Friday, August 9, 2013

Awkward Conversations

I've been trying to venture out with the kiddos a little more lately, which leads to the inevitable remarks on our family size from strangers.  And I just can't help but wonder...  Don't they realize what an awkward situation they're creating?

For instance:

Scene:  I'm at an afternoon farmer's market with Elizabeth and Cecilia in the double stroller, John Paul sitting on the footrest, and Mary Claire on my back in the Ergo.  We walk up to a booth to buy some cherry tomatoes when the vendor glances at us incredulously.

Kind of like this, minus the husband...

Vendor:  All those kids yours?
Me:  Yup!
Vendor:  You been BUSY!

Cue raucous laughter from surrounding vendors.  I smile knowingly and walk away (very slowly, because pushing a heavy stroller uphill with 80+ pounds of children isn't the easiest feat), tomatoes in hand.

Now, this didn't really offend me.  But I found it extremely awkward.  How exactly does one answer that comment? 

"Why yes, my husband and I have had intercourse at least 3 times!"
"I just can't keep my pants on!"
"We're like bunnies!"
"I find it's my personal duty to battle the low birth rate in this country."
"Someone's gotta pay for your Social Security!"

Honestly, I thought it was better to just walk away...

The next scene was slightly more offensive, though:

I'm at Costco on a weekday morning with Elizabeth in the seat, Cecilia sitting inside the cart, John Paul riding on the back, and Mary Claire in the Ergo.  The children are behaving remarkably well, as they tend to do at Costco because of the samples.  We approach a cart of samples of squeezable applesauce and a 50-something male customer glances at us and mutters something to the employee manning the table.

Man:  That's like birth control for me...
Employee:  Awkward polite laughter

Now, he wasn't talking directly to me, so I didn't respond.  But really?  Really? 

My four adorable, well-behaved children sitting quietly in their cart, smiles on their faces as they approach a VERY exciting sample cart...  That convinces you that you shouldn't have any (more?) children?

Disgusting, they are.  Who could possibly want MORE of these?

Honestly, that convinces me that you probably shouldn't have any (more?) children, too!  Because if all it takes is the sight of four children ages four-and-under to terrify you, it's probably a good thing that you aren't procreating.  But really, I think this is an example of someone with NO internal filter and I'm just going to assume he had Tourette's. 

This last scene though, it was the winner of the awkward award:

I have just spent hours preparing a meal for almost 20 people from Andrew's dad's side of the family and his dad's fiancĂ©e's family.  We're hosting at our house because otherwise we wouldn't be able to get to dinner at all once bedtimes are factored into the equation.  The kids have behaved pretty darn well, especially considering it is now more than an hour past bedtime for the big kids (the babies are both asleep).  Cecilia, who has been nothing but adorable, cheerful, friendly, and sparkly this entire time (a HARD feat for one as shy as she is), is throwing a rather ridiculous temper tantrum in the bathroom because first there was too little toothpaste on her toothbrush, then too much, then I needed to wash it off and then how dare I wash it off?  I close the door to the bathroom and leave her to decide how she wants to handle this...

Random relative:  I don't know how you do it...  Four children!  You aren't planning on having more any time soon, right?
Me:  No, not any time soon (meaning not in the next 9 months, since I'm pretty sure I'm not pregnant right now)...
RR:  You mean you're going to have MORE???

Mind you, she is sitting at the dining room table in front of a picture of St. Cecilia, an icon of American saints, and an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  And she chooses to start this conversation...

I continued going about my business cleaning up after dinner, turning to make an astonished face at my sister who later told me that her other response, which I didn't hear, was as follows:

RR:  I would kill myself.

Now that I wish I had heard!  Because my immediate response was, "Well then I guess we won't be asking you to babysit!"

Obviously, these faces would make ANYONE suicidal!

Apparently she also warned my brother-in-law and his serious girlfriend not to have so many kids.  Because, you know, it would clearly make them both suicidal.  After all, she had two kids two years apart, and there's NO WAY she could have handled more!

