Being the mother of ten children is a demographic detail that I sometimes find awkward to reveal to casual acquaintances. When the subject of children comes up, I usually find it best to just select one of my brood to talk about by name.
“Yes, my son Matthew is also into backyard football.” Or, “No, my daughter Hannah doesn’t like that fashion either.” Seems like the kindest thing to do for the poor stranger.
I’ve written before about being out in public with our large family. But when I’m out alone, no one has a clue…unless I’m pregnant and shopping for groceries.
With the cultural trend toward later childbearing, some of the other shoppers would give me an odd benefit of the doubt. But sometimes the full revelation is simply unavoidable.
I would approach a checkout line at Wal-Mart with my burgeoning belly and two carts piled high with groceries. “So, is this your first?” someone would ask. As if I were really going to eat all that food by myself! I would try to soften the blow: “No, I have others.”
For some, this would suffice. But sometimes someone would look me in the eye and ask, “Oh, how many?”
There’s no way to break something like this gently. “Nine...this will be my tenth. Isn’t that just crazy?!” I would submit with a chuckle. Then I would wait to see what would happen next.
Sometimes the curious soul would join me in a laugh. And sometimes we both stood there in complete silence. They simply did not know what to say!
One woman must win the award for the most outlandish response. I was standing in line at my local Kroger grocery store. She asked the question. I gave my chuckling response. And suddenly her friendly demeanor disappeared. She became angry and said, “No you don’t!”
I was definitely taken aback. I found myself getting angry too and began arguing with this total stranger. Finally, I just turned my back on her and went back to unloading my groceries. She stormed off, never believing my answer.
The whole experience really jarred me for some reason. Could it have been the hormones coursing through my body in its eighth month pregnancy? As I sat in my car on the drive home, I could still feel the pangs of anger. How dare she argue with me? I was there in the delivery room. Of course I know how many kids I have!
Finally, the humor of the situation dawned on me, and I realized I was giving away my energy to a most absurd problem.
I will never know what caused this woman to come unglued. Maybe she didn’t like kids. Maybe she was a believer in zero population growth. Maybe she had never heard God’s perspective on children being an incredible blessing from Him. Or maybe she had already picked ten fights that day with other strangers about equally absurd things.
Whatever the cause, I learned some valuable lessons. Do not expect others to understand or embrace your life choices and callings. Do not expect strangers to behave reasonably in public. And never give your energy away to foolish, stupid arguments ….either at home or the grocery store!
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