Friday, May 16, 2014

My Kids Heard You in the Store Today

"Are those all yours?"
“Wow, you have your hands full.”
“You are a busy woman.”
“You hang in there!”
“Goodness, you’re fully loaded!”
“Wow, they must be a handful.”
“How do you do it?”
“I could never have that many children.”
“Are they all from the same father?”
"Which one is the accident?"
"You must've had a few failures, eh? *snicker snicker*"
"Don't you know what prevents these things?"
"Are you on welfare?"
"Have you ever heard of birth control?"

Some parents, if they have all girls or all boys, get even more:

"Wow, only boys, what a tough job!"
"I bet you're hoping for a little girl after all those boys!"
"Are you trying for a boy?"
"What will you do if you only have girls?"

You know, whether or not *I* take offense, have you stopped to think about the little ears listening to your flippant comments? Did you ever stop to think that my little 5 year old is a very curious kiddo who can read into things really well? Did it ever occur to you, as an adult, that maybe your random questions are not appropriate in front of children? Did you ever notice that my 3 year old’s shoulders sag just a little bit when you talk about my children as if they are unwanted, as if they are accidents, as if I have somewhere better to be, as if they are unpleasant mistakes in my life?

Have you ever thought about the questions young children ask after you walk off from your word-bombing? “Mommy, do we only have one daddy?” “Mommy, why does she think I have more daddies?” “Mommy, are we bad?” “Mommy, do you like me?” "Mommy, what's birth control?" (And what about the gender, size, race, family setup, and adoption comments? Nothing like encouraging a young child to internalize negative thoughts about herself or himself. Wonderful. Thanks a lot.) As one mom commented:

"I have 5 boys and it kills me when people ask if we were trying for a girl. My eldest has even asked if I wished they were all girls...." ~Alissa Y.

Today was a rare one. Today, despite hearing the litany of chants like above as we finished our errands, one lady walked by us, then stopped. I waited for the words to tumble out of her mouth, for her voice to rise in shock, for her little rude smirk. Instead, she smiled at my kids. AT them. And said,

“Wow, you are so lucky to have these wonderful kids.” 

And then she walked away. Thanks, Random Lady. You really made my kids stand tall today. I know I'm lucky. But, sometimes the kids need to hear it from others after all the negative remarks people spew at them.

Are you guilty of mouthing off random statements in front of innocent children? To some degree, for most people, I think they are just trying to say something and it comes out without any deeper meaning. The next time you feel an urge to talk to a parent in front of her/his children, try some of these:

"Look at your growing family!"
"What helpful kids!"
"I love to see kids helping at the grocery store!"
"You are fortunate to have all these little ones."
"You must feel really lucky to have these children."
"You must be a happy mom/dad with these kids!"
"I bet your house is full of fun."

And don't ever, for any reason, make any comments about race, religion, orientation, gender/sex, looks, etc etc etc. If you wouldn't say it to your boss, don't say it in front of little ears.

Please. Think whatever you want to in your head. But, if you are going to say something in front of the children, make it something respectful. They are listening.


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I don't have a large family, but have several friends that do. We got plenty of rude comments with twins "double trouble". We always responded with, NO, double blessing. Then shock that we would consider having another child after twins. People really don't think about what our children are hearing.

    1. Sadly, you are correct. If people took the same amount of time to think of a better comment than what comes flying out of their mouth(s), maybe they'd stop and not say anything at all. It's too bad that people don't stop to think about what they're saying, to whom they're saying it to, etc.,etc., then perhaps the world really would be a better place. Whatever happened to the saying, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." adage?

  2. I'm one of those "Grandma" types who drives my family crazy in public places because I watch the kids and talk to them. I exclaim over the babies for proud new parents, and remind them how beautiful their child is - EVERY child. When there's a sibling, I remember how my older ones felt being ignored for the new baby, so I always tell big brother or sister how lucky THEY are, because they will be able to teach the baby so many things! I remember rude comments about our daughter's birthmark, so I always try to be an encourager to all people.

  3. My favorite thing to say when people say "you have your hands full" is to respond with "but my heart is fuller!" :) Families come in all sizes, all shapes, all colors - some perfectly blended with many different while some very similar or the same. Embrace the fact that not everyone will share our love for family and children and parenthood. Let your children hear and see what YOU want them to hear and see in your reaction to these comments. Your response is far more important than the original comment. I have all girls, two adopted from China, one bio surprise, and we get ALOT of comments - trust me, ALOT. But no matter what is said, my response is what I always want my children to hear and remember. How I respond, how I speak, how I act is what they will remember most -- and that is what is important to me.

    1. I SO want my children to remember the affirming parts best, too. I recall one time when a lady chewed my mom out in the store for "stealing her money" (aka, accusing her of being on state assistance or whatever based on having many children.) My mom calmly and thoroughly responded to her in a way that makes me proud to think about. Yet, unfortunately, the stinging words and hatred from that stranger still stay with me today. We as parents can only do so much against the potential trauma or internalization that our children experience with anything in life.

    2. I hope it was me! I always tell people how lucky they are to have lots of kids! I love kids and have 3. Would have had more if we could have. Best thi G to happen to me next to my wonderful hubby!

