Monday, June 3, 2013

Did You Really Say That?!?

Today I went grocery shopping.  Since school is out, I had all the children with me.  The biggest struggle when I have to take all the kids is figuring out where to put all the groceries after we buy them because there isn't much storage space in the Expedition if all the seats are full.

(Problem solved by:  Going to the discount grocery store first.  Going home.  Emptying the truck.  Going back for round two at Cub Foods).

The second most difficult thing about going out with all the kids is the sheer number of comments I get with six kids in tow.  I still struggle to believe that my family is that much of an anomaly.  Just a few decades ago, we wouldn't have caused anyone to turn their head.  (except for how adorable my kids are, of course)  Now those of you with multiple children or children with visible differences know what I am talking about.  Those of you with families of a more typical appearance might not realize what every family trip entails.

Just this morning, five people commented on my family.  That is not unusual.  I usually get an average of a couple comments an hour when I go out with all the kids.  Even among those that don't comment, I can see many of them adding the number of children in their head. 

I love my kids, and they are pretty awesome.  I feel like I can take them just about anywhere and they will usually behave remarkably well.  However, imagine what it is like knowing everyone is staring at your kids.  People seem to have stronger opinions about  larger-than-average, trans-racial adoption-type families.  Many of these people can't seem to hold in their opinion or nosiness.

First, let me say that many people are kind.  I feel almost bad typing this,  but I sort-of expect somebody to say, "What well behaved kids you have." whenever we all go someplace.  But I know this isn't because my kids are so much better than other kids.  Look around wherever you go.  There are tons of well-behaved kids that nobody comments on.  It is just when you see a herd of them, people expect them to be unruly.  By being average (or can this Mama brag and say slightly exceptional) people are shocked into commenting.

Let me also be clear that no mom is opposed to hearing wonderful things about their children.  The following unsolicited comments, or variations thereof are all acceptable:

      "You have a beautiful family."
      "Your children are so well behaved."
     " I had 6 (or 8 or 10) children too.  It goes so fast."
     "God has certainly blessed you."  (my personal favorite)

However, many people have forgotten the rule their Mama's (should) have taught them.  "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

Today at the grocery store, a woman asked me if all my children have the same father.   (I'll let you stop for a moment and remember what my children look like.)  I said, "Of course.  My husband and I have been married almost 15 years."

Now this is a pretty funny example, but stop and think about how incredibly rude that actually was.  I would venture to guess this woman would never have asked that to a family who has two or three children.  At what point did it make any difference to her if my children had one father or six different fathers.  It was none of her business.

So here's a cheat sheet of personal questions or rude comments not to say to that mom you see in Target with a swarm of children around her. 

     "Are all those kids yours?"     This is by far the most common comment I get.  It sounds pretty benign doesn't it?  Except, with two children who do not look exactly like me, it can lead to them feeling like they don't fit in or belong.  This question is usually followed up with another comment.  If it is a variation of one of the nice comments listed above, its less bad.   If it is followed by a variation of one of the comments below, not so great.

     "Why do you have so many kids?"  Because we love kids, obviously.  I would never ask someone why they don't have more children.

     "How can you afford so many kids"  How can you afford your bills?  We make priorities and spend accordingly.  Just like you.  A variation is "You must be rich."  No.  We are frugal.  I don't question how you spend your money or if you can afford your lifestyle.

     "Which ones are your real kids." or "Couldn't you have anymore of your own kids."  I have touched on this before.  They are all mine.  To imply that any of them are less than my 100% real kids is insulting and rude.  Again, how children join a family is nobody else's business.  My children don't need some stranger to suggest that some of them belong more than others when we are cruising the produce aisle.

     "I'd shoot myself if I had that many kids."  For some reason, they never come up with a different form of suicide that they would rather commit than endure the horrific catastrophe of loving my wonderful children.  I haven't heard, "I'd drink cyanide." or "Jump in front of a train." or "Climb into a grizzly bear exhibit."  At least they would get some points for creativity.  My kids are amazing. If you could only be so blessed as to have children like this. 

     "Do you believe in birth control or is it against your religion?"  What I believe or don't believe about such an intimate topic is none of your concern.  Would you please tell me what form of contraception you use?  As far as religion, I would love to talk to you about God.  But sometimes the popsicles in my cart are melting, and I have to pick a kid up from preschool, and it just isn't a great time.

     "Were they all planned?"  Did you really just ask me that?   In front of my children?  None of my children were surprise blessings, but even if they were, what concern is it of yours?  Do you really expect to hear a stranger's story of one Mojito too many and a romantic sunset and...

     "How can you give them all enough attention."  Well for starters, I don't waste my time asking strangers rude questions.

