Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"How Do You Do It?"

I'm on the verge of telling it like it is...

     One of the best and worst things about having a family this large is the questions you get over and over and over. Questions that are often nosy and even more often borderline offensive. Luckily, I generally have a good sense of humor about this and take the questions with stride. The other thing that people don't "get" is how much more self sufficient a child in a large family is than, say, and only child. I thought it might be kinda fun to explore a few of these questions and situations so you get a better idea of just how this whole thing works. I will give you the most popular questions I get first along with my favorite answers (most of which are me just being a bitch; tired of answering the same things for well over a decade:)

1) Are you Catholic or Mormon? Simple. "No."

2) Are they all from the same man? "We aren't sure." (This is my favorite one.. the look on people's faces is priceless. I also like "No. there are 8 different fathers, I'm trying to create the perfect human being.")

3) Do you know what's causing this? I get this all the time, but someone asked me this once at exactly the wrong time. I was 3 weeks overdue with baby #4 and desperate to go into labor. I was aching, tired, fat and irritable. All I wanted was some goddamn deli meat from the grocery store. The woman in front of me asked "When are you due?" I said "3 weeks" (she didn't need me to add the "ago"). Is this your first baby?" Please call her number so she can get her provolone... "No, it's my 4th." "Your 4th! You don't even look old enough to have one!" I giggled. It was fake. And finally.. "Don't you know what's causing this?" I took a long breath. "Yes. I do. My husband and I had sexual intercourse and he ejaculated in me at the same time an egg was being released from my ovary into my falopian tube. The sperm from his ejaculate met the egg, thus creating a zygote, which embedded itself into my uterine wall; growing over the course of 38 weeks into the fetus you see in my belly right now." My Mom was with me. I thought she might need a Poise pad after that one. Lesson? Don't fuck with an overdue woman.

4) And this brings on number 4. How old are you? My answer is always the same, the truth of course, but the reaction to my answer has changed over the years. Now I get "I thought you were in your 20s" which isn't so bad. Back in the day when my answer was, say, 25 and I had 3 kids already, the reaction was more like this:
"Wow. You started early." To which I would reply "Well, my body told me I was fertile at 12, so actually I waited quite a while.'

5) How do you do it? I'm going crazy with just ____ (insert number less than 8) This is another simple answer. "You just do." there's no secret recipe to having 8 vs having 2, except that you're 4 times busier and 4 times broker (my computer is not a fan of the word "broker" in this sentence:)

     This is a really nice place to interject with some scenarios and take a break from the q&a. There is one thing about having a bigger family that people really should understand. We aren't like smaller families in that we simply cannot do everything for our kids. It's just not possible. So our kids have an element of self sufficiency that seems somewhat off putting to many bystanders. In addition, Mark and I are probably a lot more relaxed than most parents. One common answer I give when asked how I do it is that "I don't sweat the petty stuff like I used to." So let's give some specific examples of the above.

     A friend of mine once brought it to my attention that I wasn't worried letting 2 of my kids go to the bathroom on their own in a restaurant even though they are 4 and 6. This is true. Think about this folks. If I have, lets say, the bottom 5 (if I have all 8 then I have helpers to take kids to the restroom) and Declan and Shaylon need to use the bathroom, it is ridiculous to attempt to pack up my whole table and go to the bathroom all together. In addition, this will likely not be the last time during that meal in which I would have to do this. So you are talking about packing up diaper bags, car seats, anything of value brought to entertain them while the food cooks, etc. If you are nursing, you are talking about unlatching a baby and taking said baby along with the toddler who is perfectly happy to poop his pants to the bathroom so the 6 year old can pee. So my kids know how to get to a bathroom, go pee, wash hands and return. There are, of course, exceptions to this. If the restaurant were big or full of shady customers or if the bathroom was very far from the table, I would consider packing everyone up, but more likely would opt to pee them all before we sat down and unloaded camp. (Even then, they will likely need to go during dinner. Shay has a thing for peeing 5 times during a restaurant trip.) But if we're at a decent restaurant in a nice area and especially if there are customers in the place, I am fine. Let me say here, that I am not worried about kidnapping under those circumstances. I was a latch key kid at age 5. I literally had a key to my house, walked home from school and let myself in. I made a snack and did my homework. I knew what a stranger was and to avoid them. I was always walking in a group and locked my door when I got home. I also grew up in a safe neighborhood in Southern California. Kidnapping is very rare, folks. And when was the last time you heard about a kidnapping at a busy restaurant with 2 kids in a buddy system? But for some reason, this really bothers people.

