Karen and I were having a wonderful time together as newlyweds. We were learning a lot about each other, enjoying our jobs, and enjoying, for the most part, cookouts at my parents house. We did, however feel the political background to everything there, of course led by Elinor. Every conversation seemed to have some political overtone as to how others conducted themselves, how their children behaved, or some such thing. So after a couple of years we were ready to buy a house. In choosing the location we wanted to be a little further away from the politics at my parents and a little closer to where we worked.
On one occasion my father asked me if we were going to have children. “I don’t know, I guess so, why?” I admit I was a little indignant about the question. It had the flavor of ‘where are my grandchildren’ to it that no newly married couple wanted to hear. “Well, if you going to have them, you better hurry up.” I just looked at him. I couldn’t think of anything to say. As I walked away I was thinking ‘what an odd thing for Dad to say to me.’
Karen and I talked about it that night. Yes, we knew we wanted children. Karen was a natural mother and I had long thought about children but the time was never right. Karen’s age wasn’t a concern since she was barely 25 at that point. But we had married when I was 34 and now I was looking at my 36th birthday coming up. So we started adding up the years. Did I really want to be teaching my children how to drive when I was nearing retirement? If they were born right away I would be 52, then 54 when they graduated high school and 58 when they graduated college.
Then I remembered all the generational difficulties that Dad and I had while I was growing up. I think ours was a special case where each of us had grown up in extreme situations, which made lasting impressions on our ongoing personalities; Dad growing up during the Great Depression and my growing up in the wild 1960s. Perhaps some of our difficulties however had to do with his age; he was 36 when I was born. Even at 72 my Dad had all the wisdom in the world.
So we decided that it would be great to begin our family. We had been looking for a house that was a little closer to where we worked and we found a nice 3-bedroom house in Lakeville. It was perfect for us; it was 20 miles closer to work and 20 miles further away from home. That would help give us some space and time away from my parents. That would be where our first child Sarah Elizabeth was born.
I was born at St. Luke’s Hospital, New Bedford 36 years before and that would be where Sarah would be born as well. In fact, I was told that so little had been changed at St. Luke’s, it was likely she was born in the same room that I was since there is only one birthing room. But everything went well; mother and daughter were both healthy and fine. Karens pregnancy was interesting in that, as she got bigger (to be expected of course) so did I. The more weight she gained, the more weight I gained. We laughed about that as time went on but then when Sarah was born I quickly lost the weight, as did Karen and aside from the funny pictures that people had taken of us, it didn’t come up again.
Like all first time parents, we were nervous about this whole parenting thing. They don’t provide handbooks for this sort of thing. You just reach down and remember everything you can about how you were raised, you improvise as you go, and you do the best you can. Hopefully both mother and father were raised properly enough to provide a basis for the next generation. As I said though, Karen was a natural mother. Her mother came up from Maryland for a few weeks to help her get some rest and help her get started with some of the basics, but Karen seemed to know what needed to be done right away. I, of course, was completely clueless. In almost everything else I was teaching Karen, but not this time.
What I found out pretty quickly was that having a child was just about the most fun you can have in life. I often said that had I known it would be this much fun I would have had them sooner. Of course that would have been a big mistake, but Karen knew what I meant. And so we talked about when to have another one, and how many we wanted to have, and other such things. My suggestion that ‘6 would be a good number’ was not met with utter horror, but I could tell that perhaps I had gotten a little too enthusiastic. Karen only insisted that we have an even number. She didn’t want to have ‘an odd one out’ as they grew up.
So we agreed that if our second child was a boy, then we were done. If the second child was a girl then we would evaluate whether we wanted to have two more children in an effort to have a boy. 27 months later our son Patrick Michael was born, again in the same room at St. Luke’s Hospital. And again both mother and son were happy and healthy. We considered ourselves extremely lucky. We then decided it would be best for our children if Karen became a stay at home Mom. It was a financial sacrifice for us, but like so many other decisions we had made in the past and also going forward, this was the right one for us and for our children.
When Patrick was born I was only a few weeks from my 39th birthday. I would be in my 50s during their formative years and I would need to be constantly conscious of the wide generational gap between us. I knew and remembered the mistakes my parents had made and I was determined not to repeat them. Looking back, I think we did all right.
© J T Weaver