     "I don't know how you do it."  Well, the same way you do, of course.  I get up.  Fuel myself with some caffeine.  Do what needs to be done.  And go to bed.  Just like you.

     "I don't think its fair to the older kids to have to help raise the younger ones and miss out on their childhood."  I agree.  I am the mother.  My older ones do not raise the younger ones.  It is offensive to assume that I would farm out that responsibility.

   "Don't you know what causes babies?"  Any variation of this is icky.    However, if you saw my husband, you would be shocked that we didn't have a dozen kids.

     "Are you done yet? You're not going to have more, are you?"   This comment is usually said with a shudder of disgust.  Maybe we will, maybe we won't.  Maybe I'll have another one just to annoy you.

     "It is very irresponsible to have so many kids because of overpopulation."   What about the environmental strain of buying all new things instead of hand-me-downs?  What about the strain of drinking bottled water, flying on vacations, pouring pesticides on your lawn, eating lots of meat, snowmobiles/boats/jet skis, giant homes with few people in them, new electronics, vacation homes, etc?  Everyone leaves a carbon footprint.  Our per person carbon footprint is pretty small compared to many people who ask this question.

More importantly, my children are going to be a blessing to others.  You think they are a burden.  I would argue that the world needs more compassionate, kind, hard working,  people who are able to creatively solve the problems of the world.  They are an investment in the betterment of society. If you feel so strongly about overpopulation, why did you have children?  Which children deserve life and which do not? 

     "You've got your hands full!"  Yes, better full than empty.

     "How will you be able to afford their college?"   Maybe we will luck out and a few won't be college material.  Seriously, though.  Are you my financial planner?  Would you like to see our 5, 10 and 20 year financial plan?  How much will you judge me if I tell you that I wouldn't pay for my children's entire college education even if I could afford it?  I believe college students need to have a financial stake in their educations.

      "Do you homeschool?"  No.  Do you?

     "My taxes go to support your kids."  Hmmm.  This one has some merit.  I'm not on government support, but I do take the adoption tax credit and child tax credit.  My kids go to our church's school, so they don't go to public (although I happily pay taxes to support public education).  My taxes go to support your family's access to roads, firefighters, clean water and libraries, too.  That's how it works.

However, my many children are going to be productive members of society that will be paying into social security to take care of you when you are old.  You're welcome.

     "Better you than me."  Absolutely.

      "You guys are just like the Duggars."  Yes, we are exactly the same as the Duggars, just like your family is exactly like every other family that has two children.

Please remember that I have heard every "clever" comment and opinion on my family.  And I can handle it.  What bothers me is that my children have to hear your unsolicited opinions and comments.  They are the ones hearing you suggest that you would rather be dead than have so many little ones.  They are the ones hearing you spout off that the world would be better off if they didn't exist.  They are the ones being reminded ever time we go out about how "different" they are for being in a large family.

So, if you wouldn't say it to the mom of  a couple of kids, don't say it to me. Especially in front of my children.

Yup.  We're one kid away from being the Von Trapps.  Otherwise we are exactly like them.  Except I can't sing.  And my kids kids don't wear such cool clothes.  And Ben isn't an over-strict parent that blows whistles at kids.  Other than that, we are so totally the Von Trapp Family.

Hey, we have kids from birth and adoption.  We are exactly like Angelina and Brad.  Except for the whole fame and money thing.  And we don't have  nannies. And I am not an action hero.  And Ben is better looking  than Brad Pitt.  Other than that, we are absolutely Brad and Angelina.

The Jacksons had lots of kids.  We are just like them.  Again except for the musical ability.  And dancing.  Although my kids think they can moonwalk well.  Yeah, we're just like them.

This is the Duggar family.  They have lots of kids, and so do we.  We all love God, so we are exactly like them, too.  


Shecki Grtlyblesd said...

I love this. I've heard so many of these, even before we started adopting.

September said...

It is funny how many of the same comments I get with having twins. I can't believe what people tell me or ask me. Keep up the GREAT parenting!!

Anonymous said...

I want to start off by saying I love big families. They are awesome. Always enjoy y our posts Kristin!


Joan said...

You rock!

I love your replies and wish that the people that ask the silly questions knew how damaging they can be to little kids.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing they are all jealous! I know I am ;). I love how you are able to turn their comments around with humor.

tmlinz said...

"Don't you know what causes babies?" Any variation of this is icky. However, if you saw my husband, you would be shocked that we didn't have a dozen kids.

Ewwww!!!!!! I don't need to read that!

And, I agree with the better you than me. No pressure from mom and dad for more grand kids from me!


Kristin said...

Sorry brother, for that comment. However, that's just a taste of the uncomfortableness I get a lot. And your welcome for having enough kids to keep Mom and Dad happy without pressuring you to give them more grandkids!