SALT LAKE CITY — This last week was very busy for our family. It was filled with soccer games, gymnastics and dance classes, Scout meetings and parent-teacher conferences. To add to it, my husband was working late every night, allowing for no chance for me to go to the grocery store alone.
We needed food, and paying a babysitter to watch the kids while I shopped would have completely negated any money-saving efforts. So, I did what I needed to: I loaded all five of them up and took them with me.
Now, generally speaking, my kids are pretty well-behaved, but on this particular day I would have had a difficult time convincing even the most gullible of people that this was the case.
Upon reaching the store, my two youngest made a beeline to those ridiculous-to-maneuver “car carts” that never have working seat-belts, making it impossible to keep them from escaping.
My oldest daughter grabbed one of the smaller carts, meant for those shopping for fewer groceries. She promised that she would be a good helper, but instead insisted the whole time that I put all the groceries in her cart — all the while crashing into the back of my legs each time I stopped or slowed down.
When we rounded the first corner, we caught the eye of an older gentleman. I knew it was coming; I could almost say it right along with him: "Are those all yours?" My first thought was that I should have said it along with him; that way I could yell “jinx,” which would have shut him up right then and there.
My next thought was to be smart and say, "No, I just make it a habit of picking up all the neighbor kids and bringing them to the store with me." However, being that I was taught to be kind and respectful, I smiled and said, “Yes.”
We continued our shopping, being the brunt of many judging looks and pitying smiles. Then we actually got to the check-out line somewhat victorious — meaning my children were all still within the general vicinity of the cart, they all still had their shoes on, and I managed to not get any “extra” items put in the cart.
It was all downhill from there. I know the stores put all those goodies at the check-out line for a reason, and it is malicious and mean. I know for a fact that a mother was not behind that decision.
Needless to say, all heck broke loose. All five of my children had the worst case of the “gimmie-gimmies” in the history of ... well, ever. I looked back at the lady behind us, and out of her mouth came the mother of all (dumb) comments: “You've got your hands full, don't you?”
That's it? Out of all the things you could have said, you stated the obvious? Clever, Miss. Very clever.
I was about to say just this when I was snapped back into reality by the sound of Skittles spilling all over the floor. We were quickly whisked away as to make room for clean-up efforts to ensue.
The sight of my cracker-adorned car had never been more welcomed.
I know I am not alone in having experiences like these. All too often, parents of large families are bombarded with rude and thoughtless comments that, although sometimes unintentional, prove to be hurtful and often demeaning.
Please, when you see a mother or father who seem to have their “hands full,” be thoughtful in what you choose to say to them. If it is not uplifting or encouraging, just don't say it.
However, I have had times when individuals have seized this opportunity as one to encourage and positively lighten the situation.
I love it when older couples smile at us and say things like, “Those were the good times,” or when they point out how cute my kids are and tell me that it does get easier. My mother once told me of a time when an older gentleman said, “Hands full now, hearts full later.”
My favorite uplifting comment made to me was from my sweet sister-in-law. Upon hearing the news that we were expecting our fourth child in as many years — while she was undergoing fertility treatments to conceive her first, and had every right to be resentful — so lovingly said, “Babies are always good news.”
Please, when you see a mother or father who seem to have their “hands full,” be thoughtful in what you choose to say to them.
If it is not uplifting or encouraging, just don't say it. If you can't think of anything to say, a simple smile will suffice. After all, as the saying goes, “A smile is worth a thousand words.”
We are all doing our best, and in my experience that is more than enough.
Main image: Even in the most controlled of situations, getting everyone in the family to cooperate proves difficult. It's all part of being a parent. Keep your head up and enjoy the ride. (Photo: Arianne Brown)
Arianne Brown is a graduate from Southern Utah University, mother to five young kids and an avid runner. Contact her at email@example.com.