It's not like I haven't written about this before - and Kendra pointed out how much better life is when we don't assume the worst from what people say.  But I think sometimes it's raaaather difficult to assume anything BUT the worst! 

And it makes me appreciate the fact that I am one of the least emotional people I've ever known - my sister has always lamented the fact, but perhaps God gave me a heart of stone so that I don't get terribly hurt every time someone tells me just how insane I am to have sooooo many kids already (it's like they think I CHOSE to have twins!).

I just figure, at least I'm the one repopulating the earth singlehandedly (well, with Andrew's help I suppose :P) and not them, right?

58 comments :

  1. Wow, that is incredible what rude things people feel they can say. My husband occasionally retaliates by, when hearing that someone has one or two kids, saying "really? Only two? That's all?" Which I think is a hilarious sneaky way to play at their own game so to speak.
    I honestly think that so many people have no idea what a joy a larger family (and having more than one sibling) can be. Too bad for them!
    Your kids are adorable!

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    1. Although I will say that sometimes it's not someone's choice to have only one or two kids! I had no idea infertility was so widespread until I started reading blogs - I definitely used to think, "Huh... Catholic and only 1/2/very widely spaced kids? Guess they must be using contraception..."

      But I don't think those people are the ones making the rude comments about large families :)

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  2. I try to take things the the best way possible too, but some people are just plain rude. I hate that our society thinks it's okay to comment on others' reproductive status. It's none of the business. My husband has a cousin, who, since our first, has always had a winning remark. Such as telling us after our first that we should NEVER have any more. They know very well, you see, because they only had one. This time, despite the fact that she hadn't spoken to us in over a year, she called my husband when she heard we're having #4 and 5 at once.
    "Was this pregnancy on purpose?" (as soon as the 'how are you's' were done with)
    "Of course it was on purpose."
    "Were you, like, trying to have twins? Or did that just happen?"
    I don't know what he responded with, but seriously, how do you try to have twins? Clomid? I was confused.
    My MIL stated to my husband when I wasn't around that "Well, I guess you'll be done now." I so wish I was there because I would have told her if her grandchildren's existence bothers her so much it would be my pleasure to spare her meeting any future ones.
    Strangers are bad, but what is hard for me to stomach is relatives who act like your children were bad choices or mistakes because there are "too many" of them. It makes me never want to let them see my kids again. If that's all they are to you, is a "choice" I made wrongly, then why should you even get to interact with them?
    Your family is beautiful. It's others loss when they don't see it.


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    1. TRYING to have twins! I've never gotten that before - people are definitely curious and ask all the "Do they run in your family?" questions, which are often (not always!) code for "Did you use IVF?"

      I've always been really impressed with how my non-Catholic in-laws don't seem to judge how many kids we have at all! I know my mother-in-law always wanted more than her two, and my father-in-law tends not to talk about that sort of thing anyway!

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    2. Well, twins do run in your family, though not very strongly. I find genetics interesting, like with redheads and left-handers and stuff, and I'd certainly be one of those who would ask if they run in the family, especially now that you have twins. Besides, people who use IVF *tend* to be older than you by a long shot, and non-IVF twins *tend* to run in older mothers—though that is obviously not what happened with you and your grandmother!

      One might be able to try for twins if one notices one's mittelschmerz. If it's significantly more pronounced than usual, that can indicate two eggs descending. So that would be a good time to try for twins, though I don't think I've ever heard of anybody doing it.

      Note to non-family blog-readers: Rosie's dad's mom also had twins, though her dad is not one of them. And fraternal twins run only in the maternal line, because they come from two eggs; last I heard, nobody has proven that a man can influence a woman to produce two eggs at once.

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    3. Twins do run in my family. My mom is a twin (brother) and she had boy/girl twins. Her #s 4 and 5, which is what mine are, so I think I am half expecting them to be b/g too. Can't wait to see! Anyway, I'm always quick to explain that twins run in my mom's family if people seem inclined to pry further.

