A friend of mine recently shared this picture on Facebook, and I laughed at it, a little bit sadly, I’ll admit.
It was kind of sad because the picture is very, very true. I only have three kids, but it’s already true. People in this country just are not friendly towards people with big families. Why is that? I don’t know when it happened, that two kids was the preferred amount of children and three was pushing it — and even then, only acceptable if you were trying for a different gender — but for whatever reason, it is no longer acceptable for people to have large families.
I hear it everywhere I go. The more mundane comments are extremely frequent, ranging from, “My, you have your hands full!” to “Oh, honey, God bless you,” to the outright pity of, “I’m so sorry for you, your life must be over!” Sometimes they’re much more rude. There was the woman at Disney World — the Biergarten in Germany at EPCOT, specifically — who asked how old our kids were and then, upon our reply, looked at us in disgust and said, “You know what causes that, right? I mean, get it under control!” I had heard these types of comments before, but it was the first time anything like that had been said in front of my husband, who quickly went into a near murderous rage. I can only imagine that she must have seen it on his face, because after dropping her little bomb, she quickly ran away.
Then there was the guy at Walmart, back when we were still living at Camp Lejeune and my husband had just gotten out of the Marine Corps. I was getting ready to move back to our hometown of Jacksonville, FL, just a few short weeks after I had given birth to our youngest, Ivy. A woman asked me how old my kids were, and I answered — two, one, and a newborn. A man behind us heard, and felt compelled to inject his opinion. He told me that my husband and I needed to stop having sex so much (except instead of “having sex”, he used a different word which I’m sure you can guess), and that he loved his wife too, but enough is enough. He said this to my back, which isn’t entirely surprising, I guess. I whirled around and asked him if he had a problem, and in response, he walked away.
There are also people that think that I shouldn’t have more children because Wyatt, my son with Down syndrome, is just such a burden. Or something. I never quite understood that. He has an extra chromosome. Calm down, people. Besides, more children equals more people to take care of Wyatt after my husband and I are gone.
How many positive comments have I received about my children? Just one. I was grocery shopping, and a man walked up to me and asked how many kids I had. I replied three, and then braced myself for the inevitable: the look of shock, the “you have your hands full” comment, asking if we were “done” now… the type of thing people always say when they realize I broke the rules and had more than the 2.1 children that are allotted to American families today. He replied, “Oh, you’re so lucky!” I almost cried. Because yes — yes, we are so lucky. My children are a blessing, all three of them.
This isn’t just my experience. Every single couple I know that has three or more children have the same experiences I have had, because we, as a culture, are not friendly to big families. And how did that happen? Why did it happen? It’s something that I just can’t quite understand. When did we stop looking at children as the blessings that they are? I honestly wonder sometimes if our abortion-minded culture of convenience plays a role. It must have some kind of effect, because when we tell people that children are only to be had when they’re convenient and everything in our lives are settled perfectly in place, then children stop being blessings and start being commodities. We’re taught, basically from childhood, that before we get married and have children we should have all our ducks neatly in a row. We can’t just have a job, it has to be the job, which pays well and has awesome insurance and makes us feel fulfilled and happy every day. We have to make sure we’ve bought the perfect house and have perfect cars and maybe have the perfect dog before we should even think about having children. But of course, by the time we’ve reached that point, for many of us it’s too late to have children naturally. So then it’s fertility doctors and IVF and surrogates, because we see children as products to be bought and sold. Everyone who wants a child should be able to have one, even if they waited until they were 42 to get started.
And don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about whether or not people should be waiting so long to have kids, or that there’s anything wrong with being an older parent, or that fertility treatments are evil. The point is that we have a mindset in this country that children are accessories to be added to your perfect life. So much of raising children is focused on money and time and stress and lack of sleep. We’re told that our lives will be over when we have kids, so we all feel like we have to get everything out of the way first. And when people see a “big” family, and especially one like mine where they’re all so close together, I think they find it uncomfortable. People find it selfish or irresponsible. They leer and turn away in disgust and, at best, make uncomfortable comments that there is no good reply to. We’re looked down upon. Plain and simple, that’s what it is. It makes sense though. In a country where children are commodities, products to be bought and sold when it becomes convenient, then of course people who have more than what’s considered acceptable will be sneered at and insulted.
We need to start seeing children for what they are: gifts and blessings to be cherished, not objects to be purchased and scheduled at our convenience. Whether a person is blessed with one child or six of them, it’s a lesson we need to remember.