The Kids

I Don't Want More Kids, I Just Want More Time With the Ones I Have

by Katie Smith

Photograph by Twenty20

One spring afternoon, after my oldest son rode his bike downtown with his friends, I drove nearby to pick up something at the store. My son was sitting on a bench, drinking a Gatorade and laughing. From far away I thought, Who are those 18-year-old kids slapping each other with Twizzlers? I'd never see them before—or so I thought. As I got closer and realized those "big kids" were really just my son and his buddies, it made me realize in four short years, he would be off at college.

And I immediately felt like I wanted to have another child. I somehow felt it would stop time if I could have just one more. It was irrational, I know, but it stuck with me and I started dreaming about having another baby, even though it was been almost a decade since I was pregnant.

I've had three healthy kids and am thankful for each one. But for so long, I'd imagined there would be a fourth that would join our clan. Maybe growing up with three sisters made me feel like I was meant to have four kids, too. However, I was at a time and place in my life where it was clear another child was not in the cards for me. A week later, while doing some soul searching, I realized it wasn't more children that I wanted—I just wanted more time with each of the souls I'd already given birth to.

I wanted them to stop turning so independent. I wanted their social life to slow down. I wanted to protect them a little longer from the peer pressure and emotions that come with growing up and discovering who you want to be. I wanted more years of them waking up in my house on Christmas morning.

I didn't feel as though I'd ever be ready to stop attending school open houses and spring concerts. I wanted more and I wanted it with them.

Eighteen years sounds like a lot and not enough all at the same time.

I realized it wasn't so much that I wanted to birth another child, it was that the time I'd had with my kids was almost half over. At the time, my youngest was 9; in another nine years, he would be gone. The thought of an empty house was unbearable and has always has been unbearable for me. It's a reality I don't think I'll ever be able to face.

Nothing makes you realize how fast time goes by like seeing your oldest riding his bike with his friends and watching him when he doesn't know you're there.

I have never wanted to go back to the baby and toddler years like I did while I was helping my daughter fix her hair for her first dance.

And, when my youngest wraps his arms around me in the drop-off line at school, I try an hang on a little longer. This is his last year in elementary school. He may be ready to grow up and move on, but I don't think I am.

Being in the trenches with young kids is excruciating. You're tired all the time and you can't wait for it to be over. But when it is, and they start school, the years zip by and you're constantly wishing to set the clock back a few years so you can spend more time with them.

Eighteen years sounds like a lot and not enough all at the same time. The time will come when I'm helping them pack for college before I know it and there is nothing I can do about it. I kind of hate that.

Instead of wishing for time to slow down (I've been trying for long enough to know it doesn't work at all), I just need to put all the love and energy I have into the years I do have with them.

So, I will watch them from afar. I will hug my babies for a extra few seconds. I will help them get ready for the dances and send them off into the world with them knowing how much they are loved—and I'll always want more time with each of them.

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