17 June 2010

"he's not yours, is he?"

That's what the cashier at Target said to me yesterday. Oh, Target, let's work on your communication skills. I do realize that it's odd to see a woman with three kids so close in age , but I am thinking there are better ways to phrase a question like that.

For whatever reason, nothing invites unsolicited commentary like a mother and her child - whether she has one or ten. Thoughts on sleeping, what they're eating, whether or not they have socks on their feet, their behavior - strangers love to offer an opinion. I am not claiming innocence in this department, but I am learning my lesson.

"You sure have your hands full." Oh how often I hear this phrase. At least daily, and from almost every single stranger I meet.

"You look tired."

"I don't envy you."

I am going to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that they just don't realize that words have power. I think people think they are empathizing with my plight when they look at me with pitying eyes, click their tongue and take it all in. You would think people had never seen kids before. 

Let me set the record straight: my boys are not perfect, but they are pretty awesome. Especially in public. For as many tantrums as my little man has thrown in the confines of our home (three today, thanks), he has yet to do it in public. Eddie might get a little antsy in a shopping cart, but he has never cried over it. There are folks out there with problems, people.  My children were my choice, and while they do drive me crazy on a semi-regular basis, I wouldn't trade them for anything. 

You know what would be awesome? If people turned those phrases around to speak life and goodness to one another. These encounters have taught me the practical side of "think before you speak". It would be just as easy to say

"Wow, what a good looking bunch of boys!"
"Looks like you're doing a great job."
"I have never seen such perfect children." (okay, that one is a stretch)

Because if I am being honest, most days I am thinking:
My hands are full! I am tired! (Thank goodness for americanos, baby.)
But I wouldn't trade any of it in for more sleep or empty hands. My boys really do bless me, (sometimes literally). 

So that's my goal for the week: words of encouragement for those I encounter. We all need to hear it once in awhile.

(And thanks to all of my dear friends who really do build me up - especially my husband - couldn't do it with you!)


  1. ohhhhh my heavens. well, to balance out the target person i offer the following:

    High FIVE for leaving the house! You are a rock-star for doing all the changing, wiping, feeding, packing, loading, buckling, calming, and focusing that it took just to get out the door. AND your kids weren't crying or throwing fits, which means 10 additional mommy-points for you (5 mommy points = a coffee treat. go redeem!). Also, your children were clearly sleeping or otherwise happily occupied while you wrote this blog post, which gets you an additional 5 points! YOU GO MOM! Please give yourself an extra point for every time you brushed your teeth, took a shower, returned a phone call, or ate breakfast this week. To summarize, you and your darling children are amazing!

  2. I hate the unsolicited advise being a parent brings. It's so frustrating at times, especially if the advisor notices you doing something they don't agree with. I think I'm going to take on giving words of encouragement as well, everyone needs them.
    Stopping by from SITS!!

  3. Happy SITS Day! I wish my boys were closer in age. It makes for good friends as they grow older.

  4. As a fellow mama of three boys, I too get the "hands full" commment all the time! I LOVE your post... so well written. The next time someone says "Wow, you've got your hands full!" which will undoubtedly be tomorrow morning, I'll tell them "Full of blessings, thanks!" :)

    I'm your newest follower!
    Laurie :)

  5. I am so glad that this was one of your featured posts on SITS today. Thanks for sharing your story and thoughts.

    Happy SITS day!

    Best wishes,

  6. You have a beautiful family and are truly blessed. Mostly because you know that you are blessed and love what you do. Finding joy in your life is such a talent. One which you have in abundance. Thanks for working to share that ability through your blog.

  7. Ack. Some people can be so rude! You have a beautiful family...

    Stopping by from SITS! Enjoy your day :)

  8. I seriously just wrote a post almost identical to this yesterday! We adopted as well and are a transracial family and while I knew there would be comments/questions along the way, I am completely floored by just how insensitive and flat out rude some people can be!

    visiting you from SITS & now following!

  9. The one comment I HATE is, "Don't you know what causes that?" And, I'm like, "UUuummmm. Yeah, we were unable to have children after the first one, do you want me to tell you all about it?"

