Monday, August 09, 2010

Questions and Stares

As my children get older, we get less and less attention from strangers intrigued by multiples--but they do still come. I understand that people are just curious--but sometimes I think they forget their manners. In this day and age of invasive reality television, something has been lost regarding respecting privacy.

Yes, I blog about our family. I put it out there. Still, I am discerning about what I choose to share with the world wide web. I am still somewhat amazed at the audacity some people have in asking me very personal questions about the conception of my children.

I am a fairly open book, so sometimes it surprises even me how offensive, intrusive and inappropriate the questions can feel. I know that the vast majority are based solely in a person's curiosity and yet it can feel judgmental, embarrassing and like I am being put on the spot. 

Most questions reflect little concern for my feelings or those of my children--but are just because they wanted to know. Your curiosity is not an adequate excuse for making someone else feel odd. 

Some questions may seem innocent enough, but I would rather my 6 year olds not have to try and figure out what these things mean or why they matter:
"Are they natural?"
"Are they real?" or
"Did you have to take drugs?"

When the questioner is going through their own fertility struggle or has been through the valley of infertility, I am generally more understanding of their desire to connect. But the other questions, depending on my mood, usually just seem unnecessary. If you don't know someone very well, it is generally not advisable to ask them intimate questions regarding the conception of their children.

While we are on the subject, please also try to avoid saying things like:
"Better you than me." or
"I'd kill myself." 
Unfortunately, both of these comments have been made on more than one occasion.

The proper response is always one of support, encouragement and blessing. 

I can only imagine what it feels like to have other more unusual outward markers that announce to the world that you have a story. Ivey's Mama wrote a very thought-provoking and enlightening post about this very subject recently. Check it out for the perspective of a Mom of a child with special needs. 


LS said...

totally feel you on this. . .but not as a mother of multiples, rather as a child who is adopted. people ask me ALL the time if i know my 'real parents.' ((often followed by, 'well don't you want to find your 'real parents' ')) i always respond, 'of course i do. . .i lived in their home for 18 years.' i often don't mind the curiosity, and like you, i am an open book. i really want to encourage any and every believer to adopt if they feel called. i think adoption is one of the most beautiful things. . .but some of the questions i get -- seriously? i wonder if people are actually thinking before the words come out of their mouths. . .

ChelseaSalomone said...

I am embarassed for the people who ask these things or make those kind of comments quite frankly. Who wouldn't look at your three beautiful children and see the joy they radiate and the blessing they are? I can kind of relate- when Nick was going through chemo luckily strangers couldn't really tell so we avoided a lot of that but people we "kind of know" started coming out of the woodworks with questions and now they are all wanting to know what specifically we are going to do about Nick's fertility, etc.

It is frustrating but I know you handle it with grace.

ChelseaSalomone said...

And I'm embarrassed I misspelled embarrassed. :)

Melissa from Puddin Pop Designs said...

Thank you for this post. As a mom of a singleton and two sets of twins- all born within 3 1/2 years, I totally understand where you are coming from. Most days people are kind and considerate but there are those days that I run into someone that is so rude and offensive I just have to bite my tounge and think "let your light shine!", when I really want to snap back with a sassy comment! I have had people follow me in stores, corner me on ailes and I just wonder, what gives them the boldness to be that way?? Never mind the fact that it's rude and my children hear every word they say, but don't they realize that in this day and age it can be really frightening for a mom with young children, no matter how many she has?

JMom said...

Chelsea- When my friend Sweeney was sick (and looked like a chemo patient) he actually had a stranger in Panera ask him if he had a bucket list!
LS- Thanks for the example from your own life with adoption. May be all have a guard over our lips.
I know I am very guilty of speaking when I should be quiet--just because silence feels awkward.

JMom said...

Melissa- I'll bet you do get similar questions. I have literally (when they were younger) had people step in front of my grocery cart or block our path so I had to engage in conversation as they stared and questioned us. It can be intimidating.

Ashley said...

