The last of a three-part series on why families should not have more than one child.
And the most important reason not to have more than one child: Raising a child is hard—and it gets harder as the kid gets older.
My dad wrote a book about raising kids, called A Child to Change Your Life. In the introduction, he wrote, "It is terribly easy to create and to love a little child. But it is a terribly difficult and consuming job to mold one into a good human being. I think those of us who have been through the whole experience owe it to those who haven't to tell them what it's really like. And maybe to acknowledge that both the people who decide they can do it and those who decide they can't make equal contributions to the world of happy, helpful human beings."
The degree of difficulty and complication in raising a child increases as the kid gets older. You begin to see the size of the challenge when you ask her, picking her up at pre-school, "How was your day?" She says, "Good." And when you try to get more than that, she looks at you like a soldier who's been asked, "How was the war?" It was fucking complicated, Dad.
So you ask a few questions—what was the best thing that happened? what was the worst?—and then you talk about what's for dinner and what time Mom's coming home and how many days until Santa comes. And then, three hours later while the two of you are molding meatballs, your kid says, "J.R. has a crush on me and I have a crush on him and Amelia told everybody."
Or he says, "Uncle Larry paid me five bucks to rub his feet."
Or she says, "You know what, Dad? I don't like dreams. Because they're bad if they're scary, and if they're good, you're mad when you wake up."
That happens every single day. And after awhile, you get to know your kid—or at least begin to, if you concentrate and listen and question and keep yourself from stifling the kid's candor, which you will often want to do.
Now how are you going to make yourself available like that if you have two or three kids? The squeaky wheel gets the grease. But every wheel needs the grease.
Look, in the end, I'm not saying that you shouldn't have more than one kid. I have seen many happy and healthy families with multiple kids. "I'm happy with my three boys, actually," says Chicago speechwriter Dan Conley. "I was born for this role." I never argue with a happy man, I told him.
And meanwhile, my three-part family ain't no picture of perfection. Ask Scout in 10 years; I'm sure she'll give you chapter and verse.
I'm just saying that, to my great surprise, I increasingly find myself wondering, not whether Cristie and I have made a mistake with our personal one-child policy, but whether conventional wisdom has driven other parents to overcrowd my dad's optimistic "world of happy, helpful human beings."