After last week’s post about not judging other moms, I figured it might be good to re-run this post about how other moms really aren’t judging us anyway!

Back
a few years when we lived in Chicago, and I only had three kids,
something horrifying happened to me.  The kids and I were in line at the
cutting table at the fabric store (which takes a long, long time)
behind a young black man with a big pouffy afro.  Jack was three and a
half at the time and quite chatty.  The man turned back towards us and
Jack announced, loudly, “You have crazy hair.” I was mortified.  But
before I could even apologize or chastise Jack, the man had asked him,
“Do you like it?” Jack looked closely at him and considered, while I
squirmed, then he said, “Yeah, I like it.” The man said, “Thanks, I
teach at a school.  The kids there like it.” Jack said, “My hair’s
yellow.  I think the kids at my school probably like it.” The man
agreed, and that was it.  He got his fabric cut and so did I and I never
saw him again.  But I learned a lesson from him that has been very
useful to me as a mother of many, which is: Assume the best of people’s
comments, ask follow up questions and you just might find that they
meant well all along.



Once
a week or so in my Facebook feed, a friend will post something about
how some person at some place said something to them about how many kids
they have and how offended they were.  And I recently read a lovely and impassioned defense of mothers of many against people at the grocery store and what they say and what they probably really mean.

I have been there, for
sure.  I have stewed and thought of witty retorts in the car on the way
home and vented to the husband (this was before I was on Facebook, so HE
got to hear about it).  But now I’m thinking that if my feelings were
hurt by an offhanded comment in the grocery store, it was probably
because of my own insecurities rather than other people’s actual
prejudices against my family.

Now,
before I bother to get offended, I ask myself, how sure are you that
they really meant to insult you?  Did you assume the best?  Did you ask
follow up questions?  

I
get comments all the time, of course.  Just about every time we go
shopping.  Especially since I often have all six kids (10 and under)
with me.  We are a spectacle.  There’s no denying it.  And yes, I’ve
heard “Are they all yours?” (As if perhaps I swing by a local daycare to
pick up some extra kids to bring with me to Target) and “You sure have
your hands full,” more times than I can count.  And even that most
inappropriate of all, “You’re done right?” more than a few times.  But
perhaps we’re the only family of our size that that particular lady has
ever seen at Target, and maybe she’s just trying to make conversation.

So,
instead of getting defensive, I assume the best and ask a follow up
question.  I’ll say, “Yes, they’re all mine.  They’re pretty cute
through, right?”  Or “Yes I do, but better full than empty, right?” Or,
“Goodness, I hope not.  We figure we’ll just keep going until we get an
ugly one.  So do YOU think we’re done?”

And
sometimes, that’s it.  But MOST of the time, I’d say 80-90% of the
time, they’ll then tell me how they are one of five or their mom was one
of eleven or how they always wished they’d had more themselves.  Then
they almost always say something complimentary, even if it’s “Well, I
could never do that, but good for you.” But more often it’s how the kids
are friendly or well-dressed or well-behaved.



Which
brings me to the second aspect of this . . . THIS is my apostolate. 
The apostolate of being a big family at Target and Costco and Trader
Joe’s.  EVERY TIME before we go inside I remind my kids that how we
behave inside that store is probably going to determine how this
particular group of people view big families.  If my kids are sweet and
helpful then all those people will think that big families are sweet and
helpful.  But if I look like I just rolled out of bed and my children
are unwashed and screechy, then any negative stereotypes about big
families that they might have had are now confirmed.  (I don’t count Frankie.  I figure if everyone else is good, but he’s throwing groceries at me, we’re probably still okay.)  And
if someone was just trying to make contact with what SHE considered a
creative and funny comment and I get defensive or sanctimonious, well
I’ve just lost an opportunity to make a friend, or at least have a
conversation.

I
am here to tell you that I take my kids out in public.  All of them. 
Often.  And I can’t think of a single time when someone was genuinely
unkind to us (except this time,
and that was just me and the baby!), unthinking sometimes, but not
unkind.  I think that allowing people to see the beauty of my lifestyle
is MY responsibility.  And I think even unthinking people deserve for me
to give them the benefit of the doubt, just like the guy with the afro
did for me.

P.S.
Jack and the husband want everyone to know that Jack is wearing a Cubs
hat because that’s his little league team this year, not because we are
Cubs fans.  We are White Sox fans, and we are just crazy enough to take off our shirts and charge the Kansas City Royals’ third base coach, if necessary.