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  3. Wow it's one thing to hear a random stranger mouth off but when it's a family member? I would flip out! I too have four under four including twins and the worst comments ingot were at a farmers market (those markets) where some old ladies separately told me "oh honey I'd hate to be you" and "please tell me you're not going to have anymore" wow!

    The funny thing is since my kids are biracial with varying skin tones both my husband and I get asked if all these kids are ours when we're by ourselves. I guess that's a legit question in our case haha

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    1. "I'd hate to be you"??? That's ridiculous! I've gotten the "better you than me" comments before, but only from close friends and phrased more tactfully - if I were in their shoes I'd be glad not to be the one having twins, too!

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  4. Oh. My. Gosh. I would flip out. I'm. To confrontational, but I've been working up some responses since we do hope to have more someday. (We have 4 now.) If I think of anything spectacular, I'll share. In the meantime, I'm glad you have all of your precious children. Praise be to God.

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    1. Yikes. Typos. "I'm not confrontational."

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    2. I think the key must be to respond with, "Yes, praise God!" or "We're so blessed!" but sometimes we get those comments when all 4 kids are screaming at the same time and I just can't respond with a straight face :P But seriously, the joy far FAR outweighs the crazy!

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  5. That's totally awkward. I don't know why people in general think it is their business to pry into your family life (and they can do it so easily with a question like number 3). I had someone the other day ask me 'so how many more are you going to have?'... I referred him to my husband (who was not around) then he said 'well don't you have a say?'. I wanted to say, 'yeah i do but I don't want to share the details of our married life with you because I really know what you are asking!' but I didn't. and I don't really want to just come out with 'well we don't believe in birth control' - I like leaving people in suspense!

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    1. And if you play the "no birth control" card, people IMMEDIATELY start the Duggar comparisons! I seriously doubt we'll have 19 kids, since I have a feeling things will naturally slow down over the years. But really, what does it matter to YOU how many kids anyone has, random stranger? So awkward...

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  6. YES- re: the first scene, I never understand "You've been busy" comments! A pregnancy results from a couple only being together once, so how is that busy?
    And it's sad how people look at children only a nuisance. You handled these situations well!

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    1. And the fact that we get these comments even when they're all being adorable or well-behaved is even more ridiculous!

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  7. I do get the "are you going to have more?" or "how many more are you going to have." comment a lot. I usually just reply "I hope so" to the first one, but I never really know what to say to the second one..I usually just say something like "I don't know, a few?" but it is awkward.

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    1. Yeah... I tell people that I really don't feel like our family's "complete" but I don't know if I'll ever feel that way, you know? And it's not like it's our decision how many more to have!

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  8. Unbelievable....I'm sorry that you have to deal with these responses...CHILDREN ARE A BLESSING. Yes, motherhood is not the easiest thing....and people tend to turn away from anything that's a little difficult, but motherhood is one of the most beautiful gifts :) And the more you have, the merrier!!!! :)

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    1. I think that getting over the "hump" of 3 or 4 young children has to be the hardest, but so few people are open to more than that because it gets so chaotic at times and it feels like adding one more could only be MORE trouble!

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  9. Your Aunt Rosamond, as you know, has ten kids, all singletons. I think she was the one who told me that somebody once said to her, "Wow, you and your husband must do nothing but have sex!" She said politely, "No, we just have more to show for it than most people." Ba DUM bum!

    Back when you had only John Paul and Cecilia, I was so happy and proud of you and my grandchildren, as you may remember! And I told everybody in the whole world, of course, as is my wont. My allergist heard how close together they were and asked if you knew about birth control. I was polite but appalled and told him that I would never even consider meddling in your child-bearing. Besides, I said, I think that children and grandchildren are great blessings, and I was sure he wasn't suggesting that they weren't, was he? He looked a bit embarrassed.

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  10. I should blog about the things I hear because we only have one 6-year-old. People who don't know us well are often quick to assume that we're contracepting because we don't have a larger family, so they will open their mouths to us, thinking they're in good company. I have to walk away before I get violent or tearful. Bless you and your lovely family.

