I love having a big family. And by big, I don’t mean three or four kids. I love being the mom of a super-size family. My eleven children are such a source of sheer joy for me, and I’d never trade our life for anything.
Unfortunately, the choice that my husband and I made to have this number of children seems to give people the notion that they can say whatever they want to us about this decision. Some people say the nicest things, and I certainly am grateful for those moments because I’m finding that more and more people can’t seem to find the filter on their mouths.
Total strangers often approach us and feel completely at home making comments right in front of our children about things that most people would never consider bringing up to people they know, let alone someone they’re seeing for the very first time. (And it’s not only strangers that do this. Believe me.)
I’m going to give some of these people the benefit of the doubt and assume that they think they’re being funny, but honestly, after hearing the same jokes three or four or 150 times tends to get a bit aggravating, especially when many of these comments can actually be hurtful when overheard by the children.
So today I’ve come up with a list of:
12 Things Not to Say to Me About My Big Family (Even if you’re “just joking.”)
(Yes, I’ve actually heard each and every one of these lines.)
1. You have 11 children? Why???
About two years ago I took the kids for a walk to the farmer’s market. As we passed the high school on the way there, I saw someone I knew from when I was in school leaving the building. We had only chatted about a minute when she asked if all of the children were mine. I answered in the affirmative, and she said, “You have 11 children?? Why??” right in front of my kids. What troubled me most was that this woman is a fellow believer, and I never expected her to say something like that.
My advice to people who say things like that: Think before you speak.
2. Are you pregnant yet?
This is usually something I hear at family gatherings. Every family gathering. From multiple people. They think it’s funny, but they’re wrong.
3. Don’t you know what causes that?
I swear every person who says this to me cracks up laughing as if they are the first person to ever say such a thing. It’s just not appropriate to bring up things like that, especially when the children are standing right there. Not to mention the fact that I’ve heard this about a million times now. Sigh.
4. Don’t you have TV/cable?
Ha ha. Another one I’ve never heard before. Again, our personal life is just that- personal.
5. Don’t you believe in birth control?
I would never approach a childless couple and tell them that they believe in birth control too much. I don’t make assumptions like that. Please do me the same favor.
6. Are you a Mormon/Catholic/Fundamentalist, etc.?
Again, I won’t bombard you with questions if you don’t have children. Let’s practice the Golden Rule here, please.
7. Wow! You’re fertile!
Okay, thank you, I didn’t know that…and now my kids do, too, and will be asking all sorts of questions about what that means…
8. You’re overpopulating the earth.
Yes, I’ve actually had people say this to me. FYI- The earth isn’t overpopulated!
9. I feel sorry for your kids.
Yes, someone with zero social skills (huh…I guess it’s not a homeschooling problem after all…) once said that they feel sorry for my kids because there’s no way I can spend enough time with each child. Hmmm…I homeschool, so my kids are with me all day, everyday, while kids in school are in school 30-35 hours a week and are often at extracurricular activities or babysitters for more hours on top of that, and I’m the one that needs to be concerned with how much time I spend with my kids?
10. You must be crazy.
That farmer’s market trip I spoke of in #1? That same trip, after we arrived at the market, we passed an older man who stopped me and gave me his card; he was a psychiatrist! Then he stood there asking me with a straight face if I was interested in an appointment because I “must be going crazy with all these kids.” Again, my kids were standing right there when he said this to me. No wonder so many kids are uncomfortable around adults.
11. Are you trying to get your own TV show?
Yes, I went through 11 pregnancies and births for the sole reason of getting on TLC. Good Lord.
12. Are they all both yours and your husband’s?
That’s the “polite” way of asking if all my kids have the same father, although a woman at the doctor’s office came right out and asked my mother if all my children were from my husband. First of all, YES, they are all from my husband, but secondly- and more importantly- it is incredibly rude to ask someone that. Whenever I disclose that, yes, they all have the same father, I usually get some sort of approving comment, but seriously. How would they react to someone whose children were not all from the same father? I can’t believe people think it’s okay to say these things!
I fully realize that a family our size can cause a bit of a distraction when we’re out in public, so, by all means, approach us if you’d like. Just please think before you speak! Compliment their behavior (if they’re behaving, of course). Tell them what beautiful kids they are. A great rule of thumb is to listen to Bambi’s mother (or was it Thumper’s??)-
“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
If we adults expect children to follow that rule when speaking to people, perhaps we adults should practice following it, too.