As a mother of more than two children who are not at least four years apart in age, I have grown pretty accustomed to getting comments regarding my family whenever we go out in public.
I’ve talked about this, I know. It’s nothing new. And it’s nothing unique.
If you have three children, “you have your hands full.”
If you have two children who are not separated by half a decade, your hands are full.
If you have four children, you obviously don’t know what causes pregnancy.
(It’s sex, by the way, in case you have four children and you didn’t know. You can stop having kids now, I’ve solved the mystery. Enjoy sex too much? Never fear, evidently the solution is to buy a television.)
I’ve said this before too, most of the time these comments don’t bother me. In fact it’s sort of become a game. I reward myself with treats for every silly comment or question I get.
I have perfected my list of comebacks for the most frequent remarks.
“Are they all yours?”
“All except the brunettes.”
“Do you know what causes that?”
“Are you having more?”
“Thanks for reminding me, I’m late to meet my husband.”
I’ve been responding to questions about my family size, structure and planning for so long, I could probably do it in my sleep…if I ever got any.
It’s pretty rare for anything to surprise me or offend me. If anything, I’m just jealous that anyone would have the presence of mind to notice other people and their kids in the grocery store. The fact that they can take the time to add my children is, in and of itself, impressive.
But every once in a while, it happens.
Someone says something that leaves me speechless.
This happened to me the other day.
I had the four youngest with me, the three boys and our new baby girl. I have had plenty of comments lately about how exciting it must be to finally have a girl. I get it. Everyone thinks that’s ideal, having both genders. And I’ll be honest, it is fun. I love having a girl. Those comments don’t bug me.
The other day, however, as I was walking out of the store with the three boys and baby girl in the car seat, a lady stopped me and said, “Three boys! What do you have in the car seat?”
I told her it was a girl.
A look of relief washed over her as she looked me right in the eyes, in front of my sons, and said, “Thank God.”
For the first time in a long time, I had no comeback, no witty rebuttal. I was speechless.
My jaw literally fell open and I stared for a moment before simply turning and walking away.
By the time I got to my van, the back of my throat was burning and tears were filling in my eyes.
I wanted to go back and find her and tell her all the things going through my mind, the good, the bad, the ugly. I wanted to scold her.
How dare she say that to me in front of my sons.
Who on Earth did she think she was?
I wanted to hug her and cry on her shoulder and stick a bar of Ivory soap in her mouth all at the same time.
I didn’t go back to find her. I loaded up my babies and I drove home.
But if I could write her a letter and send it to her, here’s what I wish I could have told her that day.
Dear stranger at the grocery store,
3 things I wish you knew about my choice to have children:
I do thank God, every single day.
I thank Him for my precious baby girl and for her six amazing siblings on Earth, and for her big brothers in Heaven and her incredible dad.
I thank Him for my family with every breath I take. I thank Him that I have the opportunity to be a mother, that I was able to conceive and bear children with my own body and that I have had the awesome privilege of creating a family with my husband.
I don’t give extra thanks for my daughters. I give extra thanks for health, for kindness and occasionally for good sleep. Sleep doesn’t care about gender. Neither do I.
My boys are not the dirt I had to dig through to get to the buried treasure.
I didn’t have another baby so I could “finally get to the good stuff.”
I got pregnant knowing (and expecting) that the baby could be a boy. Were we excited to have a girl? Of course we were. But please, please don’t mistake that excitement for relief.
There is nothing, I repeat, nothing about a healthy baby that I don’t celebrate.
Children hear you. Did you realize that?
My little boys with the dirt in their hair and sandals on the wrong feet are listening. They hear you saying that they are somehow inferior because they are boys or because they were born first or because they share a gender with a majority of their siblings.
You want these boys to grow into men who will respect and treasure women but you just told them they aren’t special because they are boys.
How can you ever demand the respect from them when you don’t show it? I know you’d probably say the same things if I had three girls in a row. It wouldn’t be true then either. Children are a gift and every last one of them is precious and worthy of love.
I have had some time to calm down and collect myself.
I’m not angry at you anymore. I am not upset or hurt.
I do, however, now have a bar of Ivory soap hanging out in my diaper bag. Make another remark like that in front of my children and it’s going straight into the upper opening of your digestive tract.
Other posts by Jenny:
- feeding kids: don’t sweat the small stuff
- breastfeeding in public debate — why current debates are missing the mark
- why is morning sickness so awful?
Other bring joy posts you might want to check out:
- I didn’t have kids to “have fun”
- I can do hard things
- project downsize: is a big house better?
- more kids = less work
- dear first time mom: what 5 pregnancies has taught me
Jenny is a wife, mom and self-proclaimed vampire expert.
If she's not scraping children off the ceiling or smooching her hubby, she's probably curled up with a tub of Blue Bell Lemon Bliss ice cream and a book (not the enlightening kind but the swoony, immature, urban fantasy kind).
She is passionate about motherhood, her family, her church & chocolate. She currently resides in Richmond, Virginia with her crazy family, a bearded rabbit & a very lazy cat.