I am so blessed to read your blog, your trio has given me such a sweet look into motherhood. I am certain people mean well, but I am glad you reminded us to be careful what we say. This is way off, but the other night a dear friend and I made a quick trip to Walmart after a girl's night (her husband and my boyfriend worked late that night). This lady saw us walk in and said, WOW you two girls are way to pretty and dressed up to be in Wal-Mart and if my son saw ya'll he would be all over you two. Shocked, yes I was and I felt like people stared at me my entire 30 minutes in Wal Mart. Did this woman really have to say that? She made me self conscience for being dressed up? By the way the two us had on earrings, capris and cute simple shirts. Didn't know being dressed up was cause to speak and make me want to run the other way. I know that may be very different from comments in front of children, but I honestly felt uneasy in my own skin for the time I was in the store. Goes to show some people need to say nothing at all! Thanks for sharing! Blessings, Ashley

Marva said...

I have much to add but I am only going to say, I completely understand. When the twins were younger (they are 4 now) I was told by a lady (that her daughter was expecting triplets at the time), that their triplets were "God given". I was really taken back! I have experienced many comments, some of which you put in your post!

Trying to let HIS light shine!


D said...

If you really want people to ask questions, be a foster parent with babies about the same age, but all different "colors". At one point, I an african american, one white as a piece of paper with white hair, one olived skin brown hair white, & a child of mixed heritage.
NOW, that will get you some questions at walmart! Ater 5 years of questions and stares. I really don't notice anymore. I've got milk to buy.
By the way...I need to ask you a question regarding one of your ministries, & can't find your email. can you email me

Kristen said...

Thanks for this post, esp. the link. This is a great reminder to all of us to be aware of all our actions- including facial expressions. We are just beginning our road with dealing with stares now that R is older but not bigger. I am not looking forward to it but was encouraged by the post that you sent as a link. We have not encountered too much yet but I have to laugh when people ask R's age and then look at me as if I a don't know the real age of my chld. Thanks for sharing!

Just Another Ordinary Miracle said...

Thanks Jennifer. It really means alot. I read the post above and can only laugh - I get that all the time. People ask me how old Ivey is - I tell them - and they ask "Are you sure?". I haven't yet molded the answer to that one where sarcasm isn't rolling apparent...- as I recall I was there.

It really means alot to have another Ivey advocate in our little town.

See you next Monday :)

J & A said...

Ugh, this makes me mad too, although I am guessing I'm less gracious about it than you. ;-) We have five under six including two very obviously adopted Chinese daughters (and three bio kids who don't particularly look like either of us) and the questions/comments never cease to amaze me. I admit to playing dumb fairly often...when people ask if we're the 'real parents' I stare back blankly or pretend not to have any clue what they're saying. Works like a charm! ;-) Of course, in all seriousness, thanks for posting this - what a good reminder. Your benevolent attitude probably serves you really well and that's a huge encouragement for me, as a somewhat-snarky mom in those scenarios. Yikes.

Perri said...

I have good days and some not so good. It's easier as they older, but when the little ones were 3, 3, 3 and 5, and I would hear, "Better you than me." ...I would just say, "I think so, too."

But if I was having a bad day and somebody would ask me if they were ALL mine, I would tell them they were ALL mine, but NOT ALL OF mine -- which would leave them open mouthed.

Or if I was in a really crappy mood, I might reply, "Yes, I have 6 children with 5 different fathers." Then just walk away.

Looking back, I probably should have mentioned they were adopted, but I had too much to do -- keeping track of ALL those kids.

Peter and Nancy said...

I feel like I could've written this post. :o) We have two biological sons, 8 and 9, who are often mistaken for twins, and an adopted daughter from India (and we're waiting for another). When my husband and I are together, people "get" it, but anytime I'm out with them by myself we get lots of stares, and sometimes rude questions. I usually don't mind if someone is obviously interested in adopting (unless we're close to a public meltdown or in a hurry!). Now that our daughter is 3 1/2, though, she can understand EVERYTHING people say, including the rude or inappropriate questions. I try to use these chances to educate others and be salt and light, but if we are in a hurry, I just give them a polite, short answer and a smile.