Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Lady in the Checkout Line

A few weeks ago I was standing in line at the grocery store when the woman behind me struck up a conversation about Patrick.  He was sitting happily, people watching, smiling at every person who glanced his way.  Paul had Sadie and Maggie in the cart in front of us, a strategy we employ often when we're out shopping, with Paul and the girls walking around looking at everything Meijer has to offer, while Patrick and I get down to the serious business of shopping.

After commenting on how happy Patrick was and how he must have just woken up from a nap (he hadn't, but I smiled, happy that she seemed happy to see a baby) she glanced over at Mae and Sadie and back at Patrick and added:  "But they certainly are close together, aren't they?"

I smiled and looked over at the girls who were watching Daddy load the bags into the cart.  Mae was doing surprisingly well, since making our way through the narrow candy shoot that leads to checkout is like running the gauntlet every single time we go to the store.

"Our oldest is five, and our next is three and then this little guy is ten months old."  I said with a smile.  "There are two years between each one."

"Yes.  Two years."  She replied.  "That is very close together."  I smiled, because it seemed like such a funny thing to say to some person you'd never met.

"It's great," I said, although the smile was beginning to feel slightly strained.  "They all play together."

"And fight," she said adamantly.  "They play when they're not all fighting."

I just continued to smile and decided to hold my peace.  I didn't need to say anything else.  She wasn't really listening.

A few moments later we were pushing our little trio out to the car.  And I laughed all the way there because if you could have heard the stress on the words "very close together" you might think that it was something rather horrible we'd done and really ought to be ashamed of, rather than having three joyful and at that moment in time, happy and well behaved, children.

Or maybe I'm just leaning more towards laughing these days when confronted with people who make rather rude observations to strangers, because oh-my-goodness, I thought they still taught manners in the 1950s and I'm pretty sure that publicly questioning strangers in a disapproving tone on their child spacing is a no-no.

I didn't argue with her on the last point, because I doubted that she would have believed me.

Our kids don't fight.  They don't argue with each other.  Oh, maybe every other week Maggie pinches her sister if Sadie tries to boss her around, but it ends with the pinch and a talk about "giving your sister space" on the one hand and "not pinching" on the other.  And I have to say things like "Give your brother back his dinosaur.  He was playing with that first." and "It's your sisters turn to play with the water colors.  You can go next." which sometimes results in pouting, but in terms of conflict between them, that's usually the worst of it.  They're a pretty peaceful bunch.

I really hadn't given it much thought until her comment.  I guess it is unusual, at least in the pictures I've always seen painted of sibling interaction.  But they spend most of their days playing together and while we certainly have stressful moments and our share of difficulties, that particular issue hasn't been one of them.  Maybe it is because Mae is autistic.  Maybe it's because Sadie is so focused on "doing what God wants" (as she's said so many times) and maybe it's because she loves being the big sister and helping me with "the babies."  Maybe, in the future, they'll more than make up for it (oh I hope not!).

In the end, I can't but help feeling bad for someone who sees a group of smiling children and can't help but voice every pessimistic thought that pops into her head.  I can't help but feel sadness for a world that so often sees happy, smiling children, and somehow can't get past the idea that children are a burden who would change everything, without realizing that life is constantly changing, no matter how hard we try to pin it down and make sure everything is exactly as we like it.  And sometimes those changes, which seem so frightening are the ones that teach us the most and bring us the most joy when we finally open ourselves to the possibilities they bring and stop fighting to keep things the same.


  1. People think my children are a year apart. Its because the oldest was born in January and the youngest in Dec. But its more like two. I get weird looks but then I point out its not a year so they relax. I cant imagine mothers who do have kids a year apart or adoptions where both arent twins but are months apart. People just need to mind their ps and qs and stop worrying. It works even if they do fight from time to time.

  2. It is sad, isn't it? I remember buying a pregnancy test when my oldest was a toddler, and having the cashier say, "Oops!" to me. I was shocked by her reaction! It wasn't any of her business, but we were hoping our children would be close together in age. Through birth and through adoption, we ended up with 5 children, the oldest of which is 7 years older than the youngest. What a blessing!

