January 11, 2007

Don't Be Impertinent

It's an odd phenomenon, but in certain situations total stranger feel they can accost you and ask questions that when properly considered are at the very least impertinent and more likely downright rude.

For some reason, when a couple has more than three children, and occasionally more than two, people they have never met think it is perfectly reasonable to ask whether or not the couple plans to have more children. If one considers this question, it is really asking about the couple's birth control choices and decisions. That is not generally a topic I would discuss with most of my friends and certainly not one with which I chat up the parking garage attendants.

And yet, if a couple has several children, society thinks its okay to ask, "Are you done yet?"

Oddly enough, I am not asked these questions when my children are out in public and acting their worst, but rather when they are at their best. Maybe it is simply out of fear of the terrible howling masses that cling to my pants legs that I am not approached and offered advice and free condom samples when my children are at their worst, but I always wonder why in those times when they act like angels, I frequently ellicit pitying looks and questions that make me think the asker doubts my sanity or ability to control my lustful urges. In their minds, even when children are perfect, four of them is simply too many for any one.

I never mind the comments that I have my hands full -- because I do have my hands full. I like it better when the comment comes from someone opening the door or carrying my groceries than from someone merely observing, but I can tolerate it either way. I like much less questions that are really comments about when my husband and I should cut off the kiddie production. Whether or not I want any more is really not their business, but when I, on occasion, suggest that we're hoping to have at least a few more (which I can't actually say is an accurate statement) the jaw drop that always follows is worth it.

It's rude to ask if I use birth control. It's rude to ask if I'm done having children. If you're going to follow the question of, "Are you planning on more?" with, "I have a dozen and large families are wonderful." I might forgive the rudeness. Otherwise, keep the question to yourself.


Now that I am expecting #3, I am shocked at the amount of people who tell me, "I thought you were done. You have your girl and your boy already"--as if this is really the ultimate accomplishment in child-rearing.

I can't imagine what comments will come when I actually have three little ones with me!!

Posted by: Amy at January 11, 2007 07:50 PM

For me it was a very striking difference. We went from two and being invisible to four and being the center of attention. Of course the twin thing only adds to the excitement, especially since Max and Rebecca are like night and day in appearance.

Posted by: Sarah G. at January 11, 2007 09:34 PM

I respect you, but I can't understand you.

I am an introvert in a clinical sense. I spend a certain amount of time being outgoing, then I have to withdraw and be alone to restoke. I take a day out of two weeks as it is.

That isn't an option with motherhood.

Posted by: Janis Gore at January 11, 2007 09:49 PM

Welcome to the life of "large families".

Anytime I tell someone I have 6 kids, they either say "whew!" or look like I am an idiot.

Once in a while I get an approving nod from someone who either HAS a lot of kids or came from a family with a lot of kids.

Posted by: mary at January 12, 2007 05:28 AM

Those would be the times (and are for me, too, actually, even though I only have one on the hoof and one in the oven--people STILL ask, and no, I can't believe it) when I'm tempted to go into a cringe-inducing account of our contraceptive history. I figure the nosy deserve it. And it's no ruder to seriously discuss diaphragm failure, chronic UTIs, the ethics of contraception, and future vasectomy plans than to ask the questions leading up to this ... :)

On a side note, after enduring lots of "Take that noisy baby out of here!" glares in various venues whenever the infant Squid squawked, nursed too loudly, or sighed, I had the refreshing experience of taking her to an Ash Wednesday service at the local Catholic church, where the little old ladies all beamed at her fondly and chatted with me about how her squeaks reminded them of their eighth baby, who used to do the same thing.

Posted by: Another Jordana at January 12, 2007 07:42 AM

I have four as well. I have a 16yog and a 14yob and than have a 3yob and a 1yob. I get remarks all the time. I thought I wanted a dozen kids but my quiver is quite full at 4. But I cheer on people with 4 or more kids. Considering I know families with 7,12, and 24 *eight natural and the rest by adoption*

Posted by: tracyd at January 12, 2007 08:51 AM

We have 9 (one adopted), from age 25 down to 6 months. It used to bug me when people asked those stupid questions--irritating mostly when the questioner thinks he's being funny and doesn't realize that he's the 47th person to make that lame joke ("You DO know what's causing these babies, right? Ha ha ha!").

But now I find it easier to assume they mean well, and I enjoy the opportunity to be a sign of contradiction against certain forces in our culture--the anti-child forces, the forces of compulsory sterility, middle class materialism, excessive seriousness--and to be a sort of commercial for certain goods that are being suppressed: children, family, marriage, hope for the future, love, full-blown undiminished sex, humanness.

Maybe next time someone makes a snide remark, I'll say, "You're welcome! We're breeding the workers whose payroll taxes will fund your social security benefits."

Posted by: DGus at January 12, 2007 09:30 AM

AMEN! I *only* have 3, but even I get those nosy questions. I completely agree. It's rude and none of your business when or if I'm done.

SO BACK OFF!! ::raises fingers pointed like guns ala Yosemite Sam::

Posted by: angie at January 12, 2007 09:33 AM

Hi there from the other part of the spectrum. we have one child, and are contemplating an increase. But the "you'd better have another one soon, you don't want much of an age gap" and "he needs a brother or a sister," line is a bother too!

Big or small all families are a blessing.

Posted by: Fawn at January 12, 2007 10:43 AM

You could always say, "No, my husband says four is plenty for any one woman to have. That's why he's married to five different women."

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at January 12, 2007 02:36 PM

Oh yes. I understand.

Posted by: chris at January 12, 2007 06:30 PM

As the father of four (two of each, ages 15 through 8) I understand your point; but, frankly, I'm so happy with, and proud of, my brood that I take any such comment as an unintended compliment. If ever provoked to respond,I will simply reasure my unwelcome questioner not to worry, as my bride and I are able to create, love, provide for, raise, educate, and civilize four souls, and plus, the sex is great!

Posted by: Alex at January 12, 2007 07:39 PM

Even so-called professionals are rude about this sort of thing. My youngest girls are a year and one day apart. When they were babies I went to the health unit on a hot muggy day. I was done there but a nurse asked me to wait a bit. Exhausted, with babies on each hip, I waited and waited, while two nurses rummaged through a disorganized storage cabinet. Eventually when I was at the point of collapse they handed me the goods. 12 brochures on birth control, family planning, etc. I have never been so disgusted in all my life. "I have three children," I said. "I'm not a total fool -- I know what is causing it!"

More insulting than even that was how carefully they kept hidden the effort they had in mind, while I was waiting.

Posted by: Roberta S at January 17, 2007 02:09 PM

Roberta, that may be the most obnoxious thing I've ever heard of in my life.

And Jordana, my response would be to smile sweetly and say "We're almost done. But I'm so glad I left the other five at home with my husband" and walk away while they mouth silently "NINE!!!????"

Posted by: skinnydan at January 18, 2007 08:22 AM

We are considering adoption. I generally either (a) want to discuss it endlessly, or (b) don't want to even think about it, and hate it when people bring up the subject.

Of course, no one else has any idea which mode I'm in at any given moment.

Posted by: Attila Girl at January 18, 2007 02:39 PM

I'm doing a 2 part Thursday Thirteen on these comments and responses! We have 7 kids and have heard the works!
I have two favorite responses to the "You DO know what causes that, don't you." are 1. the funny "Yes, but we just LOOOVE pizza." and 2. the shocker "Yes, and we are really, REALLy good at it!"
My husband always says he is trying to take over the world, having one child to rule each country, hehe.

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