I can justify my opinion on how I feel about something. At least to myself and in my head. Usually. However, when that certain subject pops up in my mind, if this immediately brings a small frown to my face, it probably means my way of thinking on that topic is slightly off kilter. And I somehow know it, but don’t want to dredge up why I feel (and still believe) the way I do. Now don’t go thinking this is some deep matter of life importance. Remember who’s doing the typing here. I’m still pretty firm in my belief on how I dealt with this situation when I was young. Maybe I wish I would have felt differently though.
|Shannon 9, Adam 3 mo., Joshua 4-1/2, 1979…|
These earth shattering views are something I’ve touched on a little in a couple of blog posts. “Party of 5” for sure, (great story on our family and my youngest Adam. Posted 9-12-14, on his 35th birthday). Mentioned it maybe another time or 2. It’s about my resolute decision after getting married (eloping at the ripe old age of 18) and declaring to John, “any children this union might produce will be evenly spaced. And that spacing will have to be kinda far apart!” At the time I knew this rather strong-willed, prejudiced opinion and decision came from my Mom. She had a major influence (not always a positive thing either) on me since I was born. If you look at the Gerrtison family, my sister Mona is 7-1/2 years older than me, and 3 years older than Larry, who was 4-1/2 years older than me. This is how Mom felt on spacing, so I felt that way too. Sigh. Strong, grounded, independent thinker I was not.
|Mona 14, Neese 6, Spitzy, Larry 11, 1957…|
Once Shannon was born though, I really didn’t want another child for quite awhile. I had a baby. Why on earth would I want another baby when I already had one? It would take at least 3 years of alone-time-with-Shannon before babies were appealing to me again. I still strongly adhere to this theory that until my toddler was talking, out of the crib, running, potty trained, voting and writing their thesis, I was doing them no favors by shoving a newborn into their little world. But did I really do a disservice to my 3 kids by having them all in different centuries? I jest. I managed to have three births in our first decade of marriage. My birthing years were 1970, 1975 and 1979. That Adam. If he was going to be a surprise (he was) at least it should have been in the year of our Lord, 1980. Timing (and spacing) is everything Adam.
|Joshua 1, Shannon 5-1/2 on the farm, 1976…|
I’ve heard mom’s talk about their bigger families of 3 or more children. How close and tight knit they are. Each maybe born a year apart, or less. “They’re just inseparable” a mom would gush. And I’d get hit with a big stab of guilt. That’s when the little frown would appear. I wonder? Would my 3 kids be super close if I’d popped them out bang, bang, bang? Maybe. And was I supposed to have a lot more than 3? I don’t think so, huh God? You knew that just wasn’t me. Besides that would have meant my kids doing much of their upbringing by themselves. For at least part of that stretch. I believe I would have suffered a nervous breakdown.
|Joshua 6, Adam 2, Spencer, Ia. 1981…|
Gospel truth. It was not in my DNA, genes, personality, desire, or abilities to try raising a family under those conditions. I simply was not capable of doing the best job possible (and trust me, I failed in so many other areas) with 2 or 3 kids in diapers at the same time. That idea never appealed to me. Distasteful even. Could that really be appealing to others? Having a mess of kids, super close together? A lot of families do it, so maybe it does appeal to them. I admire women who can do that. Nothing seems to faze or rattle those moms. They can simultaneously nurse a newborn, push a toddler in a swing, kiss and bandage their 3 year old’s boo-boo, while teaching the 4 year old to hang upside down on the monkey bars for a picture on her iPhone. All the while, carrying on a very adult conversation, convincing other mothers on the playground the benefits of homemade, organic baby food, raw milk, and bamboo infused diapers are the environmental friendly route we should all be embracing. Ugh.
|Adam 1, Joshua 5, 1980…|
Most of the above scenario was never in my personal thoughts or beliefs involving the joys of motherhood. My best efforts of multitasking include eating, blinking, and breathing at the same time. The very idea of trying to change the diaper of a 14 month old Olympic gymnast, while a 6 week old squawks in a baby swing 2 rooms away, plus wondering why the 2-1/2 year old has suddenly gone silent in the kitchen makes me hyperventilate. This would be more than enough to set my teeth on edge. My take: God made some women highly capable of doing this whole super-mom of 6 rugrats under the age of 7 gig. Some women are put on earth and choose not to have children. I’m really ok with that too. The rest of us plug along, semi-raising merely one baby at a time until they are a somewhat coherent, little talking person who can scream loudly from the bathroom, “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom! MOMMY! I’m done. Come wipe!”
