Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This

Today has been one of those days. You know the kind.

We had many appointments with multiple stops. Bun cried incessantly all day, and Sally decided to forget how to walk and fell no fewer than six times, scraping her knees and hands each time.

It was one of those in and out of the car days, and by the time we were on our last stop it showed. Francie, fresh from horse camp, was not looking so fresh. Thanks to her many spills, Sally looked like she had just had her legs beaten with a stick. And Bun, poor Bun. He cried so much that his eyes were puffy and he puked on himself.

I'm sure we were a sight as we traipsed through the grocery store. (And we weren't even in full rank and file since Fiver was out having his teeth cleaned.) Even though the children were well-behaved, I could still feel the heads turning and the eyes on us as we made our way to the checkout.

Standing in line, I began to wonder when four children became akin to housing a circus. Coming from a family of four, I have never thought that four children were "a lot of kids," but if one more person says "Wow! Four?! You sure have your hands full!" I might scream. I can't guarantee it, but it is a distinct possibility.

Because I know. I know exactly how full my hands are. They are full of little hands and chubby baby thighs; they are full of laundry and broken toys; and at some point during each and every day they are full of crap. They are indeed full, and I wouldn't trade that.

I would trade the comments and the stares and the questions. Are they all yours? You must be busy. Two and two? You must be done NOW. And my least favorite of all: Oh, you're brave to bring them all out. How do you do it?

No. No, I'm not brave. Brave is keeping your children alive in a refugee camp.

I am living in a free country where I can take my children to an air-conditioned supermarket and let them pick from a list of foods that, in the not so distant past, only kings and the very wealthy could have. And I expect them to behave. I fail to see the bravery in that. That is just living.

And as for how I do it? Please, don't think that I have some kind of secret method. Most days I do it impatiently, imperfectly, ungracefully, self-centeredly, and certainly not prayerfully enough. I do it one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time.

Sometimes I don't even feel like I do "it" at all, whatever "it" is. It only takes me two seconds to go from kissing the children to yelling "For the love of Pete, will somebody please flush the damn toilet!"

I know most people don't mean any harm by these comments, but being treated like a sideshow can be tiring. I don't need to justify the number of children with which I've been blessed. I don't need to prove that I am a good mother. I don't need to have the perfect house or the perfect children to show that it wasn't a mistake to choose full hands.

But sometimes, in the grocery store, it just feels like I do.

17 comments:

  1. I don't have four.. yet.. we hope to one day, but I am pregnant with number 3 and already getting looks and comments. I took my daughter to the bathroom the other day at the store while my husband took my son for a little walk and waited for us (I'm sure you know how long a pregnant woman and a 3 year old girl can take).. While there a woman commented that I must be hoping for a boy this time. I told her I already had a boy and she actually said "Well this must've been a mistake then. With one of each, why would you ever have another?!" I told her because God blessed me and left it at that but honestly why is it that so many seem to think 1 boy and 1 girl and that should be it?

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  2. Anonymous9:33 PM

    When I think of who I want to be like, I think of you. I do. You are awesome! I prob made at least one of those above mentioned comments to you, meaning no harm, of course. You make it look easy and make me want to be more patient with my 2. I especially want to be more like you in matters of religion. I feel I will never have your depth of knowledge. You are great and you have a great family! I am blessed to have you for a friend. Also, I am addicted to your blog and check the page regularly so, keep 'em coming.

    -Lisa L

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  3. I'm only pregnant with my third and yet I still manage to get comments and stares and generally feel like we're a circus performance every time we're out!
    On a related but slightly different note, some parking attendant actually said to me 2 days ago, and I quote (he spoke in some sort of eastern accent):
    "Wow - you have two children. Actually three. Your husband is smart. He keep you pregnant every year. That way you no look around!"
    That's a perspective I don't hear very often!
    Great post...

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  4. I'm really glad to hear we aren't the only house with toilet flushing neglect! It drives me crazy.
    I'm a mom of three and honestly I don't think I've ever had any comments about having "so many" kids. But the last time I was pregnant EVERYONE wanted to point out how much I MUST be hoping for a boy! (I now have 3 GIRLS, btw)
    I think I can sympathize. I just try to remember that people probably don't mean things as obnoxious as they come out. Or else they're just really dumb, and then, who cares...

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  5. John wants to know when you're going to have another? There are still two children with their own bedrooms you know ;-)... and perhaps you will need a pool for your 6 children ;-) ;-)

    We enjoy spending time with your children! (spitup and all)

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  6. I really needed to read this today! Thank you!! I have 3 and I find myself feeling like I have to be "perfect" in order to justify having "this many kids." I just needed to read that sentence in your post!

