I started getting the comments after I had my third baby.
“Oh my, that’s a lot of kids.”
“You must have your hands full!”
“Are these all yours?!”
Now, I have five kids, and the comments keep coming. So does the awkwardness. I feel like a large family is a handicap in today’s society. Cars with less seats, homes with fewer rooms. Restaurants. We see it most when we go out to eat. “How many?” the server asks.
Then his or her eyes widen, we get “the look” and the predictable comment. “I don’t know if we have anything for that many. Do you mind waiting?”
We wait. Sometimes we wait a long time. Then we’ll get a table. Sometimes we’ll get squashed into a booth, sometimes they’ll arrange tables for twelve people, because I suppose in their minds, sevens means a dozen. At a glance, I have to agree. Either way, we stand out.
It happens at the grocery store, too. Five kids in tow, a basket brimming with food that barely stays in the cart, a bill with a shockingly large number. “I’m glad I’m not paying that.” I got the comment once from a man in line behind me.
To be honest, I’ve always been the shy one who wants to blend in and not cause attention. I don’t want the spotlight on me; I don’t want to stand out. So sometimes, when I happen to go to the store with only one or two kids, I like to pretend they’re my only ones, and that yes, these are my kids, I’m a mom of two, and I don’t stand out. Not in the least.
Yesterday, I had my only daughter with me. She’ll be eleven this weekend. So I did it again, played that little game in my head where I pretended she was my only child, and yes, I fit in just nicely. No comments, no stares, not any “no room for you!” comments. We only had a few extra school supplies to buy, not our usual overloaded cart, just a few things that fit squarely inside with nothing bulging over the sides. I felt so completely normal. My one daughter. My small, neat little cart.
Then it came time to check out. As I was standing there, placing the pencils and composition books on the conveyor, I spied my last items to be scanned. Four gallons of milk.
My little cart of school supplies didn’t look so inconspicuous anymore. The four gallons of milk had ruined it all.
I know, I need to accept my life of five kids, embrace it fully, stop trying to pretend I’m average–normal. I get it. Just be yourself! And all those fifth grade slogans I watched on 90’s TV.
I don’t care. I like to pretend every now and then. I would say it’s an author thing. It’s not. It’s a human thing. Not many of us admit to it, but we all pretend sometimes.
That’s why I write. That’s why I love reading. Those are the places we get to see people for who they are, and where we can relate to all our imperfect humanity.