In a recent (wee hours of the morning) visit to the Emergency room, I found myself engaged in a reasonably fun conversation. The other person had come to this oasis for the same reason I did; a pediatric specialist consult for a small, sick child (as we each had one in tow).
Normally, when two parents who are strangers meet, the ensuing conversation flows easily as the unspoken common denominator is the child (in this case two sick little ones).
This conversation was similar to others I have had before. This young mom told me all about her child, the health concerns she was managing, including funny stories and anecdotes from her extended family.
While waiting on the pediatric guru, I was enjoying the company of the other mom as we both sat, nearby each other. The interchange with the other parent distracted me from counting the seconds as they dragged into half minutes and slowly rounded the clock again completing another minute with no medical relief for the little one in my lap.
At first glance, the other parent assumed that the two-year old, sick infant in my care was mine. I clarified the relationship was one of grandmother and granddaughter. (!!) Conversation continued. At some point, other family members became the topic where (probably to fatigue as I do know better) I revealed I had 9 children of my own. (!!) The mom I was talking to sat bolt upright and said “Why?”… Only to be immediately followed by “Oh I am so sorry …I did not mean that… but really WHY did you have 9 kids…I have two, and that is more than enough for me!”
was stunned. What part of “why?” should I be addressing? The only thing I could come up with was to ask her “why?” she only had two. (!!) The answer… “too much cost and way too much work”… (No really?). Then this mom further qualified her answer indicating part of her decision to limit her family size was she did not want more than a one-child-to-adult ratio. I guess her personal experience with raising kids was more that of a zoo-keeper trying to keep the lions calm between feedings (hand-held gaming devices notwithstanding). I still was trying to consider how I could possibly (and truthfully) answer her incredulous “Why?”
Many thoughts came to mind…
If, it takes a village to raise a child then I am raising a home-grown village to ensure optimum results!
Thankfully I did not really answer her question…other than to say I believe I am blessed beyond belief… and yes, I am aware that two kids can be a challenge though more (children) is often easier… (…although, yes, definitely, more work).
I thought about what the conversation might look like if we were not talking about each other’s children and let’s say we were talking about pets. Many people have 3 or more pets; some have 3 or 4 dogs plus cats, turtles etc.. I cannot imagine meeting a pet owner (perhaps at the vet), learning they have several pets and then proceeding to ask them “why?”
Better yet, meeting someone who mentions they are recently married for the second time…and I ask “why?” I am sure that I would be shut down pronto as rude. Then how can it be that people think it is appropriate to say “why?” when they discover I have a larger family than the average Joe? What if every overweight person I know who announces they are on a diet is met with my response of “why”? Or someone else shares that they own two houses, or 4 cars, or travel twice a year to Europe…would it still be appropriate to answer “why?” ???
Then why is it appropriate to ask me that about my kids? At a base value, I will assume the “why” is not because the person posing the question is clueless about how children enter our lives on this planet earth. Instead, I have discovered (in many similar conversations with other parents) that it is more about the other parents’ need to justify their own family size than it will ever be about mine. The explanations that are volunteered, by perfect strangers, in defense of their personal decisions to limit their respective family’s size … is astounding. Considering this guilt is being divulged in a public place without the benefit of even a prompt (by way of a question from me)…and only an as a rhetorical answer to a rude questioning they aimed at me is actually rather funny. I have been privy to what would almost amount to a full-scale confession by perfect strangers trying to justify their reasons (very assorted…some VERY odd) for limiting their offspring…just because I went out in public with SOME of my kids.
I have now developed a full retinue of pre-canned answers to be served up to those inquiring souls (albeit total strangers) who feel the need to continually ask me “why?”!!
To: All those who have never met me before but feel they must ask me “Why” I have 9 children:
- Because, I heard that children are cheaper by the dozen.
- I believe in reincarnation, and most of my family is dead and depending on me to give them another chance.
- Because, the GOVERNMENT will allow me to have my own planet if I can meet their quota.
- Because, many hands make light work, and we are hoping to have a farm.
- Because redheads are recessive genes (and a dying race)…I am trying to even out the odds.
- Because a relative of mine, left me an inheritance that pays a huge dividend with every child I add to our family.
- Because my husband makes so much money, this is the only way I don’t owe the government anything.
- Because I do NOT know any better.
The Kid-Keeper (The Garden Goat)