    When some people found out we were having the fifth one, someone made a "better you than me comment" and I replied, "it was because of comments like that we didn't tell people sooner."

    I always say, "you can take my boys out. you just cannot take them home" - LOL

    Some people are just rude; however, some people are just trying to reach out, but doing it awkwardly!

    What a lovely family you have! I think 3 boys is the perfect number! Welcome to the Moms-with-3+-Sons Club (Daughters not allowed). We're a very special group of women:)

  10. congrats on your hump day. I just love your blog and with your boys your life must be sooo exciting...with never a dull moment. I don't have kids but I think life is just more joyous when you look at things from their perspective.

    Oh dear....the comments they gave you....pretty bad/rude. Loved your witty take on it though.

  11. Love this post. I had 4 kids within 7 years and 3 are boys...so I know what you mean by all the things people say. When I am out and about I am going to take your advice and offer words of encouragement instead of echoing all the same old phrases that I heard as a young tired and having my hands full Mama.

    Visiting from SITS.

  12. stopping by from sits...people can be just so thoughtless when speaking...i have 4 biological children close in age and i can't count the number of times strangers have asked 'are all those yours?' to which i would like to respond 'no. i just like grocery shopping with as many kids as i can find so i invited extras to come with' but i don't...we have so many friends with adopted children, some very close in age that i just can't imagine anyone even noticing anymore...but there are also lovely people who make kind comments...i adore older folks who wink and smile and tell me happy stories of their own close in age children...anyway...sorry to write so much! clearly we both know that children are a gift from the lord.


    stuff and nonsense

  13. Happy SITS day, and your boys are precious!! Yes, it never surprises me what comes out of people's mouths, you are so encouraging to make a plan to be positive, it can really make someone's day! Im a new follower!

  14. Oh how many times I've heard the "Boy you have your hands full" statement with my twins in tow. Or how about "I don't know how you do it" You just do. You just figure it out and make it work because our kids are our choice. We chose to bring them into the world, chaos and all :-) Happy SITS day!

  15. I don't have kids so I have no business giving my "advice", but with that said I always give a encouraging look to moms with kids. :)

  16. I know what you mean, and the thing is, most of those people don't have kids!

  17. Yes, I have to agree, it is the words of encouragement I long to hear sometimes... The other day I had an old man tell me I was a "good mommy" b/c he heard how I was talking to my kids. It meant the world to me. I will try to do in kind. For what it's worth, having 3 kids and keeping up such an awesome blog, I'd say you're doing a great job!
    Happy SITS day!

  18. I will tell the next mom I see that her child is handsome/beautiful and wish her a wonderful day.

    And I will think of you - Hope you have a great day! (Happy SITS day!)

  19. Well said! I have a child with special needs, and am starting to get some fun comments about that.

    But most people notice how happy my kids are and will often comment on that, which I appreciate.

    Stopping by from SITS.

  20. Think Before You Speak - get it on a t-shirt, button badge or a baseball cap.
    We moms all need one......

  21. Stopping over from SITS! GREAT post! People are not only insensitive at times, they are just down right rude! Wish you could teach a class with that advice! I have 6 kids from the ages of 21 all the way down to 2. When my 4 and/or 2 year old act out at a store, I often get "advice" on how to handle it. My retort is generally something along the lines of "thanks for your help, but I have 6 kids and the older 4 are all still alive, I think these 2 will live through no candy this time as well". At least it shuts them up? Good luck! And by the way, your boys are beautiful!

  22. I have never understood the way people are with mothers. And I'm not even a mother yet. I've just observed the unsolicited advice.

    Last year, I was shopping with a friend who was 6 months pregnant. This lady walks up to her, gets in her face, starts touching her belly and asking a billion questions. I'm sure she meant well but COME ON. Boundaries, stranger. This has me terrified to get pregnant because I won't be able to karate chop the woman to her senses.

    Anyways, Happy SITS day! :)

  23. Here from SITS
    I hear ya. As an adopted kid myself, it always amazed me the way people stuck their foot in it .. even when it was none of their business.

