I have this little game I like to play called, "Planning out the rest of my (Jason's, Sydney's) life." It's very similar to the game of Life, where you look ahead to see that if you roll a 6 then you get to live in a mansion. But if you roll a 1, too bad, you're living in a sleeping bag under the Burnside Bridge. There are little stops along the way to pick up a husband and a certain amount of children. Congratulations! It's a girl. Or twins! Or triplets! And hooray! they're all tax deductable and what a lot of money you get back for them when you're done playing.
In my little game, I start playing at unexpected moments, with varying options to work with. Like yesterday, in church, had you glanced over my way you would have seen me taking copious notes. Ah, yes, you might have remarked, she's really interested in this early church history bit. "The purpose of the church..." scribble scribble scribble... "and our mission as a church..." scribble scribble scribble. Diligent churchgoer.
But take a closer look at my bulletin and you would have seen numbers: 94, 96, 97, 00. The year that I graduated from high school, followed by the years that my siblings graduated from high school. Then off to the side: 12, 9, 8. The grades that, at this point, our hypothetical children will be in when Sydney is a senior. (I wasn't up to figuring out the math of when she'll graduate from high school.)
The "Siblings" version of the game.
At this point, the game gets a little bit crazy with all sorts of hypotheticals. I try to figure out how much value I should put on my experiences of going to high school with my siblings, so that if in some world (that is not run by me) Sydney does not end up with similar experiences I can estimate how much disappointment I will face as a parent. Emotional algebra, in which we have no control of the numbers.
Even after church I'm still trying to figure out how we (I) can make it work.
"If Sydney's in 12th grade," I say to Jason, "and hypothetical child #2--"
"---which we don't have---"
"---right, kid #2 is in 9th grade, that'll still be okay, right? Maybe some of the same sports? Maybe choir?"
"Or," he says, and here I have trapped him into my little game, "she could be old for her grade. Turn 19 at the end of her senior year. Like Joanna." Ever mindful of sports: Joanna was his star basketball player.
"Possibly." I mull it over and crunch more numbers.
"One tricky thing is if child #2 is graduating from high school the same summer that Sydney gets married. Don't want to take away attention from that."
Pause. He says, "You know, you can't actually plan when she gets married."
"Well, obviously. But if she is anything like me, then I would suspect she'd get married."
"But," he counters, "she really is more like me."
And here, Jason has lost a turn because he forgot that he got married. At the same age I did.
Clearly, playing games like these will drive a person crazy because just when you think you've got it planned out then it all goes haywire. Sydney was planned. End-of-the-school-year baby. We made plans for next baby. I look ahead and see that if I roll a 5, the kids will be two years apart.
But then we didn't get pregnant. I rolled a 2, got pregnant, so the kids would be two years, three months, apart. Then I misplayed, and got sent back to the beginning, and now we've missed the 2 1/2 years mark.
I realize how completely insane I am to even have these conversations with myself. And perhaps more insane to let you see into this crazy little corner of my brain.
I asked my mom to email me some pictures of me and my brother--we're 14 months apart--when he had his birthday was last week. He and I were good little buddies, even though there were a few rough years in there. I looked through all those pictures and thought, "That's what it was like to have a sibling."
I can't go back in time and give Sydney a sibling closer to her age. And to be fair, I didn't really want kids that close. Just now, as the window gets wider and wider, I start to feel a little panic. I try to calm down: my sister and I are 3 years apart. We're close. But we had my brother between us to bridge the gap.
Just when I think I should have done a better job on my game strategy, then beautiful moments in life pop up. Getting to spend time with Sydney. Getting to devote all my attention to her. And joy of joys, getting to see her play with her cousin Clover, a mere six weeks older.
Yesterday, as we were celebrating Clover's second birthday at my parents' house, I instinctively knew that no matter what happens she'll have her favorite cousin Clover right by her side. It isn't quite the same as having a sibling, but it's the next best thing.
It's impossible to plan everything, impossible to gauge how excited or disappointed we'll be when things go a certain way, impossible to know what life has around the next corner. I'll never stop planning--it's part of who I am--but I don't want to worry so much about the uncontrollable that I forget what I have.
If all I have at the end of the game is a little blue peg for Jason, a pink peg for me, and a pink peg for Sydney...I have to say, that's a win.