I am a mom to five awesome kids. Yes, five. We get a lot of looks, and a lot of comments, when we are all out together. Some of the comments are great…many of them are not. I am here to coach you on what is okay to say, and what you should probably keep to yourself when you encounter a large family in the wild.
Let’s practice the things that encourage us…
“You have a beautiful family!”
“I love seeing large families.”
“Y’all look like a lot of fun!”
“I have 8 siblings. It was the best!”
“You’re doing great, Mom.”
Here are things that fall flat…
“Do you know what causes that?”
“Are they all yours?”
“Are you Catholic or Mormon or something?”
“Did you actually want that many kids?
“Have you heard of birth control?”
“Better you than me.”
“I’m sure they don’t get enough individual attention.”
“You must be rich to afford all those kids.”
“You have so many kids!”
Does that help? Do you see the difference? You may think you’re making light of a situation, but what you’re saying can be hurtful, especially when said in front of the kids. Our kids are listening. My children have told me when they have seen people glaring at us, or commenting rudely about our family size.
I remember what I said to my kids the first time I had to take them all grocery shopping after the birth of our fourth child. I told them, “People think we are crazy for having four kids, so I really need y’all to behave.” Now, I hate that I said that. I can’t stand that I let my kids feel like a burden or inconvenience just because I know that people can, and will, say hurtful things.
I still give my kids a talk before we head into a store, but it is the exact same talk that I gave when we had two kids. They are told to stay beside me or to hold the shopping cart, not to wander, no running, don’t touch anything that is glass. Sometimes they listen wonderfully, and sometimes the long aisles are too much to resist and they’ll run like they are being chased by a pack of wild animals. (Really, that happened when I had one kid… so it’s not really a big family issue.)
We know that we are a large family. We know that we can clog an entire aisle in a store. We know it takes longer for us to order meals at the fast-food counter. We know things can get loud. We have all had a toddler accidentally bump into someone because they are twirling around in their fancy dress, or elbow you when they are pretending to be a superhero. What we like to hear, what we crave, is encouragement and positive affirmation. If you can’t think of something polite to say, just simply smile and keep walking past… as soon as the path is clear.