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    1. I would LOVE to hear your perspective - I think I've definitely been one to assume things like that in the past (although I would never say it!), but reading more blogs has really showed me how common fertility issues are and how I really CAN'T judge people based on how many kids people have/how far the spacing is. I feel like the comments you must get are probably worse than anything we get :(

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  11. How incredibly rude! I don't know why people feel like it's okay to comment on someone else's family size, especially in front of the kids! We haven't gotten much yet, but I know when we have more (God-willing!) they will come. I'll just have to read up on my responses so I can be prepared. :)

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    1. It's such a personal thing and such a strange thing that's brought up so often! I guess it's at least an opportunity to spread the good news about NFP?

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  12. Wow. I think relatives are the worst because they think they have a right to an opinion about your family planning choices, and the right to say it.

    And I'm not sure what it is about 50 year old men, but when I was cashier I was ringing two out and a woman went by with four kids (they weren't being super quiet and docile, but to my memory they weren't misbehaving either) and he turned to his companion and said "She needs to find a new hobby." I was SO MAD. I almost said something and to this day wish I had ... instead I just glared at them the whole time, which probably went over their heads.

    I haven't really gotten all that many comments yet, except the laughing comments about how full my hands will me in a few months, which ... well, I can't really disagree there. ;) But I have gotten a few that seem to imply that we chose to have twins. I was talking to my FIL's girlfriend about how God made it pretty clear that yes, buying a house right now WAS the right decision, seeing as we'll have three kids soon and could never fit in an apartment; and she said something like, "Yeah, you did make that choice." Yep, we were filling out the order form and wrote "2" in the quantity column! :-P

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    1. WOW that comment is INFURIATING! What a nasty nasty thing to insinuate! And the "hands full" comments never really bother me, because they're always made when my hands literally ARE full of children!

      And the "choice" to have twins... I find myself thinking about how it wasn't our "choice" to have twins, we were just aiming for one - but if God thought we could handle two at once, it's gotta be a compliment, right?

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  13. We still get all those comments, but I also feel like we tipped the scale once we had number five, and now people keep asking us when we're having another. Its like they finally figured out we want a big family. Or maybe they finally figured out we're insane and there's no reasoning with us!

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    1. That's true - I've definitely seen non-Christian families with up to 4 kids (VERY rarely more than that), but once you hit the 5+ mark, I feel like it pretty much marks you as Catholic or Mormon and people know not to comment because they probably think you're crazy!

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  14. Rosie, I'm a young, Catholic woman in my 20s and I wanted to write and let you know that I need examples in my life of women like you and families like yours. Even in Catholic communities, it can be difficult to find families who are saying, "we are open to God's plan for us and will welcome as many children as God decides to bless us with." We need women and men who are saying that NFP is good. We need young families like yours to show us that this IS a path that we can walk (and walk joyfully).

    When we encounter people who judge or question our personal, religious decisions, I think we have the chance to be a testament of God's grace and plant a seed in that person. Who knows - that seed may grow and change that person's heart!

    So just keep doing what you're doing and don't be discouraged!

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    1. Thank you for such a kind comment! It's definitely tough at times but I try hard to be a good witness to the joys of a large(ish) family :)

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  15. People are CRAZY!!! I can't tell you how many times people have blatantly asked us whether we use birth control or whether we wanted all these kids RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY BIG KIDS. Madness, this.

    I think I need your heart of stone! :)

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    1. IN FRONT OF THE BIG KIDS??? Oh my goodness... That's just ridiculous - I don't think I'd be able to help myself, I'd probably ask them, "Well, which one do you think we should send back?" or something snarky like that...

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  16. Your family is beautiful! I don't get too many negative comments about the amount but I DO get horribly bothered by the comments about them being all boys said RIGHT in front of my perfectly awesome boys who they apparently don't realize were not the universe making an oopsie. I get asked if we'll have more a lot and it's weird because it almost feels like they're feeling you out. I do have to say that often someone will make a comment and I'll throw my guard up and then they proceed to tell me that they came from a family of 7, or had 6 themselves or have whatever many grandchildren. I think many people just love to connect and are looking for a conversation starter. I appreciate those people :)

    (Edited because I made a horribly embarrassing grammar mistake and I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I let it be.)

