Monday, March 7, 2011

The "big" family - comebacks

After reading and laughing at this post from the Joyful Chaos, I realized just how many comments I've heard and filed away over these past 12 years.

Nowadays anything over 2.5 is "big family," right?
After NatureMan was born, I was told several times, "You have the perfect family, a boy and a girl so you can be done now." Yes, people actually said that out loud. As if they knew what perfect was for my family. ha. It might very well be perfect for his or hers or yours, but certainly not for everyone.

When I kept getting pregnant, the comments became:
"You know what's causing that, right?"
Depending on my mood, I'd answer:
a: "Yes, and I like it."
b. "Yes, but if YOU don't, go ask your Mom."
c. "No TV in the bedroom."
d. "Whipped cream and sleeping kids."

Or the "My, you have your hands full."
This is a tricky one, because the tone of voice and expression say a lot more than the words. I've had sweet little ladies say that in the kindest, most sincere way... and rather mean shaking-head midlifers say it in a tone that implied they would pay for my tubes to be tied.
Possible answers depend on the intention of the comment, naturally:
a. "We can’t figure out where they’re all coming from!"
b. "You should see how many I left at home!"
c. "I'd rather have them full than empty."
d. "Full hands and fuller hearts."
e. "I don't know how I survived before all these little helpers came along!"

Where I live large-ish families aren't everywhere, but they're not exactly rare either. We're in a very homeschool friendly state, and our county has more homeschoolers than any other county in AR. There's a lot of encouragement and understanding from most people. But there's always some who just can't mind their own business. Curiosity is fine and dandy, and I'm completely happy to honestly answer sincere questions... but nosiness or judgement isn't as easy to deal with.

I have 4 kids (3 boys, back to back), and I often take on a few "strays," whether it be my niece and nephew or neighbor kids or families who drop by for playdates. I've actually had people stop and ask if I run a daycare. ;)
The other day I was babysitting my sister's kids, the neighbor boy came over, and a friend and her three kids stopped by to play. My friend Tob and I chatted just fine, while 10 kids played inside and out. If anything, it was easier having them all here together-- everyone had a person to pair up with or a group to join!
Being part of a large family means there's always someone to play with...having friends with large families just doubles that fun.
I've written about the benefits of large families before. :)

Anyway, when I tote my four along I hear "the basics" a lot. The answers aren't all my own. I've scribbled them down, from time to time, to have witty comebacks to the most common questions.

Q. Are these all yours?
a. "Now why on EARTH would I take other people's children grocery shopping?"
b. "No, that one (point at kid) found me in the cereal aisle and won't leave!"
c. "Yep, and seven more at home!"

Q. Are you going to stop now?
a. (Actually we're done, but that's none of their business, so I tell them honestly) "I'd love to have more, these ones are darlings!"
b. "Nope! My husband and I are very intelligent people, and believe we should pass on these great genes as much as we can. Why did you stop having kids?" (okay, I've never actually said that, but I'm tempted!!)

I discovered several years ago that when I look like a tired, haggard mom of four, unruly children, I will be looked upon and treated like a tired, haggard mom of four, unruly children. We shouldn't live to please others or live up to their expectations, but we CAN be the best versions of ourselves. Because I'm a Dresser-Upper and I truly feel the best when I'm brushed and curled, dolled up and artsy, I try to start most days like that. When I feel good, people can tell. Which means, folks, that people can tell my kids aren't dragging me down; they lift me up. I'm so much more likely to dance when they're around, and do crafty projects, and jump on the trampoline. There are rough days, of course, but for the most part, having kids is its own best reward. And others should be able to see that in us.

Like SuzanneP said, I'm saddened for the person who sees a large family, and shakes their head. "Because I knew he would never. Never, mind you, know the joy of knowing each of those faces up there. He would never.never. be able to see them as different little people with individual personalities. I knew he would never. never. know the joy they can bring."


Erin said...

Hey Wendy~
I appreciated this post a lot, because I too have experienced weird questions/comments. But I especially liked the reminder about trying to look nice when I'm out and about...or even simply at home. I too like to look nice but easily forget that it helps me to feel better. So with that said... I'm off to the shower to start my day :)
Have a good one.
~Erin Ribble

Soaring High said...

Great great post. I laughed at your comebacks because I've been asked those questions so many times. The reminder to not look like a haggard mom is a good reminder for me. I will often throw on jeans and a sweatshirt becuase I don't like all the snot from mulitple toddlers on my clothes. But when I'm out and about, I CAN dress nice.

