I was out at the store with two of my children. This almost never happens. Usually, we either all go somewhere together or none of us go. We’re like a big, sometimes really loud circus going up and down the aisles at the grocery store. We often take up too much of the aisle despite my protests to my kids, and people never fail to notice us.
It oftentimes goes like this: I see someone and they look at me with my bunch and say, “Wow, you’ve got your hands full!”
“They’re being so well behaved.”
“You know how that happens, right? He he he…”
But, everyone’s got something to say. I get that we are a big-ish family for today’s “modern” standard, but I actually have a small-ish family compared to many of my friends. I get irritated that everyone is a critic, or feels like they have to say something to me. I’m just trying to buy groceries and get everyone out of the store in one piece! I always want to be gracious to people. I’m never snide when someone says something to me, but I can’t shake this feeling that I’m a bit of a side show and I don’t like that.
Back to us at the store. Me, my four year old, and the baby. It was a special mommy time kind of a trip and we enjoyed taking a leisurely pace while marking things off of our list. It was peaceful, even, me and my small crew. I didn’t get any looks that I noticed, but I wasn’t even paying attention because I was enjoying my time with my boys. At the end of getting our groceries, we stopped to buy some balloons in the floral department. Here’s where things got weird:
The guy working behind the counter looked young. Not like right out of high school young, but younger than me. If I had to guess, I’d say unmarried and early twenties. He chatted with us while he filled a dozen balloons and the baby started fussing. He asked how old he was and I anticipated him saying he had one at home. Most guys only notice children if they have kids also. I assumed he would say that he had a brand new baby, and he did. Except he said he had four other kids as well. Five kids at home? My brain stumbled when I heard this.
I just kind of stared at him. I hope my jaw didn’t drop open but I can’t swear that it didn’t. I had assumed he was really young and that just didn’t mesh with the information I had just been given. I looked at him again as he asked the toolman what his favorite color was and I saw the dark circles under his eyes and the wrinkles creeping around the edges. He was my age. At least. My brain felt like it was misfiring. Did I think he was younger because I don’t see myself as being this old? Do I look like that? I wondered; exhausted beyond belief if you looked close enough, but cheerful and light hearted at first glance? It was like I was seeing what other people see when they see me and are shocked that I have four kids.
I never did recover enough to say that I had two more at home, but I did thank him for his kindness toward my kids (he gave them each a free balloon and spoke to them very nicely.) I walked away still dumbfounded that that guy had five kids and I didn’t notice he was my age, and I responded in the worst way. That day, I became that person that irritates me so much. That person who looks at me like there’s something wrong with me. I don’t even know how I could have expressed to him why I was shocked about his five kids, because it wouldn’t have made sense. I love kids though. I have four and I think I’d like more if God wills it. I wish I would have said something. I hope I didn’t make him feel bad or give him the impression that I thought he was crazy.
Days later, I am still thinking about this. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, we just react wrongly. Also, in all fairness, sleep deprivation does some weird things to your reaction time. I’m not perfect by a long shot; but I never aim to make people feel bad. It puts things in perspective too; I need to remember that not everyone who says some comment to me is trying to be mean. They might just say the wrong thing because they don’t know what else to say. At least I’d like to think so.