Though I’m usually up for some great conversation with my friends and close acquaintances, I rarely enjoy entering into discussions with those I don’t know. This is because I have absolutely no patience for stupid commentary devoid of all reason and common sense. It has become apparent to me that people, in general, no longer have a sense of appropriate boundaries, and will say whatever comes to mind, uninvited and obviously not well thought out, if it pops into their heads to do so.
My second eldest child, a daughter named Lindsay, decided to run off and get married when she was 18. I wasn’t happy with her decision because there were so many other things she could do with her time. But, having a mind of her own, she took off with her boyfriend of two years and headed to New Mexico where he was being stationed with the Air Force, only stopping in Virginia for a quick wedding with strangers to witness. A little over a year later, she gave birth to her first daughter, Ryder. 8 1/2 months later, she gave birth to her second daughter, Aurora, who was actually 7 weeks early. After an additional 16 months, Noah was born on New Year’s Eve, with Nikolai bringing up the rear in February, 25 months later. Needless to say, she had her hands full.
It hasn’t been easy to deal with the financial obligations required of raising four children in today’s economy. It hasn’t been easy juggling the various homework assignments, work schedules and family events around the individuals involved. When one comes down with a cold or virus, the illness eventually wends its way through the entire family, getting passed from one to the next. The death of a beloved pet requires four different approaches to four different emotional responses to the sad event. What makes one child happy and engaged may bore another to distraction. Taking the family shopping for school clothes is a major event requiring meticulous planning and coordination, not to mention, immense patience with a heavy dose of caffeine.
I’m not much of a shopper. Don’t like it at all. Hate dealing with long, slow moving checkout lines. Can’t gracefully bear the rude customers pushing and shoving to try to force their way past or to jump into the spot I’m vacating before I’m actually out of the way. Have absolutely no patience for unsolicited comments from passersby or other shoppers in the vicinity of myself and the grandkids. With all this against the idea of me going shopping, I enjoy time with my grandchildren, so I often will go with them.
When the kids were very small, Lindsay and I usually only took one or two with us, leaving the others behind with their father. As they got older, though the chaos was still present, it was a different kind of chaos. Babies crying to be held, changed, or fed can’t be dealt with by a good talking to. They can’t be quieted by a stern look. Bigger kids…that’s a different story. By the time the kids were aged 2, 4, 5, and 6, we had an easier time of it if everyone was present. Often, my son-in-law, Kris, would take the boys and go to the automotive department, leaving Lindsay and me to shop for clothes for the two girls. When we were done with them, I would go off with the girls to look at toys and household items, while Lindsay and Kris shopped for the boys. It was a fairly good arrangement….Until nosy people decided they needed to make comments.
The first time I overheard a comment directed to Lindsay, I was outraged. Lindsay was about four months along in her last pregnancy. Noah was in the seat of the cart, while the girls hovered nearby. I had just stepped away to look at some items on an end cap when an older woman opened her mouth and showed her stupidity and rudeness.
“Oh, my!” she said in surprise, “So many children and all of them so young. Are they all yours?”
Lindsay smiled at her and nodded. I had turned around to watch and listen to the exchange, surprised that anyone was interested enough to strike up a conversation.
“Are they all to the same father?” Stupid asked while looking pointedly at my daughter’s empty ring finger. Lindsay suffered from severe swelling of her hands and fingers and had been forced to remove her wedding and engagement rings. I watched as shock registered on her face, before she managed to choke out a “yes” in reply.
Stupid must have been embarrassed by her obvious blunder because she mumbled something about “such pretty children” and quickly moved down the aisle away from my daughter’s reddening face. I was on the verge of chasing the old bat down but Lindsay shook her head, remarking how utterly rude people have become when compared to past eras. My problem was that this very woman who had asked the questions, came from a period when doing so would be branded as low class and totally inappropriate. What has happened to give those raised with higher standards, the idea that those standards are no longer necessary?
