I have four kids. I’m saying that now to get it out of the way, because it will come up throughout this post. I have four kids, ages 6 (almost 7), 5, 3, and 3 months.
Of course, when you have children, that means that anyone and everyone can come up to you and deliver all manner of unsolicited parenting advice. That’s right, because once you stumble upon the sight of someone else herding their children about, you have now earned the badge of Designated Parental Advice Giver, whether or not you even have children of your own.
Also, if you are planning on having children, or adopting children, or standing somewhere in the vicinity of children, know that things like “conversational etiquette” no longer exist. No question is too personal! “Are you going to have more children?” “Did you breastfeed?” “What color are your child’s stools?” “Do you and your husband ever get any alone time anymore?” Because what happens in my home, my bedroom, and/or my child’s diaper is TOTALLY your business. We could go ahead and blame social media for this disintegration of private barriers, because we all know that nosy people didn’t exist until Al Gore invented the Internet, right? Thanks, Al Gore.
But the comments I hear the most when I’m out with my kids always tend to prick on the matter of how many children I have. The first one is, “Are you done having kids?” My response to this is to go into a lengthy discourse about the current state of my reproductive organs, my family’s monetary budget, the size of our house, our vehicles, and other things that I don’t need to discuss first with my husband and family, because this helpful stranger or borderline acquaintance is much more suited to help me come to a decision about whether or not I should thrust more life upon the world!
The other comment is not a question, but a statement. And hearing it makes me immediately ragey and eager to kick someone or something in its approximate hoo-ha or ding-dong area.
“Boy, you must have your hands full!”
I have four kids. OF COURSE I have my hands full. But thank YOU, kind sir or madam, for stating the obvious. I shall now go over to this person who owns multiple motor vehicles and state, “Boy, you must drive places!”
It also is often a comment I receive when I’m busy making certain that none of my children are climbing the walls or about to somersault down the frozen food aisle of the grocery store. “Boy, you must have your hands full!” then becomes code for, “Boy, what a bunch of ill-behaved children! You horrible, horrible parent, you.” Now, this might not be what it translates to, really. But when I am exhausted (which is always) or hungry (I’m nursing a baby, so again… always) it is what my protein-deprived mind IMMEDIATELY hears it as.
I understand that there will never not be a time when people no longer go up to other people and tell them things those other people will find annoying. I am not going to tell you not to speak to me when you see me in case my fist accidentally** flies out and makes contact with your proboscis. I have probably said many (MANY) things to other people that they have found irritating. I am socially awkward like that. It is my gift to mankind.
But I also know families that have twice as many children as I have. Even three times as many. And I hope that I will never walk up to them and say, “Well, are you done now?” or, “Man, when was the last time you made it through the day without finding peanut butter on yourself?” (For the record, I did not have to produce children in order to always reply to that last question with a resounding “NEVER.”)
So what is the point of this post? I’m not sure it’s a post as much as just brain diarrhea trickling out of my fingers and into your eyes. (I’m sorry for that analogy. I didn’t realize how gross it sounded until I typed it.) But maybe the next time you see a large family somewhere, or a frazzled mom trying to corral multiple children (or even just one child having a bad day) maybe just smile, tell yourself they’re doing their best, and just walk away.***
*No, I will not throat-punch anyone, nor have I ever. I imagine my ability to inflict pain with my fists is about as great as my ability to come off as the successful, cool one at some sort of reunion or get-together with my peers.
**ACCIDENTALLY. I am repeating this here for lawyerly-type reasons, despite the fact that we have already established I have the upper-body strength of a lazy T-Rex.
*** Maurice Moss says it best. JUST WALK AWAY.