Saturday, July 5, 2014

Common Comments...

Every time we go out, I guarantee that we will get at least one comment on the size of our family. 

Usually they are all along the same boring & standard lines,

"Oh you have your hands full" - Well, yes, but I would have my hands full with only two children as well, it's all relative. You adapt to what you have. When it was just Ben & Rianan I also felt like I had my hands full, with a toddler & young baby.

"You must be a busy lady" - We're all busy these days. My days are filled with young family life, yours are filled with working full time, caring for elderly parents, house renovating, studying while working, etc, etc.

"All boys? Oh, just the one girl. Poor thing" - I beg to differ. I think Rianan is incredibly lucky to not only have siblings (do not take that comment the wrong way, I have nothing at all against having just one child, by choice or circumstance.) Rianan is also blessed to have many brothers to grow with, to learn from, to protect, & to have for protection. I believe that having Ben & Jack close in age she has developed more confidence, determination to stand her ground & is not afraid to play with boys or shy away from rough play. Having younger brothers has also brought out her caring & nurturing side (in Ben, Jack, Blake & Will as well since the arrival of Clay) 
It would have been great for Rianan to have a sister, but I don't believe she is at a loss for being the only girl among all the boys.

"Gee I could never have that many kids" - This one is hard to respond to, especially if it's from another Mum. Kind of falls into the category of "You must be super-Mum". No, I'm not. I still have lots of struggles, days where I lack faith in myself to raise these little people into well rounded, aspiring, positive minded adults. I still loose my patience. I yell. I get frustrated.

"Don't you have a tv?" - Actually we have three. The number of televisions we have does not impact or influence our decision & choice to have a larger than average family. Usually this comment is immediately followed with...

"Don't you know what causes it?" - Initially I used to find this comment both mildly embarrassing & rude. Having more than two children does not give you the right to ask about or comment on our personal life. Some days when I've been a little fed up with the comments & the stares, especially if it is said with a hint of disdain, or malicious sarcasm, I have replied in an equal tone "Well what would you rather be doing?"    

It's not often that I get annoyed at the comments, I get that we are in the minority. In fact less than 5% of the Australian population have four or more children. While one & two child families account for 40%, dropping down to 15% for families of three children*. For some people we are an anomaly. Most of the time I just shrug & smile the comments away. A friendly good-natured laugh with some generic chit-chat & we're on our way again. 

What I really don't want to happen with these comments is for the kids to misconstrue them, to perceive that they are a burden to Doug & I because all these strangers keep saying how I have my hands full, that I must be busy because we have lots of kids, & it's their fault that I'm busy.
That we simply have so many kids because we don't know what causes it. Surely we didn't have six children because we wanted to. When the truth is we chose to have each & every one of our children, very much loved, very much wanted.

I've noticed that it is often the older generations who look at us with a wistful smile, remembering their own childhoods or raising their own family. We feel normal when talking to these people as they tell us they grew up with several other siblings, or had eight children themselves & now have an awe-inspiring number of grandchildren & great grandchildren. 

Sometimes I bring these comments on myself. When I'm at the shops with just Clay & the friendly shop assistant makes general conversation by asking if he is our first. I love the emotions that flit across their face as they digest the news that Clay is not my first, but our sixth child. Or if I take just three with me to a doctors appointment, leaving another three with Doug. A fellow patient will ask about one of the children with me, often leading to the option whether to disclaim we have three other children at home with their Dad, or should I just avoid the entire conversation surely to follow & not mention anything. 
For the sake of transparency & honesty here, whether I admit that we have more children at home, or leave them to believe their own conclusions based on the number I have with me at that time, all depends on how nicely those three with me are behaving. If Will is playing quietly with the toys while Rianan is reading a book next to me, & Clay is observing quietly from my arms, I'll let them know that we actually have another three boys at home. However if Will is trying to run around the waiting room & Clay is squawking while being held, then usually I bite my tongue. Because if I inform them we have more children then who knows what they'll think. Plus, if I'm chasing down Will & trying to keep him to our little area, I do not have the patience, the time, or the desire, to talk family life with a stranger, who is most likely judging me, judging us, based on what they are seeing directly in front of them along with the information that there is more (surely unruly & horribly misbehaved) children else where too.

I prefer to flip those stereo-typical judgements on their head - not give them verification.

I'm grateful that in our community we are reasonably well known, & in a good way (I think, haha) for having six children. Instead of having to just nod & smile, or come up with witty comebacks, I get to have a normal conversation with the people we run into. Our children are not just a number in a longer-than-standard line of minions, but individuals to these people who see us. Not a group to gawk at & subtly try to count with their finger, then conferring with their friend while staring.

Families come in all shapes & sizes. One parent, two parents. One Dad, two Dads, two Mums, one Mum. One child, twins, triplets, three children, four children, a dozen children. Regardless the size, we are all built on the same foundation, love.  

*Based on figures from a census of families in 2011 
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