Friday, May 7, 2010

Blessing or Bravery?

I get a lot of wide-eyes and knowing looks from people when I am out and about with three or four of my boys. You know, the kind of wide eyes that say, "That's a lot of kids!" and the knowing looks that say, "my-oh-my you've got your work cut out for you!" And with those expressions usually follow a comment of some sort that goes something like, "You are so brave! I stopped at two. I can't imagine FOUR!" or "Four BOYS. Your hands are FULL." And you can imagine the tone: these are not meant to be encouraging statements.

These comments are not new to me and I have had lots of time to process the best response. For a while I just gave them equally wide eyes and agreed with them. Not because I agreed with them, but because its always nice to get sympathy from strangers. It occurred to me a couple of years ago that I am not the only one within earshot of these comments. I did not want perfect strangers to define any part of my children's psyche. They have no right to impress upon my children that they are a burden. Not only is it is lie, it is the opposite of the truth. My children are not burdensome; they are a blessing.

So my answers morphed into something that would make sure my kids knew I disagreed with the sentiment. "I love every one of them!" or "I feel blessed," I would respond.

Our culture teaches that children are a heavy weight to shoulder. Even common parenting experience points to how difficult it is to "deal with" children. That is such a sad state of affairs. Raising children IS a challenge, especially when there is not a Guidebook on the nightstand. Parenting is a puzzle without a great group of fellow moms walking alongside you, to commiserate AND celebrate with. Motherhood is trying and exhausting, especially when she is expected to live with one foot in full-time work, and another foot in full time mothering. The sentiment these onlookers express is their reality (or their imagined reality). And that really is sad - so sad!

In light of these considerations, my answers are ever-so-slightly changing again. Each time a "sympathetic phrase" is uttered my direction, I see it as an opportunity to share another perspective. "My, you are brave," they say. I can respond with a genuine smile and light in my eyes and say, "I'm not brave, but I am blessed." "I see you have your hands full," they say. To which I get to say, "Yes - delightfully full!" I like to try and pause for a half-second longer to look in their eyes with a smile so they can see my joy.


Greg and Andrea said...

I love this, Jenne. I have the same experience almost every time I'm out with our kids, and after a couple times of agreement, I too, realized what I was doing (and saying to my kids) and have since consciously tried to be positive in my responses. We're going to be even more of a spectacle come August. Bring on the "hands full" comments! :)

homelover2 said...

I have six children, 8 and under, and we hear these comments at least 20 times every time we go out. It is easy to lose your patience with people! Thanks of the reminder to let them see our joy :-)

Jon and Erin said...

What handsome young men! It's been such a long time since swimming lessons. I love that makes me smile. Thanks for blessing so many people in what you say and do. As you process things, we learn too. Thanks for sharing.

Faith said...

Because my dad had four little girls, he always got rude comments from strangers about how much my dad must have wanted a boy..he was always good at responding in a way that gave us the confidence that he wouldn't trade any of us for a boy. Kids do listen don't they..even when we don't think they are:)

Ginger said...

Thanks Jenne! I get it too, and you're right it is easy to get sucked into the 'woe is me' mentality - but what a lie! Thanks for giving me another tool for my parenting/grocery-shopping/errand-running tool box. :)

oh - and Jackson's video is awesome! ;)