Kids have big ears

There was a time, when the twins were babies, that going anywhere with all the kids–outside of the obvious difficulties–was an, ahem, adventure simply because of the comments, looks, and not-so-subtle whispers directed our way.

I don’t think they were unkindly meant. Or if they were, I didn’t know it. Some were really encouraging. Others were highly inappropriate and thoughtless. Still others were downright silly (because, no, people, one of the identical twins outfitted in pink dresses, bows, blankets, and riding in matching pink car seats is NOT a boy. Also, yes, they are identical. And, no, not boy-girl identical twins. That’s impossible).

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I can’t say that I was too surprised, though, because, quite honestly, a woman out alone with 5 small children (especially with two in infant car seats at one time) is a pretty rare (and comical) sight.

I can distinctly remember an abuelita (Spanish for “grandma”) delivering a kindly lecture in the checkout line at Target on the dangers of having your infant’s head cockeyed in her car seat (Nola’s head, which wouldn’t stay put, even with the newborn insert, had just slid sideways before the lady spotted me, and she assumed that she had been riding around like that the whole time). The thing that makes that memory stick was not the lecture itself but the fact that she gave it in Spanish. Now, I speak Spanish fluently, and I understood her perfectly. But there was no way this sweet little old lady could have known that, considering that I look like a total gringa (white girl) and had never met her in my life.

But her assuming manner was pretty indicative of the way everyone treated us when we were out and about. Apparently, we were public property. And for someone who would much rather just get her shopping done without ever talking to anyone, it took some effort to perfect the gracious nod and smile. Believe me: I tried the intense tunnel-vision plus purposeful cart-pushing approach…but to no avail. A truly motivated “commenter” would inevitably imperil her own life by jumping in front of my charging cart with a chirpy, “Are they TWINS???” (Good thing I had also perfected the screech-halt).

When I found out I was pregnant with Theo, I kind of thought, “Welp. That’s it. We’re never going in public again.”

I mean, six? That’s kind of pushing it for outings in public, don’t you think?

But, in reality, our routine hasn’t changed much. I still do errands all over town with a (slightly larger) gaggle of small children with me.  But the weird thing is that I feel like we haven’t gotten as many comments lately.

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Part of that is because I now avoid going to Walmart as much as humanly possible. 🙂 Part of that is because my boys are older and tall for their age, and you get fewer comments if your children aren’t all tiny. But I really think that the novelty of twin girls in car seats drew a large part of the attention before, and now that they are toddlers, out of their car seats, and not as obviously identical (when they’re not dressed alike), we’re not quite as fascinating.

Whatever the reason, I’ve enjoyed the respite from the attention…until the past week. At Chick-fil-a last week, I overheard a guy from the gym telling his friend as we walked by them that he “always felt so sorry for that lady.” And then there was the lady at the gym who absolutely refused to believe that I didn’t have a nanny because how could I possibly be expected to cook and clean and grocery-shop for such a horde all by myself? (I didn’t dare tell her that we home-school for fear that her brain might explode).

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And then, most notably, was the employee at Chick-fil-a (yes, again…Shaun’s been traveling a lot, and Tuesday night Kids-Eat-Free is our big chance to go a little cuh-razy at the local play place). When she spotted my crew all crammed into one table with barely enough seats for us all, she came over and asked how many I had. When I told her, she said, “Oh my, SIX! I have a cousin who had six. And you know what? She wanted all of them.”

I glanced at Ezra, saw his forehead crinkle a little, and said brightly, “Oh, me too! I wanted all of mine too.”

I guess she didn’t hear me because she continued with: “Yes, she was actually happy every time she found out another one was coming.”

I smiled and said, “Me too!”

The honest-to-goodness truth is that my feelings upon finding out that I’m pregnant are usually a bit mixed. I’m mostly thrilled (with this time being the notable exception), but I’m also a pragmatic sort, and I understand fully what adding a new little life will mean for our family. Or, should I say, more particularly, what it will mean to me. More work. Less sleep.

But also? More love. More fun. More chances to die to myself. More sanctification. More patience. More Jesus.

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And so, I answered truthfully when I told the lady that I was excited for each of my babies. Because, regardless of any naturally hesitant emotions at the thought of more responsibility, I’m excited to see how the Lord will work in my heart and give me a new and different, yet equally intense, love for each little life that he entrusts me with.

