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The Right Number of Kids: 2

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I knew I was only going to have only two children years before I was ready to start a family. In fact, I remember the very day I promised myself I would never, ever have three children.

As the middle of three kids, I was always sensitive about birth order. I lacked the bravado and charisma of my older brother. And I didn’t have the same focus or intensity as my sister. I was always somewhere in between the two of them. They were the poles that defined the three of us and I simply had varying degrees of what I thought of as “their” traits.

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One summer when I was home on break from college, my parents had installed a new alarm system. During my tutorial of this new-fangled system, my father explained how he picked the code: “The first number is your brother’s age and the second number is your sister’s.”

Oh, the poetry of an alarm bell going off when learning how to use an alarm system! I didn’t say anything at the time, but I made a vow to myself that I would never put a child of mine in the middle. The middle child is too often invisible—tucked between the wings of the baby and those of the firstborn.

I can’t help but feel anticipatory devastation at the prospect of him being lost behind his spirited big sister and an inevitably needy baby.

I’ve thought of ways around this. Like having four children. But because I could never be sure that having two middle children would eliminate the chance of them getting lost in the shuffle, I’ve ruled it out. Two’s it for us.

Yes, I have pangs of longing when my friends call to tell me they’re pregnant with their third. Those calls make me wonder if I could get over my own baggage in time to make it happen for our family. In my heart, I know I can’t. When I look at my son—our youngest who’d become the middle if we had another child—I can’t help but feel anticipatory devastation at the prospect of him being lost behind his spirited big sister and an inevitably needy baby. I can’t do that to him, and I am scared it will happen even though I would do everything I could to keep all three of my kids front and center.

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To my friends having their third children, I always promise to bring over a pan of lasagna when the baby is born, and I send their family my blessings. And to their soon-to-be-middle children, I send extra special blessings, wishing them visibility and a sense of being special in their own right.

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