    3. This is very good advice Rochelle. I have six kids and we were bombarded with this rudeness a lot, I remember one day a woman stopped me outside my car as I was putting the kids in. We had just come from the pharmacy because one of them was sick and it was a hectic day. She said "Are they all yours?" and I reeled around and said "yeah do you wanna make something out of it?" in a not nice tone. She sort of slumped and said "I just wanted to say how lovely they are" and I burst into tears and started apologizing. So I think better to respond as you say with what you want your kids to hear.

  4. Thank you, thank you, and thank you some more.... I don't have enough words to say how much I can relate to this.

  5. Thank you, thank you, and thank you some more. Words cannot describe how close this hits to home. I think I've heard every single one of those comments too many times to count.

  6. Oh your babies are blessed to have you. I'm no saint but I do my best to try to make a sad kid smile or help if I can. Usually I ask or catch the toddler in motion :). I've had horrible trouble with trying to have children. We are blessed with one and she's amazing and healthy. Yes we get just as many stupid flippant comments. I like to say well, whatever gets you through.
    If they have really pissed me off I have no problems stating why I've got one and not sixty. That's the only thing that shuts them up. Usually it's "well we tried but God has blessed us with her as our miracle and we ARE blessed. "
    as someone who had no kids ppl have a way of being stupid all the time. I'm glad you are aware of how to help your kids.

  7. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I have no doubt people are callous and rude about too FEW children as much as about too MANY children. Or ANY children for that matter.

  8. My parents had 4 girls and owned a dairy farm. All y life, I heard strangers AND friends/neighbours make comments about how much my Daddy must have wanted boys, since he had a farm. I never stood prouder than when my Daddy would reply (whether or not he knew we were within earshot!!) that HIS girls worked as hard or harder, and were as good or better farmers than any boy could EVER be! Those words still make me smile and feel pride in being my Daddy's "3 of 4".

    1. See what a wonderful memory you have and how affirmed you are. If noone would have made this comment you may have never heard those exact words from your father. NO EXCUSE for insensitivity but what a wise father you had who knew how to make lemonade out of lemons.

  9. Thank you for sharing this post. I have 5 kids 4 boys and 1 girl. I have heard many of these comments. I try really hard to let my kids know how blessed I feel to be a mom of 5. When someone says something negative I try to turn it around but sometimes pulling your jaw up off the floor first after a comment it is hard to think of something quickly. So now I make an effort when out or talking to people I meet to tell those how blessed they are to have the children they have. Hoping that maybe it will make up for a rude comment they have already received.

  10. Love this! I've gotten all of these comments but also remember the single moms as well. When I was raising just 4 n my own I was asked almost daily if they all had the same father right in front of them! And yes they are!

  11. Just wondering, is it ok to say "You've got your hands full" if it's said with a genuine smile? I mean it with no bad intentions, and I'd never make a negative comment about a child's race or paternity, and the only way I'd mention gender is in a context such as, "You're lucky to have two girls so close in age, I bet they'll be best friends!" My husband and I struggled to conceive our son, and we've been through 2 years and 4 losses trying to make him a big brother, so it's for me to find the right words when a stranger is telling me about all her kids, especially if she then decides to announce her pregnancy that isn't obvious yet (I work in customer service, so it does happen a lot).

    1. i have six kids with an even split of boys and girls.I have heard the "you must have your hands full" comment and it doesnt bother me as long as it is said in a friendly way. My reply is "only when they are all misbehaving." also said with a friendly smile. My kids even get a chuckle out of it. Half of my kids adopted. I cant stand it when people say"Don't you know what causes that?" I say yeah being RESPONSIBLE!

  12. I have four girls, my oldest is five and my youngest is three weeks old. I hear everything you mentioned on here, about how my hands are full (I reply, "full of love!"), about whether we'll keep trying for a boy, etc. Plus, three of my girls are redheads, which ALWAYS guarantees lots of comments. A quick trip to the store is lengthened for us not by my children, but by strangers talking to me about my children. Luckily, we get more positive comments than negative, but either way - people should always be aware that children are people, and that they may not understand everything, but they ARE paying attention. Thanks for posting this!

  13. i have six kids 3 boys and 3 girls. My kids are getting older so they have ( I hate to say) gotten used to peoples stupidity about our family size. They hate the stares, my middle daughter when she was 4 once said really loudly in Walmart, "Why are all of you staring at us? We are just kids! What you havent seen six kids before?"

  14. I'm one of #2 of 5 siblings and we were often with cousins as well as siblings so there was even more of us.. we got plenty of "don't you know what causes that?! to which our parents said "yep sure do and we couldn't be happier"
    I think MOST parents of large families know what to say regarding stupid flippant comments. this is really for those who have foot in mouth disease.. parents are used to doing damage control by the third or fourth kid trouble is they shouldn't have to be.

  15. My go-to response to "you have your hands full" (which I usually get when I have the LO and a couple of fur children out for a walk) is "yep, and I love it!" or "yep, and I wouldn't have it any other way!" It's not usually said to me in a demeaning or negative way :)