Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It's the in thing now...

I took Gianna (age 4) to gymnastics last week. As we waited for the class to start a new girl and her mother entered. I introduced myself and the mom started peppering me with questions about the class. I was answering them to the best of my knowledge when suddenly the baby started to cry, and Charlie (age 2) made a mad dash for the bathroom. As I yelled for him to stop, she glanced down at Gianna, who was waiting patiently for me to help her with her hair. The woman immediately asked, "are all three of these yours?"

I smiled and said, "yes."

With a slightly disapproving edge to her voice she stated, "I guess that's the in thing now."

Taken aback, I immediately responded, "excuse me?"

She clarified, "it's the in thing to have 3."

I wanted to say, oh, "I thought you were talking about my shoes." But I just stood there, awkwardly silent.

The "in thing!?!" are you kidding me? Yeah, I have three young children because I think it looks cool. It is even cooler when one of them is crying in your arms, another is about to put his hands in the toilet at a dirty gym, and a third is hugging your legs. I have had this strange desire to be popular since high school and now I have finally succeeded. Who would have thought that having 3 kids was so darn cool.

Wow, talk about materializing our children. In an age where one boy and one girl have become an accessory for many parents, I didn't know if I should laugh or cry at this woman's statement. I wish she were only talking about my new shoes.


Anonymous said...

Just ran across your blog from the First Things link, and wanted to say that it's a great idea (and a great name). I graduated from Princeton in 1990; my husband's class of 1989; while we were cradle Catholics, we really began to live our faith while there. We now have 6 kids -- oldest 13, youngest 15 mos. -- it's the best! Good luck; I'll be sure to keep checking this out.

Kim Daniels

Right Said Red said...


I'm so glad you found us! When you visit, please feel free to share your parenting wisdom with us.

God Bless You!

Ellyn said...

Gosh, that was harsh. And it made me feel like an over-achiever - with 6.
(And these days, 6 seems to be the new 12...people sometimes look at us like we "have lobsters coming out of our ears."

Love your blog...

sixandthecity said...

LOL! Sometimes I feel like I actually do have lobsters coming out of my ears! Seriously, we are in survival mode, and so when people say "I don't know how you do it" I want to answer, very poorly and with much grumpiness. Even with as much grace and support as we have, the reality is that a house full of children can be trying on the nerves, so in some ways it is no wonder that, without much real support and understanding, many families choose not to have more children. I can just barely fit my family into a mini van and am incapable of driving anything bigger, that may turn out to be our limiting factor!

Juris Mater said...

Red and all--

I've currently got 2 plus one very pregnant belly... I'll have three under age three come early May.

Almost every time we leave the house, there are comments in the nature of, "you have your hands full". Our area is full of very well-educated, fast-paced, quick-witted, non-family-centered people.

Stay home moms with several preschoolers take people aback, and I'm trying to see this as a blessing rather than a harassment. We are a beautiful symbol, and we stir good emotions in people.

A great tip I once received is to have a favorite line or two prepared to avoid being caught off guard. As a natural extrovert, I find that these are fun opportunities for a dialogue with culture that I don't want to miss. (I'm not blessed with that cheerful heavenly peaceful demeanor of, say, someone like Kat, so my words better make up for it!) Try several in response to the comments, and see which one fits you best, then use it every time. Recently, when 5 people in sequence tell me I have my hands (and belly) full, I smile/chuckle and say, "OH yeah, but in a good way!" I try to take a totally non-confrontational tone, one that invites/assumes agreement by them. I've been surprised at how many people soften and then even compliment the kids when I try to come across this way.

Red--a line I plan to add to my repertoire starting after #3 arrives is probably going to be something like, "oh yeah, you know, three is the new two" [smile/chuckle in voice and twinkle in eye] "but we'd really like to have more. They're so much fun." Again, with a tone that assumes my lovely interlocutor agrees with me. (Ellyn, "6 is the new 12 is hilarious!" Thanks for your comment!)

A couple stray thoughts:
1. I'm guessing it's harder to respond to these comments with a new baby. A mom with a newborn is still in the trenches, coming to terms with her new family size herself and realizing how not at all easy it is adding a new child; the last thing she needs is a slightly scornful observation to rub it in.
2. The more genuinely positive we can be, and the more pride we show in our blossoming families, the more our kids will pick up on it. They may as well get used to being countercultural, because they've been born into it : ) This pride and confidence hopefully will seep into them also.
3. This is just me, but I always feel better strutting around town laden with kids when I'm avoiding the jeans + hoodie + no jewelry or makeup look. Lots of my local mom friends dress very casually, but I try to spruce it up within reason. I'm certainly no slave to fashion, but the little things make a difference in my confidence. And hey, when it's going to be a hoodie day, I don't hesitate to reach for the one with the college logo on it. Nothing wrong with reminding the world that women with lots of babies just might have received some formal education!!

Kristen said...

LOL! I just love this blog - a friend told me to visit...I have 8 kids now, but my first 5 came in 6 years...I joke that this is the house that lust made...

But really, a dozen years back, I got the same kinds of comments Red got...why does it seem so scary to them, I wonder? Even still!

