I’ve been noticing this disturbing trend, but I will not apologize for my children. Instead, we will be the change we want to see.
I’m noticing a trend more and more as I leave my house with my kids and venture into public places. Yes, public places. We will get back to that important point in a bit.
To say that I am noticing something is significant because I am not a naturally observant person. We used to joke that if I was called on to give my testimony about a crime I witnessed, the best I’d be able to do is to say man or woman… with hair, I think… and maybe wearing a shirt. *shrugs sheepishly*
I know, though, that it’s not just me noticing this trend because I’ve heard it from many others. In fact, when I vented a little on social media this afternoon, I received many messages from others who know exactly.what.I’m.talking.about.
You may be new here, or just have a hard time keeping count of my kids (trust me, I know the feeling), but we have five kids. Five adorable, inquisitive, noisy, friendly children. Five little people who accompany me just about everywhere I go. It’s a common scenario many find themselves in. It’s called motherhood. You don’t have to have five kids to know what I’m talking about. You receive admission into this club with just one.
Here’s the thing. More and more, it seems that too many people find the flock of children following me everywhere I go to be unpleasant. That or they are smelling something I’m not which is causing the stink face I see almost whenever we go out.
I’m naturally inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt. Believing the best is truly such a light and free way to live. However, there comes a point when a scenario is presenting itself so frequently that you realize it’s not just all coincidence.
Our culture does not value children and (beware, sweeping generalization ahead) when children interrupt their schedules or block their grocery aisles or simply act childishly, such is viewed as a nuisance and met with sneers at worst and indifference at best.
If I’m picking up on it, I’m guessing my children are too.
And that breaks my heart.
Today I was at the store with four of my children and three of them were pushing small kids’ carts. The store was not busy and my children were behaving themselves. We were having a good time together. They were relishing the independence and were full of joy at being able to fill their carts with groceries we needed. I was soaking in the joy of observing my children interact with their world.
It wasn’t long (about ten minutes) before a stranger felt the need to comment on how many children I have. And while noting the size of our family doesn’t bother me, the unkindness that too often follows quickly flushes my cheeks.
May I remind my neighbors what they must have forgotten since they were themselves children: if you can’t say anything nice, keep yo’ mouth shut.
The snide comments are much less frequent than people’s general indifference and unfriendliness towards children, though. I’m trying to figure it out, but I can’t quite put my finger on when we stopped offering smiles at the people we pass in stores and on the sidewalk. Maybe it’s just me, but when I am out with my children and we meet with no smiles at all, it’s like ice cold water down my back.
We left the store abruptly today. I just couldn’t deal with it and I let all the joy escape from our outing.
I spent a lot of time thinking about our recent experiences and our interactions with people this afternoon. And I am freshly committed to three things when I am out with my kids:
1. I will not apologize for my children’s presence.
Probably owing to the fact that I have strong people pleasing tendencies, as soon as I get a cold look from someone I start to feel like I owe it to people to make sure my children are not in anyone’s space. I have a knee jerk reaction to shush my kids and act like we have done something wrong simply by being there.
But c’mon! This is so opposite from what I actually believe. So opposite from what I want my children to believe about themselves.
Remember what I said about us being in PUBLIC places? Well, the thing about public places is that they are for the public. No one should be made to feel like they are less welcome because of their age, their gender, their appearance, or anything else.
My children may be young, but that doesn’t take away from their ability or their right to participate in the things we do.
2. I will model and teach courtesy and consideration.
I was reminded about the importance of being the change you want to see. I ran away today, but I want to be a gracious example of hospitality in and out of our home. A hospitable person makes people feel comfortable, welcomed, and cared for. That’s the kind of person I want to be. Even in the grocery store.
My children loooooove to talk to people. I don’t want to squelch that in them. Through my example and direct encouragement, I commit to raise children who are aware of others’ needs around them. And yes, that does mean teaching my brood not to block the aisles.
Whether or not we receive smiles, we will give them. We will return kindness for indifference. We will give joy for sneers.
3. I will remember that for every cold shoulder, there are dozens of people who have our backs.
How easy it is to let one or two bad experiences leave a sour taste in your mouth and dampen your spirits! But I will commit to believing the best in our community and will remember that all around the world are people in my shoes– shoes with little footprints on them from toddlers stepping on their feet, shoes that have been walking alongside kids growing up too fast, shoes filled by parents who would do anything for their children.
I heard from so many of you this afternoon (thank you!), and I just want to remind you that you are not alone.
I will also strive to remember that behind a cold shoulder could be a hurting heart or an anxious mind, and I will extend grace instead of resentment.
My children will continue to go out with me, not only because leaving them at home alone is against the law, but because I enjoy them. We will shop together. We will visit museums. We might get in your way. My son might bore you with an all-too-detailed recitation of every gem he owns and their specific qualities. (#justsmileandnod)
There will be times when they will be in bad moods. Do you know what that’s like? Yeah, I do too. (#humility).
