Most days, I wake up realizing we don’t have food to eat. Food did not magically appear overnight as I hoped. I do what I did the day before and fed them Hawaiian rolls for breakfast. Then, since we can’t make it another day without getting groceries, I make the biggest decision I’ll make all day.
“Guys, after I finish feeding Kenton, we have to go to Costco.”
Yep, I said it. I do, in fact, take all five kids with me to the grocery store. I load up the car. I make sure I have the diaper bag packed and look to see if everyone has shoes somewhere in the car. Three need help with their buckles and one just can’t go anywhere without loading at least 12 toys along with him. They then tell me they are hungry. Lucky for them, I found some old bars in the diaper bag and toss them back one by one.
We arrive at Costco. As I set out the expectations for my kids’ behavior inside the store, the two middle boys start raging at one another. The oldest thinks it is his job to set things straight by “spanking” both of them! Now there are screams and cries from at least three of the five. In the same breath of correction, I realized one child doesn’t have any pants on. Another one doesn’t have a shirt on and the other is asking for snacks! Just getting to the store is enough to make my mental transcripts full of explicit language!
It gets better when a stranger greets us at the entrance by saying, “You got your hands full.”
A couple minutes later, as we make it past the electronics, I hear, “You’re a busy mama.” I smile and say, “To say the least.” After this interaction, all five kids practice their outside voices inside the store, and demand every snack we walk by. A stranger laughs, shakes his head, and says, “Where’d you get all these kids? Did you pick them up off the free sample cart?” I gently laugh back as I reach for the first thing I can grab, open it, and give to my kids. It was a $27 bag of macadamia nuts my kids will never eat!
Between my kids’ behavior and comments from others, this pattern continues on for 90 minutes. As we come to the checkout line, disheveled and all, workers are dodge us like we are going to sit next to them on a plane ride. Someone dares to take us on, but that doesn’t mean they are happy about it. Nope. Not one word. Not even one crack of her lip. She’s stone cold as I can FEEL her judgment from her lack of comments!
The good news is that we make it to the car. I load the kids. I load the groceries, shaking my head, as I finally have a moment to see what we purchased. I return the cart and find my keys and make sure I have the receipt to log it into our monthly budget. $ 444.76. I felt sucker-punched. “What in the world did I just buy?”
While I adore my children, this does not describe my ideal day. It describes my reality.
There are 1,688 days from the birth date of our firstborn to the birth date of our fifth born. That is 55 months and 12 days.
I know our family dynamic appears EXTREME in this generation. It’s no wonder why people look at me the way they do. People look at us with disbelief. Some are flabbergasted. Sometimes, I even get a glare with a head shake back and forth. As a mom of five under five, the looks come and go, but more often, people always have comments to make.
“You know how this happens, right?”
“Wow! You guys didn’t waste any time!”
“How do you do it?”
“You’re one busy mama.”
“Are all these kids yours?”
“Have you checked yourself in yet?”
“How many sets of twins do you have?”
“Ah—you’re a big Catholic family, huh?”
If I took every comment to heart, I would have lost my mind by now. I’d be debilitated by depression and the fear of ever leaving my home.
These are the comments I hear. Speaking with other moms, I found that no matter what season of life they are in, they hear their own remarks. More often than not, we are quick to presuppose. We look at other family dynamics and instantly want to make a comment, ask a question, or hurl our opinions as to what we think families should look like.
If you have no children, the question is always, “When will you have children?” If you have one child, the comment is always, “You need to give him or her a sibling.” If you have boys, you hear, “You have to try for a girl.” If you have girls, you catch, “You have to try for a boy.” If you have three or more kids, you look irresponsible and currently ruining your kids’ lives forever because there is not enough one on one time for each one of them.
Why do we do this? Why do we act entitled? Why act like we inherently deserve to project our personal opinions onto someone else’s family life? Can we let a family be a family? Can we use our voice to encourage the mom we see covered in poop and puke or hasn’t washed her hair since last Sunday AND the mom who always looks stunning as she and her kids have matching mommy-and-me outfits for the 12th day in a row?!
Every marriage is different. Every parenting style is different. Every family is different. Can we choose to see the beauty in this? Can we choose our words wisely?
It’s been said, “The tongue has the power of life and death…” Think about life. Choose life.