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Always in the past, when I got the comments, I had my go-to responses like, “Oh, it’s a lot of work, but we also have a lot of fun,” or, “We’re really blessed and grateful that we get to have them.” I was determined to be realistic and truthful but unflaggingly positive. Initially, when my kids were really little, my motivation was to give motherhood a good name. And to give the glory to God. (My usual answer to “HOW do you do it?” is: “One day at a time, and lots of Jesus”).

But, a few years ago, I read something that my friend Kristy (who has 5, including twins) wrote about preaching the gospel to her children when they heard disparaging or belittling comments in public (she lived in the Pacific NW and got much harsher comments than I typically do here in East Texas). And my perspective shifted from that of “putting on a good face” to “how does all of this attention make my children feel?”

Now, I respond even more enthusiastically than ever because my children are listening. Oh-so-closely. Apparently, very few other people have this perspective. I can only assume they don’t, or they wouldn’t say some of the things they do in front of them. Things like: “Can you imagine being excited about all of them?,” or “I feel so sorry for you.”

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If they thought about their children’s listening ears, I have to think that surely mothers wouldn’t say things like, “I only have two, and they drive me absolutely nuts,” while their “only two” stand at their elbows and drink those words in.

So, here is my encouragement to you: wherever you are in your journey with children, whether you have 1 or 12, whether they were planned or complete surprises, whether you’ve just had a total disaster of a shopping trip or they’ve been quiet as church-mice…

Choose to speak truth in front of your children. And that truth is this: “Children are a gift from the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward.

Maybe you “only” have one, and that “only” makes you feel like less of a mom than you know you are. Maybe you have all girls and are just. so. tired of everyone assuming that you’re only pregnant again because you’re “trying for your boy.” Maybe you have 8 and think that if you get asked, “Do you know how this keeps happening” one more time, you will lose your ever-loving mind.

We all have our pet peeves.

But we owe it to our children to model graciousness and thankfulness, regardless of how many pieces of our own tongues we have to chew up and swallow to get the kind words out.

Because our kids have big ears. They are listening. They will ask you about what others say (and how you respond). They will mimic your mannerisms and your expressions.

And they need to hear you say to their faces and to the world they are wanted, loved, and worth it.

Because they are.

P.S. All of these images are from Instagram, if you care to follow along with @misformama.

36 thoughts on “Kids have big ears

  1. Two words: Michelle Duggar.

    You’d think that since this blessed family is known all over the world, that people would get it now, especially here in the USA, wouldn’t you? Watch their show and try and tell me they are not the real deal! ~sigh~

  2. I’m pregnant with my fourth (and I don’t think 4 kids is a “big” family…) and I just had a lady tell me (I’d never met her before and this was the first conversation we were having) that she hoped this was my last one! I just smiled and said “Nope!” haha. She was a little speechless, but I was a little shocked too that a total stranger felt the need to tell ME to stop having kids (and sadly, that’s not the first time someone has told me that)!

    1. this same stranger is likely the same one that said with a knitted brow that she was sorry I was only able to have 1 of each !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! since she was a stranger I have no idea if she even had any children.

  3. Yes!
    I have one boy and triplet girls. We get a lot of inappropriate comments including, “I’d shoot myself,” “Are they natural?” and, “that must have been terrible!”
    Every child is a gift from God! And like you, I try to respond to people so that my children know they are a blessing to me.

    1. “are they natural?” sorry but that one would get me ready to spin a yarn about outer space etc. what did it even mean ???

  4. Oh so true. We have #7 on the way and it is hard to go anywhere without stares, comments or people thinking we are public property. The rudest question ever was if they all have the same father…. Either they thought I was a tramp or married more than once. The funniest time was an employee at Home Depot who said “now those aren’t all of your kids right?” I said no, I’ve got 3 more at home. Lol
    I do wish people would think about what they are saying infront of so many ears. We’ve been counted in several languages, too!

    1. Oh yes, I’ve heard that a lot….I think most people are asking if we have mixed families…some are mine, some are his kind of thing. They can’t believe one woman birthed all those kids.

      I have been called crazy ,too…plenty of times. I just starting agreeing with them and saying something like you’re probably right, but it’s crazy in love…with Jesus, my husband, and my kids. : ) I’m just blessed.

  5. Wow, we must have an issue with thinking short people are also deaf?!? Thankfully I can’t remember anything ruder than the EVER present “you have your hands full/you must be busy” stuff. I started making it a point to tell everyone that more kids is WAAAAY easier than 1 or 2. The last cashier I had this chat with ended up “regretting” (for the moment anyway!) that she had only 2 and wishing for more, an extreme response I never gotten before, haha! I must have been having one of those rare able-to-sell-ice-to-Eskimos days.
    : )

    Most annoying to me is the couple I know who have made it no secret that because of their crew of girls they definitely want to adopt a boy. ??? Why say that to your girls?