    There should be a Speak Check when people open their mouthes .. sort of like the grammar check with email, only when they say something rude or tacky they get beaned upside the head by an invisible nun or something.

    If people simply chose to speak positively rather than on a negative level, this world would be vastly different.

  24. Found your lovely blog on SITS!
    I love the comment you made about "speaking life and goodness to people. So many things seem more hurtful than they are probably intended to be. A little thought before talk could leave you feeling complimented rather than insulted!

  25. good grief, there are a lot of people out there with "foot in mouth syndrome."
    I think your boys are ADORABLE. And how much you adore being with them comes through in your writing.
    Good for you for being so positive and Happy SITS Day!

  26. I never really thought of it like that even though I've heard the same thing with people shaking their heads at how close together in age my kids are or saying, "you have your hands full." I mostly just took it as them trying to sympathize. But what a great suggestion of better things to say to a tired mom that would focus on the positives and be uplifting. Point taken!

  27. People can be so hurtful sometimes, usually without a clue in the world. For the record, here is my unsolicited comment "Nice crop of boys you are raising there".

    Enjoy your time with them. The days go by slowly, but the years go by in the blink of an eye. My 3 boys are all pretty much grown now and I miss those days when they were all cute and little. They're still cute, but now they're all BIGGER than me!

  28. Here's to speaking life into the people around us!

  29. Visiting you over from SITS. I think you'll have great stories to tell ;)
    Your boys are cuties.

  30. OH my! I can SO relate to this post. I planned my first two children 19 months apart but then right after I had my second baby I found myself unexpectedly expecting. So I have three very little ones (they were all three under three) and I hear "You've got your hands full" about a gazillion times a day.
    My friend (who had 4 kids in 5 years) and I like to have competitions as to who hears the phrase most in a day. Sometimes we get extra points for special comments like, "haven't you ever heard of birth control?"
    It might be a kind of crazy way to cope with the words but it makes me feel better if I get to keep a score chart and cheer every time someone makes a negative comment about my kids ;)
    In all seriousness, though, I can totally relate with what you say about the positive affect of encouraging words. I would never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever trade all my love and tears and joys with the kids to a different plan now that I see that God really helps everything work out for our good. I'm am super grateful for these three and... I may even have another one ;)

  31. Great post!
    It staggers me how clumsy and thoughtless people can be in their comments!
    Like, really?
    I love your thought about lets encourage each other more, rather than blurting out the "obvious" without any tact.
    Happy SITS day from Auckland, New ZEaland

  32. I think people believe they are empathizing with us when they make those comments when really what we'd love to hear is the positives. Sometimes just having someone say I have such lovely children makes me stop and remember that I DO have lovely children.

    Great post!

    Happy SITS day!

  33. I too love all the unsolicited advise I get. My son is adopted and for the first year and a half of his life I was asked on a very regular basis, "Is he yours?" When I would say yes they'd stare at me like he was a green martian and they couldn't understand where he came from. Thank God now that he's three they've pretty much stopped with those comments. Now I get, "You're too hard on him" because I insist he say hello when someone says hello to him or we walk in somewhere where it's appropriate he greet the people. If I teach him nothing else he will be polite.

    Your boys are gorgeous!

    Happy SITS Day!

    Cheers :-)
    - CoconutPalmDesigns

  34. "I've never seen such perfect children!"
    There, now you can say it isn't a stretch and someone said it to you.
    Happy SITS day, I enjoyed reading this post and off to read some more.

  35. Great post!!! I find you via your SITS feature. We were just having this convo at scrapbooking. A gal I scrapbook with has a blonde, a redhead, and a brunette who are close in age. They are all her natural children, yet she has been asked several times if they are hers. People ask very strange questions. People comment on stroller size, baby size, etc. I know that it is mostly from intrigue and interest, but sometimes it is without tact. I am sure I too have been guilty of it as I am not perfect.

  36. I think that people don't realize that words have power. I agree with you- people should speak goodness and life to everyone! BTW, your boys are adorable.