  3. Two years is too close? Wow, I know a lot of parents whose kids are under 18 months apart (many of them did this so they could be "done" with babies, but still)! I was badgered as soon as my first turned 1 about when I would get pregnant again (although then too, it was so that I could be "done"....)

    There's just no pleasing some folks.

  4. Oh my, she thinks your kids are close in age? Mine are 14 months apart! lol I'm thankful that so far anyon I meet seems to think it's wonderful or they do a very good job of pretending because I don't pick up anything other than happiness.

    I don't understand how we've come to a place in the world where we believe children are anything, but a blessing.

  5. Our first four were five and under, we always had people make comments. I always respond with what a blessing they and their now three more siblings are. Then I make sure to comment on how wonderful it is they they keep each other so busy. When the final question shows up of are you having anymore I always respond, "We don't answer that question, God will decide.". That shuts them up quick in a way I know Glorifies God. Keep up the good work.

  6. Huh. I had mine 33 minutes apart. Think that would have elicited a snide comment or two? :P

  7. Have to admit I get stuck on two years being "so close together". Of our four living children, the biggest space is 22 months, because of the little one we lost at 12 weeks between them. We do end up with some disagreements about toys, and with two rough and tumble boys (3 1/2 and 2) sometimes wrestling matches can lead to offended feelings, but there is no doubt they all love each other. The most conflict is between my two middle boys - they are the closest in age, but also like all the same toys, and are not as mature to understand sharing, being quiet, etc.

  8. Another great post Cam. We often get the "they are so close together comment" from people. Our clan spans 25 months, 30 months and 37 months (with a miscarriage in between the last 2). Even the 3 year span gets comments from some people. But then again, the fact that you have more than 1 or 2 children gets comments from people most days. I just look at people and say that we wouldn't have it another way and smile. The smile usually quiets them pretty quickly. Blessings on the rest of your week!

  9. I don't think two years apart is too close. From my point of view of wanting a sibling growing up I would have loved a sibling two year older or younger than me. Instead of the nine years between me and my sister. I know my mom would have rather had children two years apart because she wanted a big family. But sadly that wasn't how it worked out, leaving me with four siblings I never got to meet.

    My mom on the other hand got the whole why did you wait so long to have another kid. I think people don't realize that sometimes their comments hurt more than think they did.

  10. People just need to mind their own darn business.

  11. I think the old biddies are just jealous. We have these beautiful blessings and they don't so they feel obliged to rain on our day.

    So far, none of them have caught me on a bad day.

    Then again, my happy contented face, thanks to some unfortunate but often useful genetics, is NOT all that approachable so only the really pushy ones say anything at all.

    You are pretty with an open and friendly expression and look happy, which also seems to bring out the worst in both old and young biddies.

    Me, unless I am lit up with laughter, I look like a grumpy old witch, so they leave me alone. Sometimes, the homely grump face is a blessing. :) My husband says when I am actually really grumpy that I resemble the mother from the movie "Throw Momma from the Train" and that usually makes me laugh because I never see that face and by the time someone tells me to go look, I am laughing again.

    Two years is biologically natural, so there is no problem with it IMO. Why not have them close together, that way, when you have had the joys and trials of raising them and they are heading out and your nest is looking empty, you can pick up some more education and dive into a new career?

  12. I realize not everyone could say this, but if it was me, I'd have had to add, "Oh my brother and I fought like cats and dogs and we were five years apart. Closer together makes them closer. How far apart are your kids?" And then either hear how her experience is different and hopefully she'll realize there isn't an absolute rule on the subject, or hear how she doesn't have kids and don't know squat on the subject.

  13. "I thought they still taught manners in the 1950s..."
    LOL! I immediately thought, well, they did still teach manners in the 1950's, but then came WOMEN'S LIBERATION in the 1960's, where all rules of polite society were thrown out the window in favor of being stridently outspoken about just about everything traditionally male and female.
    I do love your attitude and response though, because it is kind, and not aggressive or defensive. That speaks volumes to me about your inner self, and your values and character. You seem to be living gospel values, turning the other cheek when someone is not considerate. That's wonderful!

  14. You forget, Cam, that truly human life, and all that is the glorious emancipation of everything true, good, and beautiful in our enlightened civilization, began with The Pill.

    ;-) TB


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