I'm making pancakes with my kids. My 3-year old son is dumping the flour into the blender, a dusting of white covers the counter, his arms and his face. His pajamas are too small for him, the tattered cuffs stop short an inch up his arm.
My just six-year old daughter declares, "Mommy, I want another baby. I want the family to have another baby." She says it innocently, with a smile, believing her statement to be on the same level as "Mommy, I want the Playmobil Animal Clinic for my birthday."
Within seconds, my eyes are welling with tears. This is not the first time she has asked this - she has been doing so on and off for the past year or so. A few of her kindergarten friends have added small babies into their families, including, about a week ago, on Mother's Day, her best friend welcomed a new baby brother. It's on her mind, this baby business, and she assumes logically that it would be reasonable to appeal to me, the mother, to grant her request to gain a new sibling.
"Yeeahh, a baby. Wouldn't that be cooool?" my son says, licking his powdered fingers.
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The last many times my daughter has asked this I have managed to deflect, with a shrug, a smile, sometimes an "I don't think so, honey," and move on to the next thing. But, this time I don't want to answer that way. I don't want to pretend an answer. On my resolve days, the days when I resolve not to think about it, not to despair about it, not to imagine the 'what if' scenarios where things magically turn around, I tell myself, as a responsible parent, I should not involve my kids in this issue. It is not their struggle, and they have many wants and desires that I say 'no' to every day. "Mama, can I have another cookie?", "Mama, can I have a race car and drive really fast?", "Mama, can I never brush my hair again?" I can say 'no' to these things. But this time, the "No, sweetie," and a smile, just won't come.
And I hear myself saying, "You need to ask Daddy about that."
She counters, "But why, Mommy, why don't you want another one?"
With tears now progressing down my cheeks, I try to erase the bitterness from my voice. "I do want one, honey, very much. I would very much like to have another baby. But Daddy doesn't, so you should ask him."
Blinking away my tears, I am valiantly trying to finish adding the ingredients to the blender for the pancakes. My son is waiting patiently until he can turn it on, the whirring and whizzing the real reason why he likes pancakes."Why do we need to ask Daddy?" he smiles. "You make the babies inside of you." He gestures largely with his floured hands, quite pleased with his understanding of human reproduction.
"Why, indeed," I silently scream, not at my son, but at my chosen partner in life, who is sleeping in upstairs, on this Sunday May morning.
"Because Daddy and I both need to agree." A trite phrase which I use daily to my kids to help them resolve their disputes, whether it's about Lego, or who gets to sit beside Mommy at dinner, or about whose turn it is with the black marker.
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"Why doesn't Daddy want another baby?" my daughter asks.
"I don't know. You need to ask him." I say, barely able to speak over the lump in my throat, looking downward so she can't see my eyes. I know she won't ask him, though. She saves these questions for me. Perhaps she feels as I know, that the answer will be 'no.'"
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Written by Laurie Davidson for Hybrid Mom.