The other day a woman meeting my whole family for the first time asked, “So are you done?” I said Paul was my last one. Immediately after that, I felt a wrongness. Those words had revealed and rejected something. Was I done having children? I didn’t know. I knew I felt taxed and at times overwhelmed and certainly worried about having children in college and kids in diapers at the same time. I’d fully concede that having this many children is difficult and time consuming. It’s expensive and hard and there is always a task that needs doing but people have been asking, “Are you done?” since the blessing of my first being a son and my second, a daughter. Two minutes after aiding in delivery while sponging off my newborn girl, the nurse chirped, “Now you have the perfect family. Are you going to have any more?”
The expected answer was implied, “No.”
These days, the sight of nine children elicits this response and is usually followed before it can be answered with a proclamation either of “We’re done.” or “I’m done.” or other explanations of how children won’t be born in the future to the person asking the question.. The question “are you done?” has an expected answer of “Yes.”
Now I know that all families are gifts and that love is not measured by the number of children, but by the fullness of our hearts but there is something about that question, “Are you done?” that implies an impatience, an irritation at being offered a permanent perfect gift.. Sometimes I falter because I understand why someone would want to tell God, “Enough.” We are finite creatures, fearful of being asked to love infinitely. Original sin can make us cowards before the possibilities of permanent infinite bounty of God’s love.
But God likes to give us second chances to get to the right place, and so the question was put forth again three more times by a stranger, a professional acquaintance and a friend in that order. “I don’t know.” “We aren’t seeking or refusing anything we receive.” And “I still haven’t figured out how to respond to that question.” were my attempts to answer the question without answering or revealing too much. It still felt strained.
My sage husband suggested prayer.
The next day the question came again.. “This is our youngest son. Our latest.” I said to the woman in line who asked me as I pushed a three child stroller by her. She looked at them and beamed, “I think that’s wonderful.” The question stopped being asked. Thank goodness God gives us multiple chances. As a writer, I love rewrites to get just the right turn of phrase, to convey everything I hope to say in the fewest words possible. God apparently does too.
Copyright 2009 Sherry Antonetti