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    1. I get a lot of comments about having all boys as well--mostly of the, "Ya gonna keep going till you get a girl?" *wink* *wink* variety. Usually I just respond by smiling and mumbling something about being open to however many children God sends us but if my oldest hears, he chimes in almost every single time and lets the stranger know that he does have a sister and she's in heaven now....which is awwwww-kward, but also great for teaching lessons about not asking strangers personal questions.

      I do think that most people mean well and don't intend to say anything hurtful to my boys but, having lost a little girl, that particular question has more sting to it than the everyday, "Wow! You've got your hands full!"--which is true, I do have my hands blessedly full :)

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    2. Mary and Christina, I have five boys (no girls), so I know what you mean--people made some unreal comments when they were growing up. Unlike Rosie, my feelings get hurt very easily. But I'm not confrontational at all, and when the comments came I wouldn't think of zinger comebacks until long afterwards. So I mostly looked at people with a blank stare, silenced by disbelief!

      I have five grown sons now, 20-29, and I think I'm the luckiest woman alive!

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    3. I've definitely had that experience, Mary - I start being worried about a "large family" comment and then find out that the commenter is part of a large family :) But I just can't believe how people think children can't hear/understand these comments - more boys = more priestly vocations! What could possibly be wrong with that?

      And Cristina, that is AWESOME of your oldest to chime in and such a great lesson! I can't even imagine how heartbreaking a remark like that must be every time :( Thanks for sharing!

      Laura - I think anyone who can raise 5 boys is amazing! I don't know why society is so obsessed with "balanced" families... I even find myself hoping that we have two more boys with the next couple of pregnancies just because I'm obsessed with symmetry!

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  17. It's not that your children aren't adorable--they are! And I would never comment on something as personal as family planning to someone I didn't know (or did). But we all live on an overcrowded planet; every child born in the US is going to drive a car, use resources, be part of the "crowds" that everyone complains about. In that sense, we all have a stake in it. Voicing that stake, other than in the abstract, not to people's faces--doesn't feel right.

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    1. You should visit overpopulationisamyth.com! It's really enlightening!

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    2. Yeah, I'm always surprised that I haven't gotten any "overpopulation" comments. I find that larger families tend to use resources more sparingly than those that are smaller... We use cloth diapers, breastfeed, drive everyone together in one car (my husband has a smaller, more fuel-efficient car that he has to use for work), and do as much as we can do reduce our carbon footprint. In a way, I think that having larger families forces us to think creatively about what an impact we're personally having on the environment, and I honestly think that considering we could fit the population of the entire world into the state of Texas with plenty of room to spare, the overpopulation myth is a bit lacking in teeth.

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    3. Rosie, you live in a four-bedroom house, which in your part of the world pretty much means that you have no more than three children. But I bet you are going to stay in that house for a while, so that reduces your carbon footprint per person quite a bit. So does cloth diapering. So does all the reuse of stuff that goes with multi-child families. You bought an existing house, which is more planet-friendly than building one. You nurse your babies for a long time, which means you don't use the planet's resources for factory-produced formula (with its packaging issues, which causes even more pollution). You stay home a lot, finding amusement at home, which cuts down on gas. Knowing you and Andrew, your kids will not be big video-game consumers; they'll be reading, playing with toys like Legos, playing in the backyard, etc., and all that is planet-friendly. Oh, what the heck, you know what I mean, Rosie. I'm just explaining to those who don't know your family.

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  18. Haha! Loved that first one! Hilarious you are! The second and third, well, sheesh people. Good thing yo momma didn't think the same thing about kids!!

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    1. Right! Have you ever seen those bumper stickers that say, "Your mom... Chose life!" So true!