Bethany said...

Terrific post! With number three now four months old, I'm beginning to ponder the best time to start trying for number four. We plan on having four and then stopping.

Anyway, I do understand I'm in the thick of it right now since I'm still working part time and the baby isn't yet sleeping through the night, but recently both my mom and my sister kinda mentioned the idea that they thought I was too overwhelmed and shouldn't have another. And it gave me pause as to what I'm doing wrong. Maybe it is my haggard look on most days? (Somehow, I've never felt the need to get dolled up to see my family, but perhaps thats changed now.) All this to say, thanks for the advice!

mamabusybee said...

:) awwww, what a great post, written with PASSION. Such sweet pictures and words. Your children are blessed to have a mommy that loves them so much. I can relate to those obnoxious comments as well. People are maybe just trying to make conversation, but sometimes it's just downright annoying. I'll have to remember the line about leaving most of them at home! lol :)

Mandy said...

I guess I'm just fortunate... we have 6, and we are in public A LOT and I just do not feel judged. I do see people stare.. but who wouldn't?! lol We do look a bit funny all walking in somewhere.. I don't see it as rude. Just "wow! That's a lot of kids!" lol Yes.. it really is.

I did get more comments when I was pg with my 3rd than I've gotten with 6 kids - but I think when we're feeling like we're being judged (and we might be wrong) we take things the wrong way. Sure, there are some serious jerks in the world, but who cares. :)

I will say that I don't agree that you will never know how joyful, amazing, and wonderful children are if you choose not to have more than one.. or two.. or three.. I very much knew the love of a child when I just had my one... just as I do with my 6. I would say THAT'S a bit judgemental of others... right? ;)

I figure we all are just living the life we feel God is calling us to live. Not everyone can or SHOULD have huge families, but definintely many of us are put on earth to do just that. I have no doubt that our mission on earth (my family) is to be a home to MANY children. But, I would never want to say everyone should live like us.. or they are less of parents than we are if they don't have foster children or adopted children. No one should be expected to live like anyone else...

Mandy said...

bye the way, I'm totally storing the whip cream comment for later.. HILARIOUS!!!

Wendy said...

@Erin, Melinda, Bethany-- We all have our own styles, and not everyone is a Dresser-Upper, but I think most people DO feel better when they make themselves look presentable, whatever style that is. :) Even exercise prgrams and organization programs insist that you get fully dressed, complete with shoes, to start the day. It really does help!

@Mandy- that's very true. most people are just curious, and are very kind. In fact, 90% of the rude comments I've heard have come from my in-laws. ;) So I needed funny comebacks to redden their faces and "help them" back off.
The line that I quoted from Suzanne "you will never know..." is being misinterpreted, I think. Her point, if you read her post about it, was that the man was seeing her group of kids as "too many kids" not knowing that each child had an amazing personality, was full of so much love and potential. He could not see each person as an individual and love them for who they were. It's not that he didn't experience love for his only child.

And I agree-- not everyone should have a large family. My youngest sister has one (and might have more, I don't know?) but whatever they decide will be best for THEM. God has a different plan for each person, certainly!

Mandy said...

Yeah, I didn't read the blog post - but I do see just as many large families judge others as "less than" because they aren't as large as I see small families think large family peeps are psycho. ;) Just wanted to put that out there.. NO ONE likes to be judged.

And, I have gotten way more greif from family over our large family than strangers, too. Nice, hu? lol

Virginia (Jenny) said...

Hello! I love your pictures! Actually I am writing a post about this on my blog and happened to find yours through a search. Nice to meet you! :)

Marnie said...

I love reading your blog. I especially like the post about big families. We have 5 and we get plenty of comments every time we go out. Sometimes I'm in the mood for it, sometiimes I'm not. I always want to be positive in front of the kids, especially if people are making negative comments about large families.

When people ask are all those children yours. I tell them: We've been doing the same thing everyone else has, we just have something to show for it!

I didn't make it up, I got it from a funny web site that has comebacks. They have some good ones for large families.

Virginia (Jenny) said...

I stumbled onto your blog. I'm pregnant with my 7th and am always encouraged by other large families. ;)

Anonymous said...

I have 7. I just like to smile and say, "they're so worth it!" which I can say even if they're in tantrums in public. It's a one-line testimony that shares sincerely without responding in snark.