    My least favorite is the *constant* assumption that my 3rd was an "accident." A) HOW RUDE and B) why can't anyone believe that I planned to have more than 2 kids!?

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  7. When people tell me they don't know how I do it, I say:
    1. I drink alot of wine.
    2. I do it poorly.

    Hope tomorrow is better.

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  8. Imagine if we went out together! Oh, the stares we would get. I bet the comments would stop though, because people would be too busy picking their jaws up from the ground.

    I know exactly how you feel. And we still go out anyway. I know I'm not going to let the opinions of others keep me locked up in my home.

    Do you carry Bun in a sling ever? I have never been a big baby wearer, but Butterfly seems to prefer anywhere other than the car seat. So now I carry her in a sling a lot. She still cries sometimes, but if I'm holding her it at least looks like I care, unlike the impression made when she is screaming from her car seat.

    I hope the next day of errands goes more smoothly.

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  9. Scott and I were just talking about this the other night, actually, and I was saying how incredible it is to me how free people feel to make comments like these (and worse!) to people who have more than 2.5 kids. And it's not just strangers: family members will say awful things, too.

    I know a woman with 6 kids who has a certain member of her extended family who makes these sorts of comments to her EVERY TIME she sees them. There's a woman in our parish who has 10 kids and you should her the way people talk about her! It's really sort of disgusting.

    I think that some of it comes from people with 4 kids being somewhat of a curiosity (But not in an elephant man sort of way ;) ) and some of it comes from just plain old jealousy. I think that many people who make critical comments over your family's size wish they had been blessed so richly.

    Offer your frustrations up for yourself and for every other mom out there. Even the ones with 1 kid get hassled.

    Why can't people just mind their own business?

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  10. I don't have any children and I think I may go overboard trying to SUPPORT mothers with comments like the ones you mention. You give me serious food for thought to watch my choice of words.
    I could say, "What a nice family you have," and my support would be just as clear. Thank you.

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  11. Sorry. I've got nothing for you except some (((hugs))).

    With only 1 child I can only relate in the opposite direction. The questions on if we are trying or going to have another child. Feeling out of place at church because all the other 3 year old children have either older or younger siblings.

    Luckily people get so distracted by her curly hair that they usually forget she's our only child and simply rave about how cute and Shirley Temple-like she is.

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  12. Anonymous9:18 AM

    I SOOOOOOOOOO know what you are talking about- Add to those questions, how old are they? and when I answer 1, 2, and 3, and then I get, "oh my, did you mean to do that?" Nice right, I even got that from the nurse who tells you what to expect during your pregnancy (like I didn't know) during your first consultation when I was having Ayden- really professional, right?
    Mirabella MOM

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  13. Don't you wish you had a big roll of duct tape and when someone said something stupid you could just tape their mouth shut? People just say whatever is on their minds without thinking. I've had very close family members (on my side) make snarky comments about a try for number three. Where's my duct tape....
    And even with 2 I get the look. Like "Why did you have 2 wild boys"? Cause you know, I had a choice;) Like today when they were wrestling/having a smack down in the butcher shop. I got the "Oh, you really have your hands full". And I thought, yea - you have no idea.

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  14. Anonymous8:39 AM

    An age-old problem, I fear. My mother and father raised 8 children. And my mother was actually called a "pig" in her day (the 50's and 60's). I don't know what it is like in other cultures, but Americans don't know when to stop talking...and there is no regard for privacy. Americans feel "entitled" to whatever information they fish for, and it is sad. People even ask ME if my daughter is "finished" having babies. I cheerfully tell them that my daughter and son-in-law are beautiful, loving people who will joyfully accept any blessing of life from God. People then stare blankly at me. And they stop talking...

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  15. Anonymous8:39 AM

    An age-old problem, I fear. My mother and father raised 8 children. And my mother was actually called a "pig" in her day (the 50's and 60's). I don't know what it is like in other cultures, but Americans don't know when to stop talking...and there is no regard for privacy. Americans feel "entitled" to whatever information they fish for, and it is sad. People even ask ME if my daughter is "finished" having babies. I cheerfully tell them that my daughter and son-in-law are beautiful, loving people who will joyfully accept any blessing of life from God. People then stare blankly at me. And they stop talking...

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  16. GeeGee8:51 AM

    P.S. I don't recall people giving me as hard a time for having four children. Stay strong and courageous, all of you young women. I know several 30-something women who have more than 4 children and are raising happy, healthy, well cared-for families. Personal sacrifice is not a bad thing,(contrary to popular American thought.)And God bless those of you with one, two, or no children as well. It is how we respond to what we have been given that counts in life. Remain gracious and graceful in all of your dealings with ignorant, rude people.

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