|Adam 8 mo, Joshua almost 5, 1980…|
Shannon was 4-1/2 when Joshua was born. Old enough to play outside with neighborhood kids making mud pies, or run down the hall for a bib or diaper for me. She loved her baby brother. She could also be quite helpful. Once when 6 week old Joshua was voicing his strong objections at the pace I was getting his bottle ready, he suddenly went totally quiet. That silence will get your attention, every time. I rushed into the living room to find Shannon with her grimy little finger stuck in his mouth. While she coaxed him into smiling and breaking that strong sucking action. She was so proud of herself for helping soothe him while they waited patiently for this mom to show up.
|Shannon 5-1/2 wearing John’s specs. Josh 8 mo. does not know his daddy. 1976…|
Even though my kids were spaced quite far apart, they seemed to get along fairly well. Oh, there was still plenty of tattling and fights. But Joshua and Adam played together a lot in Spencer and Davenport. Joshua, teaching Adam how to ruin Big Wheel tires in under 3 months. Playing catch, swimming, Hot Wheels, riding trikes and bikes. Then their world changed. Sometime during the mid-80’s. We were living in Davenport. Boys were about 10 and 6. We bought an Atari system. Space Invaders. I don’t actually remember them fighting much over the unit. But they spent a good share of time playing it together. After school and rainy days. But it didn’t consume them. They still both preferred playing outdoors. Moved on to a Nintendo a few years later.
|Joshua 5, Shannon 9, 1980…|
One of our smarter investments were 2 Game Boy units. Small hand held game devices. Almost all of our vacations consisted of driving back and forth to northwest Iowa. Visiting our parents. As the kids got older, none of them wanted to be in the car. At all. Apart. Or together. Or sit close enough that they might have to touch each other. Or breathe the same air in the car. We had a van with 2 long bench seats. Shannon claimed the back bench for the trip’s duration. No if’s, ands or “butts” about it. So the boys had to share a seat. But with the acquisition of their own Game Boys, the most noise we heard in the van was coming out of Shannon’s headphones.
|Shannon 6, Joshua 1, 1976…|
The biggest change I noticed in their actual playing together dynamics was after we’d been in Jackson for a couple years. Shannon then 18, Joshua 14, and little squirt Adam was 10. (Ha! My Dad always called me “Squirt” when I was young) These 4 plus year gaps in their ages were now producing almost nothing in common with each other. Except maybe hostility. They each kind of went their own way with friends. It would take a few years of adulthood before they started talking to each other as grown ups. No one was more surprised or pleased than me. The first few times one, two or all 3 planned something together on their own, it totally caught me off guard. In a good way. One of them casually mentioned eating out with their sib! Without my knowledge or planning. Well, to me that was just one of the best feelings in the world. They enjoyed each other’s company (somewhat) as adults.
|Joshua 10, Adam 6, Davenport 1985…|
I’ve always been a second guesser. Wondering if I could have or should have done things differently? I know it’s not something we’re supposed to dwell on. Life is hard enough day to day without bringing up insignificant matters (that can never be changed anyway) from over 40 years ago. I was a very young mom. Had Shannon 2 days after I turned 20. Four and a half years later when I had Joshua, I remember feeling so much calmer. More mature. Enjoyed his infancy a lot more. That’s the first time I wondered, maybe I should have planned to have Shannon when I was 24, then have Joshua when I was 28. In reality, I gave birth to number 3, Adam at 28. Plus I had also loudly declared, “no more kids after I’m 30!” There would have been no Adam. How incomplete my life would be without Adam! Well that’s just inconceivable. Now that’s a funny play on words. Doctor told me when I was 27 I’d never conceive again! A year and a couple months later, Adam joined our family. God knew what He was doing with this little Van Berkum family.
|Shannon 5, Joshua 1, 1976. Eating his cone upside down…|
Yup, I could have had a dozen kids. Could have done it in a decade too. Though the thought of that just makes me want to pull out every hair on my head. But my 3 fantastic, amazing, well-adjusted adult children prove that God knew what He was doing for my life. Better than I did. No surprises there. Going to stop stewing about the number of kids, or having them closer together all those years ago. Some of my life’s path decisions were of my own doing. Many were nudged by God. Good job God, thanks…
|John 52, Adam 21, Shannon 30 w/Landon, Josh 25, me 49, 2000…|