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  19. Okay Rosie, here's the story that didn't make it into the post you linked to . . . My son was in Kindergarten at our parish school for a few weeks before we decided homeschooling would be a better option. One day, another Kindergarten mom watched me wrangling my 1 and 3 and 4 year olds as we all waited on the grass outside school for the Kindergarteners to be dismissed and said to me, "Better you than me." And I said, "Well, I'll have to agree with you." Maybe not the nicest thing I've ever said, but mostly I'm amazed I thought of it then and not in the car on the way home!

    There's just no accounting for some people. But when those some people are related to you, you can't even be snarky to them. Jeesh.

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    1. THAT'S what I should have said to the "Better you than me" comments. Perfect!

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    2. Those comments always amaze me - I've gotten some like that about the twins and I can really sympathize, because it is HARD having twins and I understand why people don't necessarily want two babies at once! But it's just one of those things you keep to yourself, right?

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  20. Rosie, I can't imagine anyone looking at those ADORABLE children of yours and not wanting to go home and procreate, STAT. We live in a strange world!

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    1. Although if we had that effect on people, I might have to severely limit where we went together :P After all, if everyone starts having babies all at the same time I'd NEVER be able to find a babysitter!

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  21. I hate the strange type comments. When I had my son, lots of people asked me if I was going to quit since I had "one of each." The worst, though, was announcing our third to family and a family member asked "where are you going to put it?" IT!?! Oh I was soooo mad!!

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  22. I have to put my actual comments I've gotten here (I don't want the people in question finding them on FB).

    When I got pregnant with my son (admittedly unplanned - post partum NFP sucks big time), my MIL and SIL had comments like, "Already??" "You know what causes that, right?" "Well, that's what happens when you play Catholic roulette." "You should take a break." Keep in mind that my MIL is Catholic, the daughter of a deacon, who got pregnant before she got married and had 5 kids (4 survived). I wanted to cry. My MIL actually approached me later and said that she talked to her mother and, after she told her what she had said, replied, "You need to apologize. If you said those things to me, I wouldn't speak to you again." It hasn't completely stopped the comments, but I appreciated the apology.

    I had several friends say, "Oh, you got your girl and boy! Perfect!" Like I'm done now that I have one of each, like that was the only goal.

    I had another friend say, "You need to get a TV or a hobby or something." I think he was joking...

    I do have to say, though, that it is kind of nice to be in Costco and be able to deflect the, "Have you thought about upgrading your membership? You'll probably spend enough just with diapers." with, "Oh, we cloth diaper, so..." Stops them dead in the water. :-)

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    1. I never really know if people are joking with some of these comments... I just have to assume they are, because otherwise I'll spend too long thinking of snarky comebacks!

      And I love having that conversation at Costco! Always makes me smirk :P

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  23. This post sparked the most hilarious conversation between me and Mike. Let's just say he (and I) was totally appalled at some of the things people say to you. Mike is working on coming up with some stabby responses for you.

    Also he was like, "This is Meg's sister? I feel like I know her!"

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    1. I feel like I just need a couple of t-shirts to wear in public, things that say, "Yes, they ARE all mine!" or the like :P

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  24. LOL "we've had intercourse at least 3 times!"
    I really pity these people. Their hearts are so little and dried up...
    Your children are beautiful! May you have many more! xoxo

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  25. Wow, Rosie. Maybe it's something about four. The worst I've heard from strangers is, "you must be busy!" or "you have your hands full!" which is absolutely true and not offensive at all. :) Just to reinforce the awesomeness, I tell them, "better full than empty!" and no one has EVER disagreed with that remark. When people ask me whether I'm finished (which also happens a lot, just casually/curiously), I tell them no, and they're polite if surprised. I'm so sorry you've had to hear it! I dunno, maybe my family members are thinking it, but they're at least not saying it (yet).

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  26. Just an FYI, Tourrette's syndrome involves tics that are uncontrollable, not an inability to filter comments. So, unless that guy's tic is making inappropriate comments about family size, (which is highly unlikely), he's probably just a sad lonely rude guy. :(

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