I’m getting pretty tired of the fact that the majority of the time I’m in public with my kids, we are insulted.
Insulted by people trying to make conversation and be friendly, I think? Though sometimes that’s hard to believe when their comments are very blatantly rude.
Here’s the latest example…
Checkout lady: “Four girls, wow. Didn’t you want a boy?”
Me: “Um… yeah four girls”
Lady: “Wow I feel so sorry for your partner!”
Me: “Why? Girls are awesome”
Lady: “Haha. Oh just being surrounded by girls. Poor thing.”
Only a week earlier my husband received this…
Stranger: “Oh 3 girls! What did you do wrong?”
Him: “Actually I have 4 so I must have done a lot of things right!”
Is it really that hard to believe that people might be happy with their children? Is it really that difficult to recognise that these are incredibly rude and hurtful things to say in front of said children?
The number of times my girls have heard commiserations from strangers over their existence is beyond belief. And I’m feeling pretty done.
What I need is to be more prepared.
When I shared about our latest encounter I received lots of good advice from people who find themselves regularly in the same position. Whether it’s comments about their children’s gender, their family size, or comments on how horrible children are in general. Sooo many people. So many wonderful children receiving the message that they were a disappointment to their parents. So many people, enough that we can start changing this.
What if our responses could make people reconsider their throw away comments? What if we could help them realise how rude and invalidating these remarks were? All we need is a little bit of preparation and courage right? Will you join me?
I’ve made a list of things I can say and next time I will be ready.
So here are my thoughts…
Start With Positivity
Most of these people are trying to be friendly and start a conversation, just in a very misguided way. And we’d also like to avoid awkwardness and send our kids a positive message right? So I think start with positivity! Change the tone and send the message that those comments are way way off the mark.
Whether it’s ‘poor you having so many girls/boys’, or a comment on the size of your family like ‘surely you’re done now?’ or ‘don’t you own a TV’, throw them back some positive vibes.
“We’re really happy!”
“Aren’t children just awesome?”
“We love our family!”
“We are so blessed”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way”
“Yes, my hands are full, but my heart is fuller”
“My partner loves his/her kids, of course.”
“Yes, I’m totally crazy about them!”
Repeat the Question
Sometimes positivity doesn’t put them off, like in the example above… time for approach number two! Repeat the question back to them, as if asking for clarification. Surely if they really hear what they are asking, and have to explain their question further, it will become obvious how rude it is? We can only hope…
“Did we want boys instead of the girls we have?”
“Is my partner unhappy with his/her children?”
“Are you asking whether some of my children were unplanned?”
“Do we own a TV? Are you asking about our sex life?”
“Are you hoping that we are done having children? Why?”
“Are you asking if we love our children, despite their gender?”
Or just ask them to explain…
“I’m not sure what you mean? Could you repeat the question?”
Call Them Out
Ok say you’ve tried the positivity approach, you’ve tried to get them to see the error of their ways themselves, and yet they’re still intent on their rudeness. Let’s just call them out on it now. Or if their tone is quite mean to begin with let’s just jump straight to this approach…
“Did you mean to be so rude?”
“Are you implying I’m unhappy with my children?”
“Wow, that’s pretty offensive.”
“I’m happy with my family thanks.”
“I’m not sure my family planning is any of your business.”
“We’re not looking for your opinion on our family thank you.”
“Please don’t comment negatively about my children, especially in front of them.”
“Are you serious?”
“Do you realise how insulting that is?”
If You’re Feeling Snarky
Ok, I’m not opposed to a bit of snarkiness depending on my mood/patience/how many times I have dealt with such comments this week. People are trying to be funny at our expense? Well two can play at that game…
“Why would their sex matter? I don’t plan on inbreeding them”
“We’re happy with these amazing children, regardless of their genitalia, thanks”
“I didn’t quite catch that, but I’ll assume you were complimenting my lovely family. Thanks!”
“You know they can hear you, right?” (gesturing to children)
“I’m not actually sure if we’re done having kids yet, I’ll check back with you when we decide, can I get your number?”
“Yes they’re all mine, did you want one or something?”
“What am I hoping for? A baby, but a puppy would be cute too”
“Do we own a TV? Of course, but we turn it off and have sex.”
“Do we own a TV? Yes, but if you think that’s more fun then I’d say you’re doing it wrong.”
“I’m not sure if you’re aware, but you just said that out loud”
“No, my partner is not disappointed to have daughters, he’s not a misogynistic jerk.”
“Do we know what causes it? Yeah, we just like having sex I guess, don’t you?”
“Do we know what causes it? No, could you explain it to us?”
“The only thing I’m disappointed about is being a part of this conversation.”
It’s astounding to me that people feel these sorts of comments are funny or appropriate, and really highlights the culture of childism that runs through our society. People think nothing of openly expressing their judgement of children’s existence. They freely offer up their appraisal and ask you to join in too, in front of the children!
Newsflash people, children aren’t asking for your evaluation. They don’t need your permission to exist. They are not here solely to please others. They don’t deserve to be made fun of or talked about as if they weren’t even there. Would it be appropriate for a stranger to start a conversation by asking if you were happy with your partner, joking about them being a ‘handful’, or saying you must be crazy to have them in your life? No, that would be absurd! People only do it about children because they are not seen as equal, and often not even human.
I know it’s awkward to call people out on their behaviour, but change can’t come through our silence. We can make a difference! And at the end of the day, what is most important here? A little bit of awkwardness or perpetuating childism? Confronting someone or our children receiving the message that they are not good enough?
We can do it! Change starts with us.