls slotting into the middle or back row as they desire, every single time my heart hurts at least a little because there’s supposed to be one more child getting in with them. One more bright and happy little boy fighting to get “the good seat.”
We love our children with all our hearts; our girls and boys mean the world to us. We try hard every day to focus on the joy they bring to our lives and to look past the less-than-perfect parts. It doesn’t always work, but we keep in mind that, even when they’re being little devils, we need to love them for all their worth.*
But it’s the wrong number. Each and every day, it’s the wrong number of kids.
* Like Emily in Our Town, no matter how painful, I’d give anything to go back and share even the worst tempered and most ill-behaved day of Jack’s life over again.