It doesn’t matter where we go - a store, a restaurant, the beach – anywhere. We inevitably get stopped by, usually a woman, who feels the need to comment about the three small children that we tote with us.
The comment always goes something like this:
“Wow, three boys? You sure do have your hands full…” The comment is either preceded by a sympathetic look as though I had leprosy, or it is followed by a raised eyebrow as if I had birthed three hyenas and had clearly neglected proper birth control procedures to prevent aforementioned hyenas.
Of course we have our hands full! Raising three boys, ages five and under, can be overwhelming at times. Sometimes we feel like a traveling circus, and sometimes we feel like the orangutan exhibit at the local zoo. Are they perfect kids? No. Am I a perfect mother? Far from it. But I love my boys. And my hands are also full when I’m doing laundry, taking out the garbage, or putting away groceries, but no one comments then.
Why does this bother me so much, you might ask? It irks me for a few reasons.
Reason #1 – Why do people feel the need to voice their inner thoughts to complete strangers? I don’t approach people and say, “Wow, your hair stylist was really having an off day, huh?” If they only knew what our family really has been through, they wouldn’t think that having “just” three boys was so tough. You don’t know anyone’s story until you’ve walked miles in their shoes. So go ahead and comment. I wear an 8 ½, by the way.
Reason #2 – It is no one’s business how many children we choose to have or not have. Please don’t look at me like I was negligent in the arena of birth control. Don’t stand there and do the math as to the years between my children. Don’t look at me like a breeder. Don’t look at me and try to determine how old I am in relation to my children. Yes, I’m young, but I had children with my husband, and after I earned two college degrees and worked for years. Clearly, I’m not a strain on society. A family member, who also has multiple children, was recently scoffed at when she mentioned that they wanted an even larger family. The number of children a husband and wife choose to bring into this world is an issue that is between God and them.
Reason #3 – Perhaps the strongest reason as to why this bothers me so much is that it is all that my children hear. Every time we leave the house, someone is telling them that they “are a handful.” When you hear something enough times, you start to internalize and believe it. If I tell myself every day that I am worthless, ugly, and stupid, eventually I will believe that I am worthless, ugly, and stupid. But if I tell my children that they are loved, blessed, and special, they will grow into young men who believe that they are loved, blessed, and special. And I pray that they will someday raise children of their own and tell them that they, too, are loved, blessed, and special – and not just “handfuls.”
So the next time a perfect stranger approaches us and feels that it is their place to comment on the existence of my three precious boys, I will reply with the following:
“Thank you for your input, and I am sure you are well-intentioned. But I would prefer my children to not believe they are burdens on their parents, but know that they are blessings from God. The next time you feel it necessary to comment on someone’s family, you’d be better to tell them how beautiful, blessed, or fantastic their family is. Have a nice day.”