Imagine realizing Wednesday morning that you’re out of milk and all five of the kids are begging for cereal. A “quick” trip to the store won’t be so bad, right? We just need to get milk and maybe a few things for dinner. I quickly do a mental check of every item needed and it’s time to load em’ up!
You walk hand in hand with your children from the sliding door of your minivan to the sliding doors of the grocery store, pretty much unscathed. Although your patience is a tad shot, with having to remind little humans to hold hands and to make sure they stop for the cars barreling down the lanes. You walk in, frantically searching for the “golden” double cart. Alright, pile em’ in! Your cart looks like a circus, you take note of it before pushing off into the oblivion of curious strangers.
You’re approached immediately by two friendly women who are genuinely curious; “Are they all yours?”
A few minutes later you are approached by a middle-aged man; “You sure have your hands full!”
Next up is a middle-aged woman with a little bit of a snarky attitude; “Better you than me!”
Followed by an older woman walking with a cane; “Are they twins? Triplets?”
As you’re turning away from the bread aisle you lock eyes with another woman who judgingly passes by you with a “You’re not having any more right?”
You forgot to grab the milk so you high tail it back to the big refrigerators when another woman approaches, “My goodness these can’t be all of yours right? You do know you have to pay for college and weddings for them all right? Is your husband fixed? Are you fixed?”
Did I mention all of the people who didn’t approach and just stared as we walked by? Even doing some double takes? Or the others who turned to who they are with and whispered some form of the comments above?
But then, you’re approached by an older gentleman who sort of reminds you of your grandfather, and he GIVES YOU A HUG. You remind him of his own mother as a young boy and the two of you exchange an entertaining conversation about his childhood and how blessed you are to have so many little ones.
A lot of people will tell me about their friends or family who have twins, or they will tell me about their own mothers having lots of kids. Some people will really like to strike up that conversation just so they can be near our family. People are fascinated by large families these days! It can make for some really cool exchanges, especially when I’m not expecting them.
Then [there are] the people who are just not friendly, and feel as though their opinion of my lifestyle needs to be heard loud and clear. But there’s a way in which to approach someone like me. There’s no need for negativity. It’s perfectly okay to walk past me and tell all of your friends about me later in the day if you don’t agree with the number of children I have. What I don’t need are those rude comments. My children hear them and let’s keep the negativity away from their young ears, okay?
I’m always nice to people in public. I know people are curious by nature so I am always sweet and polite, even when they are rude. I genuinely love talking about my family. Most people are so genuine that it makes for a really nice trip. I never know the type of people I will meet on any given day, which makes the day exciting in a way.
But if [there are] things I wish people would do it would be these:
1. Smile! Don’t come barreling towards us, with a shocked face, desperate to make your comments with eyes fluttering back and forth from one kid to the next. I can see your frantic energy and it is already starting this exchange off on the wrong foot.
2. Start off with a compliment about one of my kids’ outfits or their hair. Maybe mention how cool my son’s glasses are, or how cute one of my daughter’s shoes are. Initiate the conversation by including them.
3. Ask the kids if they are siblings. Instead of the “are they all yours,” engage them by asking if these are all of their brothers and sisters.
4. Give us a compliment of how well behaved our kids are or how much you admire this job we’ve signed up for.
5. Keep the conversation as simple as possible. I love the admiration and curiosity my little circus brings. I’d love to talk all day with you about how I get them ready for the day and out of the door, but I also have stuff I need to buy inside of this store. My time is a tad precious! Thank you for understanding this.
Here’s what NOT to do:
1. Don’t approach us if you have nothing nice to say. Remember Thumper’s “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say nothing at all”? I know how crazy my life looks, and when you approach with the sheer goal to reiterate that fact, it not only puts a damper on my day, but it teaches my kids that having a large family is “wrong.” You are free to your opinion, but it doesn’t need to be stated in front of my children.
2. Make judgey comments like “better you than me!” I’m not sure if people are aware of the rudeness these comments bring but some things are better left unsaid, or un-asked.
3. Dramatically roll your eyes as I walk by. I get it. You think I’m insane. I just don’t know what you’re gaining by doing that?
4. Ask my kids if they wished they had [fewer] siblings. Yes, this has happened before. I was so embarrassed, not for me or my kids, but for the complete lack of brains this person had. What purpose did that comment serve? We will never know.
5. Ask exact birthdays and ages. This may seem really, really dumb but listen up for a second. One of my kids is adopted. It’s really hard to explain why [there are] two 4-year-olds that aren’t twins without having to tell you, “he’s adopted.” It’s alienating him from our family. I’ve learned to just tell people “they are very close in age” and some accept that explanation and some do not. A better way to ask this burning question would be, “how old is the oldest and how old is the youngest?” To be fair, our family really looks like we have a set of twins (our oldest and our son) and a set of triplets (our second daughter and our twins). If I’m being even more honest, sometimes I pretend they are just so I don’t have to explain the breakdown for strangers.
6. Assume I am done having children, or even ask. I’ve learned that people have very strong opinions on what the perfect family looks like: one boy, one girl. If you’re lucky, people will give you three, but there still has to be at least one boy and one girl. Anything under or above, and “you’re doing it wrong.” So when people see me they automatically assume we would never consider adding more. Nobody has any idea what the future holds and my lady parts aren’t up for discussion. Nor are my husband’s frankly!
Again, I don’t mind the curiosity. I welcome curious people. I just don’t welcome the negativity and rude comments. They’re not needed. We don’t need any more pessimistic attitudes in today’s world.
I hope this at least inspires one person to approach a mom (or dad!) with a big family a little differently next time. We’re just trying to do our best and when we get really sweet and encouraging comments from strangers — we adore them!