12 August 2014

say this, not that

As a family of seven with kids of all different shades, we get a lot of questions and commentary. I have learned to find the humor in a lot of it, let most of it roll off my back, and move on. But some things still get under my skin a little. Not because I don't see the (mostly) innocent intent behind it, but because my kids are growing up and are hyper-aware of every single conversation that they are privy to. 

Can I shield them from everything that comes their way? No. Does this open up family dialogue a little? Yes. Do I feel like they should have to hear these questions and comments and observations at every turn? Really not. So, here are some helpful hints for etiquette with strangers you encounter who don't have families that look like your own.

"You've got your hands full."
Heard by parents the world over that have 1-10 children in a public setting. It's an innocent enough comment, but chances are the person on the receiving end has heard it approximately four thousand times. My son has even started to roll his eyes at this one. Best response I've heard from an instagram friend, "yep, we bring the party." Jim Gaffigan, who has five of his own, has said this is like saying to someone in a wheelchair, "I bet you don't do a lot of dancing!"
So what can you say instead?

"What a beautiful family!"
"You look like you're doing an amazing job!"
"Raising kids is hard work, but you look like you're great at it."
Even if none of the above is true, because maybe the person you're talking to is looking a little harried, frazzled and fried, it is far better to give a word of encouragement than one of pity. In my opinion.

"So, which ones are yours?"
We have heard this a shocking number of times. My gracious husband always replies, "they all are." It's not that we don't understand what you're asking, but seriously. My kids can hear you and whether you think so or not, that stuff sinks in. So, let's just recognize that they are all, in fact, ours. Blood doesn't make you family. My husband is just as much a part of my family as the children I've birthed, right? Because we are married, signed some papers, declared it to the world, and it is so. Think of adoption like that. My adopted kids are my kids, 100%. I don't want them to ever think anything different, to feel less a part of our family because strangers keep pointing out that they aren't my "real" kids. They're my real kids. Imagine me asking someone if all their kids have the same father while we're standing in the grocery store line. Awkward.
So, what can you say instead?

"What a beautiful family!"
"You are all so blessed."
And my favorite, said to us by a stranger at a restaurant, "Look at the rainbow of babies! What a beautiful sight."

"Do you run a daycare?"
"Are you hosting a birthday party?"
"Are you a nanny?"
All of these are really funny to me and I don't care that much if people ask them. Just don't follow it up with one of the above questions. How should you follow it up?

"What a beautiful family!"
Do you see where I'm going with this?

Let's be encouragers, cheerleaders, advocates for one another. 
And if not for each other, then for our children and for the kids of others. 
Because really, family - whatever it may look like - is a beautiful thing.


  1. Your comparison of being married and adopting is great. I hadn't thought of it that way before and I totally agree with you.

    You do have a beautiful family and it seems to me that you're doing a terrific job at raising your kids. Hopefully I'll be able to raise my baby with as much grace as you do with yours.

  2. Great post! I'm a big fan of this reply to "You sure have your hands full"... If you think my hands are full, then you should see my heart. =)