My best one liner: You can thank me later when they're all paying our social security!

Last thing: this is also in response to someone who referenced the post on Eliz. Foss' blog about feeling inadequate. The one thing that I consistently see in the lives of women with large families who are happy is that hubby steps up to the plate, and shows his love by doing whatever mama needs to make the daily life livable. When we had 6 kids, and the older five were all school age, my hubby insisted that we either send them to school or hire in-home child care help. (I chose the latter, because some of ours have special needs. It was awesome!! She was like Alice of the Brady Bunch, but younger and better dressing.)

Even now, when he gets home from work, he just kicks butt in terms of housework, discipline, laundry, you name it.

Now, with so many older ones, it actually is easier in some ways because I rarely have to take everyone with me. And I have teen helpers to coax mean toddlers in the car, etc.

Right Said Red said...

I love the line, "you can thank me later when they are all paying social security." I need to get some lines like this in my back pocket so that I don't just stare at people when they comment on my children. I really thought 3 was still pretty "normal" so I wouldn't have to be coming up with any lines until the day that we had a 4th (God willing).

gbm3 said...

I also just came here from First Things.

Yea, here in Baltimore, "three is the new two."

We just had our second. We both met at Pitt and got married on 9-15-01 after she graduated (in 4-01).

My wife likes to say, "Yea, we don't quite have a baseball team, but we're working on it."

Don't know if you ever heard of it, but there's lots of good info for (large) Catholic/Christian families at http://www.ccli.org/ (The Couple to Couple League/NFP).


sixandthecity said...

I was reflecting more on the comments I get about family size and I realized that alot of them stem from having all my kids with me most of the time. I noticed that when my older kids took gymnastics I was one of the only moms who brought siblings along to wait. Some families have kids in school programs and others have Dads who have more flexible schedules. Really, if you had your children 2 years apart, you would have a four year old in school, a two year old and a baby, so you would rarely be out with three kids all at once during the day.

I find that it is not so much the number of children as their ages. Because I started very young and have been blessed with fertility and easy pregnancies, I have had more children in the seven years that I have been married than many women are able to have, even if they are trying for a larger family.

My mother had 3 children in two years (me and then twins), and she had to push a triple stroller and got some crazy comments, but I also think that people are generally more open/invasive now. I can't tell you how many people have asked me whether my twins were naturally occuring, whether they were premature, whether I had a natural delivery. Strangers in the playground.

jasoncpetty said...

She said: "Are all three yours?"

And Red sed: I wish she were talking about my new shoes. . ."

Red must have three feet.


Ann said...

My brother just sent me a link to this blog and I love the insight. We are expats living in England, UK where it seem like many parents find their children burdensome (more so that in the US). When I was pregnant with my third I had several people comment, "Better you than me!" I could only respond, "Yes, I think you're right."

eulogos said...

I think, "I thought you meant my shoes." would have been a comeback which at least implied that fashion should not be the determiner of how many children one has. However, I hope I would have been smart enough to say something like, "Well then I'd better enjoy being fashionable now as I guess I will be really passe' when number four, five and six come along!

When I had only two, 17 months apart, a woman said to me in a grocery store ,"Now you have your boy and your girl, and you can stop." I said, "Oh, no, I think I'll have a baby every 18 months for the next ten years." For a moment she looked to see a cue that I was joking, and when she realized I wasn't she turned pale, turned on her heel, and walked away without a word.

I came close. I had 8 in twelve years and then my ninth 3 years later. And now that I am menopausal, all I wish is that I had squeezed in a few more.

Another time I was in a grocery store, pregnant with my fourth. The cashier actually said to me, "Why don't you get yourself fixed so that this doesn't keep happening to you?" That time I was dumbfounded. I said, "But, but , but, I WANT all my children."

I only wish that there had been the internet and blogs like this when I was having my children, as I did feel fairly isolated.
Susan Peterson

Anonymous said...

I too came over here from "First Things." What a rude thing to say! My sister-in-law has five, and she has heard a lot in her day.

You are lucky to have three. I have only two, because I bought into the whole "two is best" thing. I really wish I had started earlier and had at least four.

But since I don't, I make it a point to tell people with young children what a nice young family they have -- especially if they have three, four, five, or more! I figure they get enough comments the other way.

Gail in Cincinnati

Bethany said...

I've been watching this post for a few days now and I feel the need to comment. I am a 29 mother of 3 (ages 6, 3, and 9mths).

Even with just the three I've gotten a lot of comments from:

"Well, you finally got your girl." to

"Don't you think you've had enough?" to

"I think you should stop having children." to

"J(husband) should get fixed."

The last comments were actually from friends and family. I can understand my friends weirded out by wanting to have children; afterall we're all from the generation that typically sees kids as a burden or a status symbol.(Though I wish they'd be more supportive)

But my family-- I don't quite get what is "wrong" in their eyes with having a large (relatively speaking) family. I'm actually fearful of having any more children (which I do want) because I don't want to have to tell them we're having more.

It helps knowing that there are more families and mothers out there who enjoy being mothers and wives. It is a proud profession, and a profession it truly is.

Thank you for your ministry.