I hope that as we invade these public spaces, that we will spread a little more joy, a little more fun, and a dash of innocent delight. At the very least, I hope that we get home with most of the groceries on my list. (#lifegoals).
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Amanda Marsceau says
My husband and I have 7 children ranging from 2 years to 14 years. We have been on the receiving end of both sneers and looks of amazed pleasure. My children are usually very well-behaved (especially in public), but we still come across the occasional rude person, who will either stare rudely (no smile included) or totally ignore our presence (not actually possible). Believe it or not, we encountered the most sneers and stares when we lived in South Carolina…the good old South!! We moved to South Dakota a few years ago and discovered a VERY different attitude towards families with several children. Almost always, I get pleased looks, kind comments about how wonderful it is to see so many children in one family, and pleasant reminiscences of childhood with many siblings. Almost all of these gestures are from elderly folks who likely grew up on farms. They remember the joys of fun and hard work as a family. So many people in today’s culture don’t even have/make time to enjoy one another. More people in a family = more daycare, bigger grocery bill, less vacation options, more school shopping, etc. They cannot understand our pleasure in many children and the blessings they are. They merely think of the burden it would be to them in their situations, therefore, they sneer. Maybe some are envious and bitter because their circumstances didn’t allow them a large family. How sad for them! After many years of apologizing for my children, who were doing no wrong, and being offended by many rude comments, I chose to pity those with sneers. They will never know the joy of enjoying my children. I am SO THANKFUL the Lord has allowed me to travel through this world with a wonderful husband and seven (so far) lovely children by my side!
I’m a big TPL fan. Love your recipes and tips and tricks for Instant Pot. I recently got big husband points when I served your cauliflower au gratin recipe thank you very much! But what I like most about your videos is watching you take care of the business at hand … cooking usually … while managing a house full of kids. You make it all look so easy when we all know it isn’t. I am just plain impressed.
I often stop and take notice of someone in a grocery store, shopping with several kids “assisting” and probably stare unintentionally. I hope I am not giving the impression that I am staring with disapproval or judgment. I am just in awe of someone, like you, who has the energy, patience and courage to take on such a task.
I’ll admit that I also watch closely because when there are 4 or 5 little kids together in the grocery store, you are only a few minutes away from something funny happening. I’d hate to miss that!
This is not to say that there aren’t times when the grumpy old fart in me surfaces in the grocery store. Earlier this week in Kroger, a kid in front of me found himself on a CCTV monitor and was doing a dance performance in the middle of the aisle while watching himself on TV. When I said “excuse me”, I got the huge stink-eye from his mother, apparently because I had interrupted the cell phone conversation she was having. Yes, there are times. But most of my grumpy old fart-ness is directed at other grumpy old farts. It’s just part of being a GOF.
Thank you for everything! And keep having fun with those kids … no matter where you are!
Thank you for your article. Unfortunately this is a trend in general.
We recently went camping with our grandkids. Camping used to be such a comfortable place. WE noticed people don’t acknowledge each other. OUR generation raised our kids to not other talk to strangers. Not the reason for what you had to deal with but a small piece of the puzzle perhaps.
Love your blog and videos. Keep up the good work!
Heather C says
Matthew 5:14 -16
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;
15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (NASB)
YES! Thank you for sharing this Lisa. We have 4, and I got my very first comment about our family size literally as we were loading up newborn number 4 right outside of the hospital doors last year. A moment that I was supposed to be over the moon with joy taking our fresh little addition home was totally squashed by a stranger who felt the need to say something terrible. And sadly I likely won’t ever forget that. I love your 3 points though and that’s something that I can take with me.
I am a person who talks to people I don’t know, ones I do, and ones I only think I know and I smile at everyone. However, if I have had a crappy day at work or just about got run over on the way to the store, I’m not going to be in the same frame of mind. If I don’t smile or notice your kiddos it’s no reflection on you.
I don’t usually think that there is something wrong with me if someone doesn’t smile back, that’s still on them, not you. I get the ones who count your kids (I’ve done it many time, mostly because I know I couldn’t handle more than one or two even though I can teach a class of 25 3rd graders) that might annoy me too, but if you chose to have that many children, why would you let it make you feel any negative feelings. You knew there would be challenges that would come with such a decision. That’s just one of them.
Don’t let someone move your cheese (which is a good book if you haven’t read it) Don’t let them change your good feelings about what you have chosen to take on. Not everyone is up for the challenge.
maribeth merton says
I have seven children. People have ostentatiously counted them, as they walk, shouting the numbers out. This happened more than once. My personal favorite (in front of my children) “you do know what causes that)? I love your well thought out and worded post. I shared.