Case in point:

     I took the 5 youngest kids to a burger place here on the island a few months back. It is located in a nice outdoor mall in an area with many restaurants. The layout was quite small and open; a rectangle with many tables and chairs and a soda machine on one side. Evey seat was visible from every other seat in the house. The only table large enough for my family was immediately on the left when you entered the building. It was the kind of place where you order at the counter, take a number then pick up at a window when you're number is called, so I got all the kids situated, strapped Camber into the high chair (Avion was still strapped into my gigantic beast of a stroller next to my seat) and walked about 2 feet to my right to place an order. I was given our drink cups immediately and allowed my 3 bigger kids (Taren, Declan and Shaylon) to go one at a time to get their soda, approximately 35 to 40 feet from our table in full view. Once the three of them were finished I sat them down and told them I was getting drinks for myself and Camber. I could see them the whole time and hurriedly filled our cups. I may have been away from the table for a total of 2 minutes, but in clear sight the whole time. When I returned, Taren informed me that the man 2 tables away from us who was with his wife and older daughter chastised me loudly enough for Taren to hear him. He said it was "awful that she leaves those kids alone." Now, I'm used to this, but when my child hears it I will admit, my blood boils. So I asked him politely "Did you say something regarding my parenting loudly enough for my daughter to hear you?' He got defensive, and a little embarrassed even, telling me that if it were him he would worry about leaving them there like that. To which I said "Worried about what?" He got really flustered, thought for a moment finally settling on "Well the unknown, I guess." Cop out, I thought. Let me also add here that the soda machine, though in full view of the restaurant, was tucked in a tiny corner of the building. I wish I could give you a visual on what this man wanted me to do. Walk 4 kids and navigate a gigantic stroller though other patrons in a fairly small building. Most if this would need to be done single file. Then, he wanted me to fill my soda cups while ensuring my kids are not picking food off of other people's plates, fighting, running around or scratching their balls in someone's chili cheese fries. I'm then to take my full soda cups and somehow get back without spilling on anyone all the while ensuring said balls remain chili-cheese-fry-free. My children know to sit tight at a table for a moment while I get things for them. When our food arrived, I got up to go to the window (closer than the soda machine) and looked directly and the man and said "I'm just getting their food. Let me know if they get kidnapped". I think what I hate about this more than anything is that A) it's really none of your business unless I'm doing something blatantly illegal. And B) You honestly ruin my fucking lunch when you do it. I'm just trying to take my family out for a meal.. not an easy task. Could you possibly keep your opinions to yourself so I can just enjoy it? The lesson here is think twice about what your judgments are. Ask yourself if my children are really in danger or if maybe you just aren't used to seeing children behave so well under those circumstances. The family must have felt bad because they complimented me on the kids' behavior as they left. Gee. Thanks.
And on with the questions.

6) Do you own a television? This is a very age specific group that asks this, namely 70 and up. If I were to try and pinpoint the origin I would say it must have something to do with a time when not every family owned a television set. I never say anything smart-ass to this one. Old people are cute :)

7) How many siblings did you have? 1. This seems to strike an "a-ha" in people as if my lack of multiple siblings made me want a large family of my own. But I think that if the answer were anything other than 1 or 2 they would also say that it's due to my large-ish family that I wanted a bigger one. The truth is, I don't know why I wanted this many kids. It has nothing to do with my own family or my brother. Mark and I never really gave it much thought. It all just happened and here we are. Sometimes things come to us we never really planned for and it turns out the fit is exactly right.

8) When are you getting your own reality show? HA! I just laugh at this one. Soon, I hope! I think we'd make for interesting TV, but I may be a little biased :)

9) Are you going to have any more? As much as my mother might not like to hear this, I can see us having more. I mean really. The odds some of them turn out ok get better the more I have, right? ;)

     So there you have it. The answers to perhaps just a few of your questions. If you have more, feel free to comment them and I will get back to you. As for now, the sun is shining for the first time in days so I'm going to go play a little baseball with the boys :)


  1. umm do you ever rent your kids out? I think I would like to borrow a few of them to see some reactions. Geeze my life is so boring, it might be fun to have people judge my "parenting". Krista

  2. The judgments come loooooong before we even begin to parent. I should video people's faces when we walk into a restaurant all together. They simply don't know what to make of us! LOL! But I like the idea of renting them out. Do you think I could make any money??!

  3. Oh, Dia - YES, YES, YES!! How I can relate to all of this. If I have any more children I will print out the answer you gave in #3 on little 3x5 cards and pass them out to people who have the gall to ask such a ridiculous question. And people judging me and my parenting skills happens ALL THE TIME. I am self-conscious about how my kids look at school because I don't want people thinking 'why do they keep having kids when the ones they have aren't even taken care of?' I hate that I care what people think, but I do. I don't want big families to have some negative stigma because I think it is AWESOME having 10 kids! It is perfect for me and Allen. We love each and every yay-hoo individually and can not imagine life without any one of them. Being a mom is my talent. Someone once asked me if I collect anything. Of course I told them: yes! I collect little people who grow into big people.

    Loved this post.

  4. HAHAHAHA! Gerb! That was awesome! And I feel the same way. Like if my kids don't look "perfect" we get the evil eye of overbreeding. I love having 8, but they aren't perfect. They're people who are learning and growing.

  5. Honestly...if you ever get sick of constantly defending/explaining yourself, you should move to Utah bc all of those things are normal here and no one would give you any grief! Plus you would have TONS of Mommy friends! Including moi! Xoxo