The revelation came last Friday, which also happened to be three days before Max’s fourth birthday. I’d baked a pan of Supreme Ultimate Fudge brownies (melt away chips in the mix!), and they had come out of the oven in a giant cakey mound instead of nice and flat like God and Betty Crocker intended. The pieces I’d sliced were all different heights and weirdly sloped, like brownie Stonehenge on a cooling rack, and definitely weren’t going to fit in the snack-sized bags I’d planned to carry them to the elementary school talent show concession stand in later that night. Also, I was on the phone with a surgical endocrinologist.
I was interviewing him for an article about having your thyroid removed, and as he explained in painstaking detail how he cuts the gland from its blood supply in the neck, I licked leftover brownie batter from my fingers and muffled the oven timer, swearing silently as my arm grazed the side of the hot oven. I’ve honed this skill over the last two years — Interviewing Highly Educated and Important People During Improbable Interview Conditions. I once interviewed a professor of medicine and esteemed diabetes researcher while driving soccer carpool. I had six (6) kids in the car with me, aged 3–12. (Ironically, I bought their silence with candy. I also sweat through my shirt.) Feel free to hit me up with an endorsement for that on my LinkedIn page.
After the interview wrapped, I texted a friend: “Tried to make the talent show brownies. Instead, I recreated Stonehenge with chocolate. Interviewed a surgeon about thyroidectomies while I baked. Livin’ the dream. [Sunglassed faced Emoji]”
I hit send. But even before the text was delivered, I knew my attempt at humor was misplaced. I sent another: “But actually, really that’s kinda true.”
This was the revelation: The fact that my normal week involves making money having a conversation about goiters while cramming odd-but-delicious brownies into tiny bags in my own kitchen in the middle of the day just before walking my batter-splattered self up the street to collect my kids from school? That’s me living my dream life.
Today Max turns 4, and so does our family of five. Noah was 3 years and 9 months when Rosie was born, and Rosie was just over 3 and a half when Max came along. That makes Max, at 4 years old, officially the oldest youngest kid we’ve ever had.
All the gear is slowly marching out the door in the hands of other parents: crib, stroller, highchair, potty seat, impossibly small onesies with snaps at the crotch. All the kids read books with paper pages now, pedal bikes with two wheels, face forward in the car. We’ve reached a new family phase.
I used to worry that when Max was three and a half, babylust would kick in and I’d get sad. Sad because of some Kid Who Wouldn’t Be, sad because there’d be no more pregnancies, sad for the fact that I’d never again hold my own open-mouthed, wrinkly headed, magically scented baby for the first time. I’d never imagined myself having four kids, but I’d also never been finished having babies before now, either. I always wondered how it would feel to know I was really done. Would I sit and cry over open boxes of baby mementos? Create a moonlight ritual that involved burning my nursing bras and body paint? Buy a Harley and start dressing like Dita Von Teese? All of these scenarios seemed plausible.
But now that the time’s here, I don’t have a deep longing for another kid who’s yet to arrive. I feel like everyone’s accounted for. I realize now that the fortune cookie I got on my last day of pregnancy four years ago — it wasn’t talking about Max. It was talking about this family of five. They’re my dearest wish. They came true.
This morning, Max bounced into my bed and slithered under the covers, curling his body to fit against mine. He’s been counting down the days until his birthday, but somehow, today, THE day, he forgot. After three minutes of stillness, he gasped and sat straight up beside me. “I’M FOUR!”
You are, big kid. And so is your family. We’ve got nowhere to grow but up.