When my son, John, was a kid, his mom and I would ask him every year in November or early December what he wanted for Christmas.
Every year, from when he first learned to talk until he was nearly out of elementary school (when I think he finally gave up), his answer remained the same:
"A little baby brother."
Sometimes he'd add, by way of concession, "Or a little baby sister."
Alas, the one gift he didn't get was another child in the family.
Clearly, John never embraced the only-child phenomenon. He thought a kid ought to have built-in companions.
As an adult, he and his wife, Cassie, have made up for lost time.
They've produced babies of their own almost non-stop. Harper was born in November 2008. Her sister, Hadley, arrived the following November. Just 13 months after that, in December 2010, Hudson was born.
If you're trying to keep score, the kids now are 3, 2 and 1, respectively.
And it's my pleasure to announce that child No. 4 is on the way.
He or she is due in December.
Thus, every November or December (except one) since they've been married, John and Cassie have given themselves what John always wanted: a bigger family.
I'm so grateful for those grandchildren, I can't even tell you.
A couple of afternoons each week, I baby-sit the kids while John and Cassie are at work. It's just me, a broke-down old grandpa, and a roomful of toddlers.
Several folks have said, "I don't know how you do that. Three kids that age? At your age?"
It can be a challenge. I've been snotted on, peed on, puked on, pooped on. And occasionally all of them launch into squalling meltdowns at the same time. They're toddlers. That's what God made toddlers for.
But I swear, I've also never laughed any harder.
The two girls went through a phase in which they watched the movie Secretariat over and over. They'd stand mesmerized a foot from the TV screen and discuss actress Diane Lane's clothes.
That in itself was amusing. But one day Harper decided she particularly coveted a fancy outfit Lane was wearing in a party scene.
"I want a dress like that," she said. "Hadley, will you buy me that dress?"
"No," Hadley said. "I want to wear it, Harper. I buy it for me."
"Please? I want that dress. Get it for me, not you."
"No, Harper," Hadley said. "I won't buy it for you. I wear it."
Harper scowled like an irritated parent. Pointing a finger at her little sister, she said, "Hadley, you don't talk to me like that!"
Chris Rock never did a routine that funny.
Beyond the laughs, there are episodes of sheer grace.
Towheaded Hudson, the youngest, expresses himself mainly with "want" statements. ("Want," by the way, sounds more like "uhnt.")
It's "Want ball." Or, "Want milk." Or, "Want bite."
The other day, he'd crawled onto my lap and was sitting there watching his sisters try on the endless succession of outfits they often go through in an afternoon, from tutus to pajamas to princess dresses, and back again.
He swiveled and looked up at me. "Want kiss," he said.
I wasn't sure I understood. "You want me to kiss you?"
I leaned over and gave him a peck on the cheek. He smiled.
I kissed him.
We did that a dozen times.
Then he grabbed my shirt, pulled himself up until he was standing on my lap, wrapped his arms around my neck and hugged me like he'd never let go.
Try finding a moment that sublime at your office this week. Good luck.
If No. 4 is anywhere near as wondrous as these first three — and I'm satisfied he or she will be — then I can't wait for the grand arrival.
I have to admit, maybe John had a point all along. One child is a blessing, but a whole bunch of kids seems to multiply the joy and the grace.