Seeing a mom out and about with four children apparently makes people feel entitled to make all sorts of comments to a complete stranger. If that mom is also pregnant…all bets are off! There’s no telling what I’ll hear! Some of these comments are sweet, some are inappropriate, and some are just plain rude! However, few are as original as these folks seem to think they are.
So, without further ado, here are my ten personal favorite comments I get from complete strangers in public.
Number 1: “Are they all yours?”
“Yes, they’re all mine!” It’s not like I go around stealing other people’s children. Once, I encountered a young couple, shopping together. The man asked me this question, with a rather mischievous grin on his face. Before I could answer, the woman told him, “Of course they’re all hers! Do you really think she stole ’em from somebody? Quit talking to strangers, didn’t your momma teach you anything? Of course she did, I know your momma!” I laughed and laughed and laughed. They may have been slightly disturbed at my uncontrollable outburst, but it was just too funny! I don’t know if this young man was trying to agitate me, or his young wife, but he sure got more than he bargained for!
Number 2: “Are you planning on having any more?”
“Only the good Lord knows.” I don’t really think my family planning decisions are any of your business, stranger.
Number 3: “You need a hobby!”
“I have one, thank you.” It’s a sufficiently vague response to make this rather rude stranger wonder exactly what I mean. Then I keep walking. Marital relations are not an appropriate topic for discussion in the juice aisle!
Number 4: “Don’t you have a TV?”
“There are so many more rewarding things to do than watch TV, don’t you think?” Then I smile sweetly, and walk away. This comment is very closely related to Number 3. And again, my response is vague enough to make the stranger consider the rudeness and inappropriateness of their question. Yet, I don’t actually give them the satisfaction of getting under my skin.
Number 5: “One…two…three…four…and now five? Are you trying to build your own basketball team?”
Depending on my mood (and the comment’s tone), I have a couple of different responses, here. My first is, “Why yes, how did you know?” They’re still a little on the short side, but I think they’ll grow quite well! My second is, “Well, no. Football is more our kind of sport. I guess we’ll need a few more!” I do actually find this comment rather amusing since my husband has always joked about having our own sports team.
Number 6: “Wow! You have your hands full, don’t you?”
“Yep, and that’s the way I like it.” I get this one at least once every time I venture out of the house…often three or four times per outing. A year or so ago, we were in the store, and I had just received this comment from the greeter at the door. I made my way from the door to the grocery section, where I heard it again from an elderly woman while I was grabbing a gallon of milk. I made my way from dairy to the shoe section to pick up a new pair of shoes for my oldest daughter. Well, my boys didn’t want to look at girl shoes, they wanted to look at boy shoes. My three year old started to whine. He was told to stop, or else. He managed to get himself back in line just in time. However, an onlooker felt the need to make this comment after the incident was settled. I was a little irritated, but mostly because we needed to finish our shopping and get out for nap time…I didn’t have time to stop and talk about my whiny toddler or parenting skills. We rounded the corner to the next aisle of shoes, and there was a lady in the aisle, comparing two pairs of shoes, presumably for a granddaughter (but who knows, maybe it was a daughter or niece…hard to say!) As we came around the corner, she looked up, and made the exact comment…again. I had been in the store less than half an hour, and already, I’d heard it four times. So, you see, this one…it’s really not original. But, in most cases…at least in my experience…it really isn’t meant in a rude way.
Number 7: “You sure have a lot of helpers!”
“Yes, I do.” This is a close relative of Number 6, so I won’t elaborate a whole lot here. It’s usually made in reference to my little entourage following me and insisting on carrying all the heavy stuff themselves, instead of putting it in the shopping cart.
Number 8: “I don’t know how you can do it! I can barely handle just my one!”
This response is tricky. I don’t have a set one that I usually use. Most American women feel stretched to the point where they can’t handle any more. The mother of one can’t see how the mother of two could possibly have enough energy to handle two. The mother of two can’t understand the mother of three. And on it goes. The truth of the matter is that it doesn’t matter how many children you have, you’ll find a way to love them, and make sure their needs are met. If you don’t understand how I can handle four, it’s because you don’t have to handle four. I know families with far more children than we have. I don’t know how they manage. But if I have more, I’ll learn to handle more. That’s just how it works.
Number 9: “What a beautiful family!”
Obviously one of my favorite comments. I may be slightly prejudiced, but I think these strangers are extremely insightful and enlightened people! I want to give them a hug and tell them thanks. I’d even let them rub my belly if they wanted (I don’t know what it is about strangers and rubbing a pregnant belly…but yes, it’s really a thing…but that’s for a whole different post)! It’s always nice to hear. More people ought to encourage mothers out there, rather than trying to tear them down.
Number 10: “I had four too…all close together like that. Enjoy them, honey”
Another of my favorite comments. I’ve only heard this one a few times. It has come from friendly elderly ladies. They tell me all about their kids, and grandkids and usually great-grandkids. These are some of my favorite and most memorable conversations with strangers!
The first time I heard this one, I was with the kids in the restroom, trying to change a dirty diaper. The restroom was rather crowded, and the restroom designers had given no thought to traffic flow when they had installed the changing table. So I was moving back and forth, trying to let people through, and paying most of my attention to the squiggly infant on the table so that he wouldn’t squiggle right off the edge and on to the floor. The other kids were being a little crazy because they were ready to go home. I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, an elderly woman, glaring at us. I assumed she was angry because we were blocking her, or perhaps my other children had run into her, or something of a similar nature. Then she walked straight up to me. I thought to myself, “Uh oh, we may be in for it!” But then, she smiled. She told me all about her four kids, and how they had been close together too. She told me that my kids were beautiful and full of life and personality (that was a kind way to put it!). She told me how fast life went, and to enjoy every moment.
I often think of that woman in the restroom of that busy store…especially when we’re having a rough day. When no one wants to do their lessons, or the two year old is climbing on the precarious tower he made while I was taking a 30 second bathroom break and it makes me want to scream, or when everyone is fighting constantly all day long. I think of that old woman, and her soft, kind words, telling me to “enjoy them, honey”. What wise advice. It won’t be long before my children are grown and gone. Then, it will be up to me to encourage some young, frazzled mother in the restroom of a busy store.
What do you think? Do you ever get any comments from strangers? What are your favorite? Do you say anything back, or just walk away?