  6. I have two plus triplets. Oh, the things people have said! One time a lady at Walmart said I’m glad I’m not you. To which I replied I’m glad your not me too!

  7. Yes to all of the above! We have two girls and a boy (with a second boy on the way!) and it makes me feel so sad when people express so much relief for us that we have a boy right there in front of my girls. How the heck do they think it makes them feel to be constantly hearing how thrilled we must be that we finally got a boy instead of another girl. People often express surprise at how many kids we have with only three, I can only imagine how much more shocking they find someone with six kids!

  8. I have none of my own, but I loved this post. <3 Just had to say that… Can definitely make me somehow feel less, but it's other's viewpoints – not Christ's. Same with if you have one or twelve little ones to mother and protect…

  9. God bless you! I also have 6 of the most wonderful, precious blessings in life. I adopted my oldest son from foster care after being told by an “expert” that I would not have birth children (obviously God had other plans). My boy/girl twins came just before my son turned 3, and they were 1 1/2 when I found out I was expecting again!! When my then youngest son turned 10, I was supprised with my now 4 year old son and his little brother will be 1 next month!! Your article struck home with me on so many levels…my most often used response is, yes, I thought that ship had sailed, I didn’t expect it to turn around and come back to port, but that is why God is the captain of the ship!! His plan is so much better than anything I could have hoped to dream! I wouldn’t even want to imagine my life any other way!

  10. Yes, I totally get this. I always made sure I had a positive comment in times like this (even when perhaps the horde was currently driving me batty, a fussy baby, whatever) because I was certain my children were going to listen AND you can bet that their attitude about having a large family was going to be affected by what mine was. I did see my kids have a positive attitude and soon they had their own positive comments for those odd characters with large tongues. I’m quite certain that our attitudes toward most everything will be reflected in our children in some way and they are really listening in times like these because they want to know to….are we a bother or a blessing, mom?
    As my older children grew, they were into other things or just at home and on my yearly trip to Wal-Mart with the younger ones someone would inevitably say something like “Are those all yours?” or “Boy you have your hands full!” It wasn’t long until one child piped up…. “Oh this is only half of us.” Gotta love the looks on the faces sometimes…
    But mostly folks are nice around here (you should visit East Tennessee sometime)….and positive.
    And when they say “Better you than me”, I just smile and say something like “yeah, I’m glad it was me, too.” : )

  11. beautifully expressed. I am so in hopes that some of my comments in the past that were meant as admiration for all you accomplish from your classes you teach, homeschool, home décor, fashion and living a life with Christ and doing it with your beautiful children and doing all the things needed to do this. I apologize if my comments came across as unkind.

  12. Yes! Yes! And yes!!!! I’ve started counting the comments when I go places! While it’s highly irritating people don’t realize it’s just none of their business. I tell my children if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say it, the same applies to adults. I’ve had three women (who I assumed were mature Christians) tell me not to have any more! Really?! They almost act as if it’s more work for them. I could go on and on but really it’s just another way to show Christ’s love to them and our children….not get frustrated as I most of the time do! Your words are timely, I really needed this! I’m in east texas too 😉

    1. HA! We actually got paired with a pre-marital counseling couple from our church whose NUMBER ONE piece of advice was: don’t have kids too early.

      And we, knowing that we weren’t going to use chemical birth control and that we wanted the Lord to determine our number/timing of kids, were like, “Um, we probably better keep this to ourselves.” 🙂

  13. I am the second eldest out of ten children (the youngest is only 15 months old) and my Mum has always made being in a big family very positive. Growing up, we’d always get the comments (she had six children under six at one point, no multiples anywhere!) and Mum would always explain how precious children are to God and how blessed we are. I now have a great appreciation for how much work Mums do but also a great appreciation for how wonderful it is. I want a massive family when I’m older and married!! 🙂

    Thanks for your post. You always make me smile.

    1. Oh, I hope that I do as good a job as your mama has obviously done as instilling a love for family in my kids because I definitely want them to feel the way you do when they get older! Love your attitude!

  14. Great post! I have lots of friends and family with big families. My mom is one of nine and my brother has 7. So many people open their traps before thinking! I have the same problem with thoughtless comments because I am infertile. I usually give grace the first few times, but if the same person is consistently clueless or if I get too many comments in one day… Look out!

