Face of hope

Face of hope
Courtesy: TIffany Kay Photography

Monday, June 11, 2012

If You Have Nothing Nice To Say.....

.....then don't say anything at all.  This was a mantra I heard time and time again from my parents growing up.  It always made sense to me, but I honestly thought "why did I need to be reminded of this? Seems like common sense!"  Apparently, common sense is something that has left many people's radars, especially when offering opinions or thoughts on other people's family sizes.

Now let me preface this by saying, I do not expect to go out with my girls and stay "under the radar."  I mean, let's face it ... I'm a *fairly* young mom, I have 5 kids... they are ALL girls... and they are, for the most part, "stair steps" in age.  So when people look, or stare, or out of curiosity ask me a question, I truly do not mind.  Matter of fact, I do not mind answering or explaining to them about our family because I think too often larger families are either frowned upon, or not respected as much as they should be in our society.  Some people are truly curious, or in their own strange way are trying to compliment us, but the words just come out wrong or awkward.  And in those cases, I always am charitable in my response and try to be nice about it. (Even the obviously annoying questions or comments of "Oh they are ALL girls!? or Oh, you sure have your hands full!")

 I will also say, that, I have worked very hard with my girls on behavior in public.  I am no stranger to having walked right out of a restaurant, and yes, I have even left a grocery cart full of groceries when one of the kids misbehaved and my threat was to leave the store.  By following through on these occasions, as much as it pained me to interrupt my day or my accomplishing errands, it has allowed the girls to get valuable lessons in behavior and consequences.  It has taught them that a certain level of maturity and self control is expected when we are out in someone's store, someone's restaurant, or among other people trying to also enjoy time out and about.  Kids are kids, and I don't by any means expect my girls to act like they are 25 .... but I certainly demand they use appropriate levels of talking, do not horseplay or run around, and the usual "common sense" items we try to instill in our kids behaviorally.

That disclaimer now brings me to the point where I can explain what I unfortunately deal with *most* of the time I am out with the girls.  The following is only a sample (yes, sadly a sample) of the comments we often hear when we are out and about.  We have been at the post office, grocery store, Costco, mall, library, etc..etc.. the list goes on.... and no place has been immune from people coming up to give us their thoughts.  These are some of the things people have said to us, yes, in front of my girls:

Are you done yet?
Couldn't you get a boy?
Are you going to keep trying for a boy?
Do you know what keeps causing that?
Well we know what you and your husband like to do!
Have you heard of family planning?
When is the next one due?
Looks like your husband can't make a boy!
You have way too many children.
Why would you keep going?
Wow, you won't get to do much with your life!

....and in response to people who have asked about Meagan, while 99% of the time, they move on or just comment how cute she is, we have also heard the following doozies:

Oh I'm so sorry about her
And you still had her with all these other kids?
Isn't it going to be hard to give your other children attention?
That is going to be such a burden on your other girls when you are gone.
You are brave to have had a child like that.....

And one of my personal favorites was someone who literally came up to Reilly (my oldest), who at the time was probably about 6 years old.  I had the 4 older girls and was VERY pregnant with Meagan.  She looked us up and down in line at Target (OK, fine).....and then decided to come up to us, leaned over to REILLY, and asked her "Hey, go ask your mom if she knows what the birth control pill is...."   Now, if it hadn't been an assault charge and jail time, I seriously considered for a brief moment decking this woman.  I'm pretty sure I could have taken her... but... realizing that of course wouldn't benefit me in any way, I simply leaned over to Reilly and VERY loudly said "Reilly - it is VERY rude to comment on someone else's family size, how they look, or anything like that.  If you have nothing nice to say, you should always just smile and keep your mouth closed."  Reilly of course nodded... and as I looked up and made eye contact with the woman, she turned about 50 shades of beet red.  In that case, the "indirect" response certainly worked. I was livid she had not only addressed my child instead of me, but the nature of her question/comment was rude, completely age inappropriate, and demeaning.

