Rounding the back bumper of our 15 passenger van, we began our routine for loading up the crew. The chatty teens readily made their way to the rear seat while our younger daughter buckled in the toddler. Dropping the stroller down to the closed position, my husband instructed our 9 year old ball of boy energy to move the bottles of water and take his seat next to his 7 year old cohort. While our feet were dog-tired from the full day of walking around the fairgrounds, the kids’ energy levels seemed to be drawing off of some endless reserve. We were putting the finishing touches on our Blue Ribbon day at the State Fair, loading up our big, church-sized vehicle to head over for dinner.
There we were happily filling our van with coats, a stroller, goodies, and children (6 of our own and 2 substitutes pinching-hitting for our missing young adult offspring) when a comment was launched, like a fragmentation grenade, in our direction. A mother, her two elementary-aged children in tow, uttered with audible disgust,
“Granny used to have a van like that back when she couldn’t stop having kids either.”
Instantly, my body felt rigid as I fought against the momentary desire to turn around and face my attacker. I fantasized about unleashing the last remnants of my old, inner Jersey attitude to let her know just what I thought about her lack of tact and bold prejudice. I considered it for half a minute, but instead my husband and I quietly continued the task at hand (thankfully none of the verbal shrapnel had pierced the children’s ears).
In the course of mothering my larger than average-sized brood of people, negative remarks and rude questions have been thrown my way more than a few times. When I was escorting my entourage of just 4 (aged 5, 4, 2 & infant), the comments were frequent:
“Are they ALL yours?”
“You MUST be a preschool.”
“Your husband’s gonna wear you out.”
“Don’t you guys own a TV?”
“Are you DONE yet?”
“You need to find another hobby.”
Now that we have a couple of young adult children and the stair-step drop between our youngest children is wider, people less frequently feel obliged to share their opinion with me. Okay, there was that creepy guy in Sam’s Club not too many years ago who felt compelled to block our path and recite “The Old Lady Who Lived In A Shoe,” but overall I hear far more positive remarks than negative ones. However, regardless of the ratio of good to bad commentaries I must endure, it never really hurts any less to be rashly judged in the court of public opinion.
I’m going to admit I’m not a big proponent of the near-constant admonition “Who are you to judge?” Clearly, in the course of every day we all pass judgments. We have to decide whether to get into the elevator with that odd stranger. We have to choose which mechanic seems trustworthy. We have to seriously evaluate the parent, who is hosting that sleepover to which our child has been invited. So, judging is necessary at times, but obviously there are many times when our judgments are completely baseless, inaccurate or should at least remain unspoken.
Now that I’ve had time to simmer my anger, I’ve formulated a few thoughts that I want to throw out into the blog-o-sphere in the hopes that that mother (or others like her who think I’ve got too many children) might stumble across my rebuttal.
Dear Lady Who Thinks We Have Too Many Kids,
You should know that my husband was an only child, who always wished for siblings. I spent my first 10 years as an only. The Mister and I dreamed about a big nest long before that first pregnancy test was positive. Of course, I’m not belittling families with an only because they are equally beautiful and blessed. However, our shared history growing up without sibling confidantes caused us to hope for more.
And when those two lines appeared on the first pregnancy test, we thought we were well on our way toward starting our pre-planned journey. That was until nearly a month after our firstborn arrived when we held him in our combined embraced and watched his heart stop beating. We learned on that day that parents don’t always have the privilege of out-living their offspring and that there is nothing more valuable in this life than people.
You couldn’t have known that one of our blessings is an adopted child. You see, we aren’t just some couple who can’t control our sex-drive (like it’s even realistic to think parents of large families have the time and energy for constant romantic entanglements). Our hearts are open to children, biological, adopted and (for a brief period) fosters as well.
We adore our children. We provide for them. We instruct them. We sacrifice for them. We enjoy being in their company (so much so we happily tote their friends around, too). We’d rather give up sleep, fancy vacations and material goods than live without one of the 8 beautiful, generous, faithful, creative, curious, polite, thoughtful people we have been blessed to share our life with.
I’m sorry you think your Granny wasted her life creating your family. I’ll admit your uncharitable remark gave me pause, but then I thought about the two innocent children flanking you and I’d have to say I’m glad your Granny had too many kids so that by extension your children might somehow inherit her big, open heart.