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Feb 05

How many kids do you have again?

It’s a question I never know how to answer.

I’ve given birth three times.  I have three children with beds in my home, three children that I do everything for.  Three kids that I buy clothes for, that I feed and make sure they brush their teeth.  Three kids that I attend parent/teacher conferences for, agonize over whether they’ve done their bat mitzvah studying, worry about their math grades, and know the name of their friends.   I snuggle them to sleep at night, make sure they’ve got their shoes on the right feet and lunch in their backpacks each morning.  I hear about their days, teach them to read, explain the way the world works to them.

But I’ve got another two.  And they’re mine too.

Part of it is that when I claim that I’ve got FIVE kids, I’m making a pretty big statement.  FIVE kids is a lot.  Five kids is a deliberate decision to have a really big family.  I didn’t exactly make that decision.  Although I kind of did – all three of mine were conceived deliberately into a family that was already in progress.  Sam has four sisters.  Jessie is as much the middle child as she is the oldest (and the youngest of the oldest three, but that’s another blog post…).  When Julie colors her family, all five kids are there.

I only gave birth three times.  I only take care of, on a consistent 24/7 basis, my three kids.  But there are five of them.

There are five kids at my Shabbat table.  My daughter is the youngest of the “Cohen girls.”  (Because Julie is, as always, in a class by herself).  Jessie relies on her Sarah as her big sister, and lots of times, is only willing to participate in activities if her big sister is going too.  Lilli is the one person who can and will throw down with Sam – literally, she’ll sit on him and he loves it.  Julie is very much the youngest of five kids.

My husband has five kids.  He’s most definitely a father of five.  He loves all five of them, he doesn’t distinguish between the ones that we had together and the ones from his first marriage.  They’re all his.

The obvious hitch is my saying that I have five kids is that I don’t.  Two of those five have their own very involved, loving mother who does all of the things for her two that I do for my three.  She knows their doctors, she knows their grades and their friend’s parents.  I don’t want to presume to take that away from her.  I wouldn’t want someone to do that to me – my role as my children’s mother is MINE and I wouldn’t want to share it.  I assume that she doesn’t either.  She’s their mother, I’m their dad’s wife, their siblings’ mom.  I’m their friend, but I’m also the mom when they’re here with me.

In the end, the truth is that they are mine.  They’re just not only mine.  They’ve grown up with me, I changed their diapers (at least the younger one).  I’ve been there for the science experiments, I taught them how to change a diaper and why breastfeeding is totally normal.   I yell at them when they’re too loud, I’ve made them pick up blocks and legos and princess houses.  I’ve dressed them in leotards and ballet shoes, braided hair and bandaged boo-boos.  I buckled car seats and poured drinks.  I’ve pushed them on swings, and taken them to the park more times that I could possible count.  I know what they like to eat, what they like to read, and what they like to watch.  They’re mine too.  They’re my family – they’re my husband’s daughters, my in-law’s grandchildren, and my kids’ siblings.

To say that I only have three kids is inaccurate.  As inaccurate as claiming that I have five kids.

I just don’t always know how to sum that up in a quick response.  So I stick with five.  Or three.  Because both are right, and wrong at the same time.



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