Friday, September 17, 2010

Lucky Me

There comes a time, shortly after you have a fourth child, when you suddenly realize many people think four kids is a lot of kids-- maybe too many. Maybe, Reader, you are one of them. I, however, was unaware of this phenomenon, mostly because I had never given it much thought.

After Caroline's birth I slowly started to become acquainted with this mindset as I realized I would get a lot of lingering looks when I was out with all four kids and then The Question. The one that once surprised me has now become all too common: Are they all yours?

I am certain that every parent with four children has heard this question eighteen hundred million bazillion times. Maybe more. The question is asked in a variety of tones: curiosity, astonishment, fear and judgement among them. And after answering in the affirmative that the four little darlings in question, are in fact, all mine, comes this little gem: Wow, you must have your hands full!

The statement befuddles my ability to make polite small talk because I do, in fact, have my hands full. If the comment is made with a smile and a friendly tone (rare) I am apt to respond cheerfully and agree that I do, in fact, have my hands full, but if the statement is accompanied by that look, that wild-eyed, astonished look, the one that says What the f*&% is wrong with you?!(common), I am flummoxed, and left without a response. I am a polite person; I have trouble responding to rudeness and so, usually, I respond with some affirmative mumble and a hurried exit.

The other day I rushed the four kids into our local grocery. It was lunchtime and we were hungry, a bit tired from our library trip and in a rush to grab odds and ends and to get home. I began my ritual of loading the younger girls into the grocery cart while the older kids twirled around the vestibule and, as I hoisted Elisabeth in the back of the cart, I tensed as I heard the all too familiar question: Are they all yours?

I looked up at the questioner's-- a woman-- face. She was short. Probably in her fifites. She was decked out for grocery shopping as many do in our town: high heels, expertly applied make-up and perfectly coiffed hair. She looked put together; certainly no toddlers had spilled their milk on her lovely shirt earlier that same morning. I glanced at down and my jeans and sneakers, ran my hand self-consciously over my ponytail and silently told myself I was not going to respond politely to the impolite remark I was certain was coming.

Yes, I said, clearly. They're all mine.

The woman appraised the four children. Two were sitting peacefully in the cart and the other two were, by now, at my side, staring curiously at this woman. After a long look a smile broke over her face. You are so lucky! she remarked warmly and, with that, off she walked.

I don't know if that woman could have possibly known how thankful I would be, still, even a few days later, to hear her words.

Yes, they're all mine, I definitely have my hands full and I can't imagine having it any other way. How lucky I am. Indeed.


LiLi said...

from one 4 children momma to another... that melted my heart! :) I often get the hands full comment... but I remember most the "Wow, you are so blessed" comments... and I usually then fill them in with the, "Well, I've lost five, so I am very thankful for these babies." I so love my babies... and 4 is not too many. WE are lucky indeed!

Erin said...

I had a similar encounter in the grocery store this week. An older woman, gently touched my arm (I tried very hard not to flinch after being touched by a stranger) and told me to enjoy my children. It was obvious that she was enjoying their playful antics in the shampoo aisle. She told me that she only had two herself, and she still regrets not having more.

Wow. My heart was quieted. I needed that reminder in the shampoo aisle watching my children's antics.

Cheryl said...


This post is such a day brightener. Thank you for writing it!

Anonymous said...

And lucky to have run into someone with a polite comment for a change! ;) The hands full comment always deflates me, because it usually comes at a time when I thought I had things pretty well under control. I much prefer the older ladies who say "Oh you remind me of me and my four/five/six/whatever kids years ago."

As mine get older, I'm not asked as often if they are all mine. . .then again, it isn't as often that I need to take all of them everywhere I go anymore.

Jane said...

I'm past the years of getting that question, but I used to hear it nearly every time we left the house. I love having four kids. I probably would have liked more, too, but four has been good. :)

Laura said...

I always thought 4 was pretty normal...and while I don't get asked "Are they all yours? anymore...I still get asked, "How old are you children?" So I start the line up...and then I add with Rebekah that she is married, and has a child. Then they are stunned that I am a grandma and I continue with the list...and they always think I am done after Hannah...and I am not. It is great fun and I can't imagine my life without all those kids or those great years. You all will look back on these days fondly, I promise. Nice post.

terri said...

lucky indeed. that made me tear up!

i get the same looks, of course. but the last time someone commented, she added, "it's not possible! you look like you're 16!"

i hugged her.

nina said...

They're jealous, that's all. And that's no surprise. Your family is amazing and it does not seem possible and yet... What they all should be saying is -- well done!

Melanie T said...

Oh boy, Cate. That woman's comment brought a tear to my eye. I can't count the number of times I've been asked the same question, but never has the person told me I'm lucky. She is a wise woman, indeed. You ARE so lucky and so am I!