Lindsay was asked the same questions on another occasion, except this time Stupid #2 came right out and asked if Lindsay was married to the father, rather than bothering to look at her ring finger. On yet a third occasion, a woman not only asked these same questions, but followed up by remarking about how unbelievably well cared and looked after the children appeared to be. Since when did having a family of more than 2.2 children become an indication of whoring? Since when did having a larger family indicate an inability to care for that family? Since when did a larger family mean that the father couldn’t possibly be married to the mother and have participated in the decision to produce so many offspring? More importantly, I’d like to know when appearing in public with a family bigger than the norm, became grounds for lack of manners on the part of strangers? When was it decided that parents of a large family need to be given unsolicited advice, comments, or asked rude questions by ill bred idiots?
There is a huge difference in how the father of four children is treated in comparison to that of the mother. Sometimes Kris will take the kids off with him while Lindsay and I shop, and other times he will move a few feet away with the kids in tow. Why does a father, who appears to be alone minding his children, attract so much attention? There have been countless numbers of women of all ages who have taken the time to stop and speak with him. Almost every time, these women assume something has happened to the children’s mother, like she’s met some untimely tragic end. It’s not unusual for older women to come right out and ask what has happened to their mother, a tone of sympathy and compassion carried in their voices. When they learn that Mom is somewhere else in the store, their eyes widen in disbelief and amazement, often giving him kudos for taking on the task of “babysitting” so many children. Why is it that Dad is considered to be babysitting while Mom is expected to mind the children? Though he, too, is questioned about whether all the children are his, the tones and gestures are never disapproving, but rather illustrative of empathy for a man whom they believe is burdened with a lazy, uncaring mother for his children. And they never ask him if he is married to the mother. I guess it’s alright for Dad not to marry the mother of his children.
Another topic favored by morons is that of financial ability. Inevitably, these half-wits will want to know how Lindsay and Kris can possibly afford to take care of so many children. If the question is asked of Lindsay, then the tone and facial expressions of those asking almost always imply that she must rely on Welfare to accomplish the task. When she replies with a remark about her husband having a good job, the lamebrains are amazed that Lindsay is a stay at home Mom, insisting that supporting so many on one paycheck isn’t possible. If it’s Kris being asked, the question is voiced in wonderment. When it’s made known that his wife is very good at stretching his paycheck, the nitwits are even more admiring of a man who is so burdened by a wife who refuses to work to help carry the load.
My daughter has exhibited much more patience than I would ever have been capable of sustaining. I’ve given her a list of suggested responses to stupid and rude questions, that I hope she will one day employ. To the question of whether her children all have the same father – “Well, of course! We are all God’s children.” or “I don’t believe in fathers!” or “Yes, but I’m not sure of their mothers.” To the question of whether she married their father – “No. I don’t know him well enough to marry him.” or “Of course not! It’s illegal to have two husbands.” To the remarks about their well cared for appearance – “Well, appearances certainly are deceiving!” To questions about how she can afford them – “Shoplifting, of course!” as she looks left and right while stuffing an article under her shirt. To questions regarding how she manages to have enough time – “Well hosing them off takes care of baths and laundry all at the same time!” and “Most people don’t realize it, but paper plates are reusable.”
Most of these responses can work for Kris with a little altering. As for the question of what happened to the mother, I’ve advised him to lean in conspiratorially and whisper, “I killed her, but I’m looking for a replacement. Interested???” He should stare intensely into their eyes while waiting for an answer, and then laugh maniacally as they hurry away.
I know such drastic measures won’t stop strangers from being rude. It won’t stop them from making an initial approach. It won’t make them any more intelligent. But it will certainly give us all many moments of entertainment!
- “Those People Are So Rude!” (diversityandinclusionatwork.com)
- My family speaks WHALE! (soylunaymeexpreso.wordpress.com)
- The Daily Stat: Congested Spaces Give Rise to Most Incidents of Rudeness (womensphilanthropy.typepad.com)
- Customers vs. Employees: Can’t we just all get along? (shansshenanigans.com)