  15. I was preaching along with you while reading this post. I have three children and one the way. I took my three who are 5, 3 and 1 to a play centre and when it was time to go, I was trying to get hats, boots, scarves and coats on in a tiny entrance way. A woman coming in with her child said “You have three! What were you thinking?” And without even thinking I replied “I know right, I’m crazy”. Then I looked at my children, especially my eldest, who is very observant, and knew I did the wrong thing. Each of my children were wanted and loved from the moment I knew they were inside of me and although I too feel a little trepidation with each new pregnancy I KNOW I am blessed. After that experience, I told my husband that we need to be careful how we respond to people who think we are “crazy” for having more than two kids. As we slowly announce that we are again expecting another, we are steeling ourselves for the comments that will surely come. This post just pumped me up! I’m ready. Thank you so much Abbie for your thoughtful, honest and timely posts.

  16. Thank you for the reminder that my kids are listening. I get comments with my 3 (4,2, 1) and I also try to same something positive, and we work hard to make them feel loved through the day, but I think you’re so right about making that extra effort in front of others. I know I feel loved when someone goes out of their way to tell someone else that they care about me. My kids must be the same.

    1. I love watching my kids’ faces light up when I brag on how helpful they are around the house and with what good attitudes (not always true, of course, but not the point at that moment). They get such a kick out of being praised in front of others!

  17. A HUGE amen to this! Huge! I was blessed to give birth to one, and I am so grateful. God gave me another through marriage, and they are both loved and both are blessings from the Lord.

    My sister has six, and many times I have been out with her, and heard comments a lot like the ones people have made to you in front of your children. Your attitude is amazing and it’s so wonderful that you understand those words can hurt your children, and you respond accordingly. People do not realize the impact of their words.

    Excellent post! 🙂

  18. You bless my heart each time I read your blog ~ Your kids have awesome God fearing and God loving parents. Wish I could meet you in person 🙂

  19. I have three boys and have received a lot of comments like “oh, all boys (sad face), are you gonna try for a girl”, “too bad you don’t have a girl” or “you just have to TRY for a girl, i can’t imagine not having my daughter” as well as the typical “you must be tired” and “they sure are a handful”, because, they totally are a handful. i am always amazed by the little people that sit in shopping carts and strollers and appear quite content to just gaze. all of mine MOVE ALL THE TIME. in any case, after a few years of motherhood i came to this same realization, that even though i know my children feel loved, i want them to hear me tell others that they are wonderful and that i am happy.

    be well

    1. I also have 3 boys. Why do people assume that we feel incomplete without a daughter? The comments I get are unbelievable…I don’t want my boys thinking that not having a girl devalues them. After suffering 2 miscarriages I am grateful for the family God has decided is right for me.

      1. I have 3 boys too. We did not find out the gender of our third because I was happy to have another child and the gender did not matter! I want my boys to know that they are not “less than” girls to me. I can’t imagine my life any other way!

        1. I have 3 girls and I am pregnant with a 4th. Its amazing the amount of people that ask “This one is a boy, right?!” I never know how to respond! “Nope, all 4 are girls.. good think I love pink and glitter!” is what I say usually. I hate that people say it in front of the girls. Neither me or my husband feel like we are lacking in any way.. just blessed to be able to parent these 4 little beautiful souls!

          1. having previously commented on this I just read the comments from mothers of all one gender and recalled my Christian grandfathers comment when folks lamented over the fact that he had 7 daughters plus one that had passed soon after her birth. He quietly asked the current commenter which daughter he should have snuffed at birth or maybe dump one of them currently and if so what was the difference if there were 7 girls or l girl ?? He loved them all and they all had terrific Christian families. So be encouraged it is not a new attitude that unsolicited comments will be made about gender or size of families. Just wonder what prompts it ??

  20. Hi Abbie. It makes me feel upset when I hear people talk about their children or their spouse in a negative light or when strangers think it is okay to say negative things about them. I suppose that is one of my pet peeves. Negative words and attitudes do not convey honor and respect to our loved ones. Sure, there will be difficult times with our husband and/or child(ren), but those times do not need to be aired out to people who will just gossip about them and hold a grudge.

    My husband and I have a two year old son and we are currently expecting another precious baby in the Fall. Every day, I make sure to tell my son that he is a joy and a blessing….because he is! Even on the tough days, my husband and I are so thankful to God for our little one.

    Anyway, thank you for your post. I enjoyed reading it. 🙂 I hope that you have a great day!

I love hearing from you guys!