October 12, 2009

The Delightful Paradox

The decision to have a child was not a hard one for me. I love kids. I went into pediatrics because of the patients, not the medicine. But I have to admit, there was some serious trepidation on my part about having a second child. What would it do to my relationship with Grace? What would it mean for us as a family? Underlying it all, the nagging question: can I love two kids equally? Or would I then be splitting the love I have for Grace between two kids?

The answer to this is that I don't have to worry so much. There is a model readily established for dealing with dividing your love between two people... your first kid. Grace, too young to be stymied by logical arguments and mutual exclusivity, when professing her love for her parents will often say to me: "I love you better. I love Mommy the most." Yeah. I can't really say it much better than that, so thank you not-yet-four-year-old. I will always treasure Grace as my first child, the first one to evoke such deep rooted sensations of love and protection in me. I love Violet the same way, and yet differently. She didn't cause such a sea change in the makeup of our family as Grace did. But in her own way she has dramatically altered who we are as a family, and how I view myself as a dad. Now I am the father of kids, not just a kid. She looks (I think) more like me than Grace does. She sleeps differently, she babbles differently, and in many ways I have no idea yet what kind of little person she'll become. The excitement/uncertainty that was present with Grace is still very much there, I just have a bit more experience now.

So it's with this in mind that I have to approach the daunting task of preparing to adopt, which is how we've elected to expand our family to five. There is a whole new realm of murkiness and doubt in this. Will I be able to love my nonbiological child as much as my biological kids? Will I deal well with all the complexities and loss this child will face as he/she ages with me as a parent instead of the person who gave them life? Two worked out all right, but will I be able to split my love between three children?

But I know now that there is no splitting involved. The love you have for your kids is not a bag of candy, at constant risk of being emptied the more you dip into it. It's a living and growing thing, perhaps a fruit tree that's never out of season. And very large. And the fruit grows really fast. And you can't pick it all, because more will replace it. And... yeah, it's like that. I'm not so good at analogies. Maybe it's just a bettermost tree.

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