Like I said, the true "curious" questions, although annoying at times, do not make me angry.  But these truly hurtful, intentionally rude comments I find are an unfortunate result of the general attitude of our society towards children in general.  We have a true problem in our society where as a whole, children are viewed as a "pain".... or a "nuisance."  We check off kids like we check off skydiving, traveling to Europe, or going back to school.  As one of those "things we do" before we die.  Is having kids for everyone? Not necessarily.  Is having a larger family for everyone? Absolutely not.  But it is important no matter what our vocation is in our life, that we always keep a clear view on the sacred position children should hold in our society.  Just as I would never comment on a woman with no children or with one child, people in turn should not comment on families with many children and no one should comment rudely on children with special needs.  We need to change the attitude of our society from viewing children as a burden, to viewing them as a gift of our future.  Then we would have less rude comments, more patience and appreciation for children, and also more protection of the "undesirable" children, like Meagan. . 

Now this post wasn't originated to complain by any means.  What got me thinking about all this was our trip the other day to Pataks, a local fresh European butcher where we purchase all our meat products for the home.  They have excellent products there, and being they are the direct source, their prices are much cheaper than purchasing meat from a grocery store or warehouse chain.  Because of this, it is really hit or miss how long you have to wait in line.  Normally I can take the kids at a mid-morning time and walk right in and out.  Well, as it happens, the week got busy..and I had NO time to get to Pataks until Friday.  Which was not ideal because Fridays tend to be very long waits.

 When I pulled into Pataks, I knew we were probably going to wait for longer than "a while" because there was barely room to park.  We walked up to the first door and the line was practically OUT of the building.  So, we stood there and began to wait.  Naturally, as we stood there, people began to talk to me.  I was waiting in line with the 5 girls, and Meagan had her glasses on.... so all those factors together always spark a conversation. 

What happened during our next hour and a half in line at Pataks was amazing.  Here, in short, is what I heard while standing in that line with my girls:

The older woman behind me said: Oh what a beautiful family. All girls! How special.  You are so lucky and blessed. I've enjoyed watching them while we are waiting in line.

An older gentleman who was checking out approached me on his way out and said: Mom, you are doing a great job. They are so well behaved. Good job girls!

A younger man waiting in line behind us said: 5 girls? Wow! I have 3 girls... we have a 3 year old and my wife just had twin girls. Aren't they the greatest?

A Navy vet sitting in a chair waiting for his wife said: Oh what a fun family! We had 6 kids.. all grown and gone now of course.  I've loved watching and interacting with your girls. (He was playing peek a boo and other silly games with Maura and Meagan while we waited).

Finally, we were about to pay and head out the door.  Another older man who was waiting behind us the whole time in line leaned over to me with a ten dollar bill.  He said "I just became a grandpa for the first time at 71.  I never thought it would happen and it has and I'm so happy! Please take your girls out for something special. They have been so good."  I told him congratuations on his grandchild and politely declined the offer.  He pushed more and said "No, please. They have been here so long and did such a great job. Take them out for ice cream this weekend as a reward." 

I have a rule where I decline once, but I will not beyond that because I do not want to come across rude.  So I took the ten dollars and told him "Thank you so much!"  The girls were ELATED. I told them as we walked out, "See? You just keep being good and sometimes there will be an Angel watching who will reward you for being good girls!" It was such a refreshing experience.

 That is the kind of feedback I want my girls to hear.  I can tell them over and over how special they are, but when others do not acknowledge that, or even go the further step to insult the family, it becomes confusing for the girls.   Reilly, who is now 7, has asked me after a rude experience "Mom, what is wrong with our family?" The fact that she would even ask this should be a wake up call to us all to change our attitude towards the littlest members of our society.  And it makes days like our day at Pataks even sweeter.  The whole experience that day set our weekend off to a great start. It was so refreshing to go out with the girls and for once, not have to deal with any rude or snarky comments. It was even more refreshing that people even took the time to go the other direction - and be very nice, respectful, and even complimentary of my girls. So if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all.  But if you do.... go right ahead. You just might make someone's day.

The girls enjoying their ice cream treat. Thank you to the kind man at Pataks!

Meagan didn't have any ice cream... but she sure enjoyed watching the older girls!


  1. Love this post!! What a wonderful experience to have at the meat market!!

  2. I love this. Brought tears to my eyes. Thank goodness for sweet and kind strangers, and may there be more of them!!

  3. Sweet reminder to all about sharing smiles;). Hugs