We went from a comfortable family of four — emblematic of the American dream — to a family faced with a difficult, but seldom talked about, form of discrimination: five-ism. Also called more-than-four-ism.
I was living the American dream for a while. Wife, two kids, house in the ‘burbs, a good life. That was, until my wife and I unwittingly — or I guess wittingly in some ways — decided to “go for it” and have a third child. That’s when our troubles began.
My daughter was born innocently enough, at least from her point of view. When she arrived on a promising spring day, I’m not sure what my wife and I were more happy about: a healthy child or the fact that she was, well, a she. I had seen the faces of parents with three boys. In a word, tired. In more than one word, extremely tired, as in, tired as a wet sock that never finds its way to the laundry, only to be discovered months later in some difficult to reach alcove, stiff, crusted, and almost unrecognizable. (OK, that was a bit of an exaggeration. I apologize to those particularly spry parents of three boys.) My wife and I couldn’t have been happier about her gender. But what we failed to understand was that her gender didn’t really matter. What really mattered was that we went from a comfortable family of four — emblematic of the American dream — to a family faced with a difficult, but seldom talked about, form of discrimination: five-ism. Also called more-than-four-ism.
Five-ism, like any other “ism” — sexism, racism, ageism — is perpetrated by those people or groups that don’t understand why the minority group isn’t happy with their place in life. These majority groups would like to keep families like mine — a family of more than four — comfortably segregated in our own little corner. They’d like to suppress our freedoms and do everything in their power to make life as difficult as possible for us. You scoff? Well, let me give you some examples.
Ever seen an amusement park ride for five? I doubt you have. How many automobiles have three headrests in their back seat? A few, sure, but not many. And those that do, make you pay for it. (You can either get a third headrest or fix the dog’s broken leg, that’s how much you’ll pay. Your choice.) What about hotel rooms? It’s a code violation to have more than four in a room, not counting the bed bugs of course. And what about discounts to any form of entertainment? It’s always for a nice family of four. (With five, you draw straws to see who sits in the car.)
Maybe I’m missing something here. Maybe this is more about odd and even. You never hear someone say “two’s a crowd.” It’s always “three’s a crowd.” Maybe that has more to do with it than the actual quantity. But either way life is way more complicated with five. More people means more opinions and that’s one of the biggest problems in our house. Attempting to get five people enthusiastically on the same page is next to impossible.
“Hey, kids,” my wife and I say with gusto. “Who wants to go bike riding? Then we hear, “1. Me. 2. Me. 3. Yuck, that sounds boring.” So we scrap that. Then we say, “How about swimming? Anyone want to go to the lake today?” The three kids respond with, “1. Awesome. 2. It’s too cold. 3. Um, I don’t know.” So we pull out a no-brainer. “How about the movies? Who wants to go to the movies?” We get, “1. What movie? 2. Only if we can get popcorn. 3. I love the movies!” I could go on and on, but you see my point.
The thing is, we know we can get everyone on the same page if we just tell them this is what the family is doing today. And I’ve got no issue with doing that from time to time. I do believe there are times where parents dictate and kids follow. But it would be nice if the “army” marched happily, instead of grumbling for the entire journey. For us, this is a work in progress, finding the balance between a dictatorship and a democratic government.
So, folks, what I’m trying to say is, please think long and hard about heading down the path of more than four. Yes, a large family is wonderful and fun, and of course for me, the cliche, “I wouldn’t trade any of this for the world,” applies. But, and this is a big but, maybe the establishment has a point. Maybe there’s a reason finding a hotel room is so difficult, and that cars are built for four — except the proverbial minivan of course — and that discounts only apply to even numbers. Maybe there’s a reason that five-ism exists. And maybe the establishment is trying to deter all of us for a reason — it’s too late for us — and maybe you should listen for once, because like I mentioned previously, getting five people on the same page at once might be even more difficult than putting on a old pair of crusty socks.
Saelen Ghose writes for www.theguysperspective.com. He is currently finishing up his first novel, when he can get some peace and quiet from his three kids.