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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Things to Never Say to a Mom of Small Children (unless you have a death wish).

(Picture courtesy of

 Picture me, eight months pregnant, with two older children marching behind me.

I'm carrying my two year old through the aisles of Target, making my way to the registers as though they are the Promised Land.  The toddler is alternating writhing and screaming in my arms with a maneuver I have coined "going boneless"--a truly spectacular move which entails his entire body going limp and all thirty-eight pounds of him becoming a large, helpless sack of potatoes.
I'm dragging and coaxing and threatening ("you will NOT be watching ANY Yo Gabba Gabba tonight or ANY NIGHT FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE").  I'm begging: "Please, please, PLEASE throw mama a freaking bone here and I will buy you a milkshake/go-go boots/a six-pack on the way home".  I'm internally questioning the Life Choices that brought me to this place--the getting married, the careless procreative middle of the night activities, the whole "babies are so cute" bullshit I believed back when I was sleeping 6 hours in a row and should have known better.

But none of this is working.  The two year old is still an irrational mass of destruction, the two older children are holding a gallon of milk and a package of diapers and semi-unkempt and I am still extremely with child and resembling a curly-haired hippopotamus. There are four people in front of at the register and all we can do is wait and be consumed with self-pity.

It's a bad, bad, bad picture.  I know.

And now? Picture you.

Picture you watching this scene unfold from where you stand, one register over, with your single frozen pie slice and dental floss.  You are the kind of person who is very attentive to your dental health.  You are an avid bird watcher.  You had two children, a boy and a girl, two years apart.  They slept through the night when they were six weeks old and they have superior penmanship. The younger one is getting married in May and you are already planning the fete.  There are going to be butter patties shaped like swans.

Because of all of the above, and because I must seem like I require your involvement (what, with the boneless sack of potatoes, the children with the donuts on their faces and my ever-growing ass), you feel like now is the perfect time to impart your wisdom upon me.

"You have your hands full, dontchya!"

Your voice is cool and loud.  And in hearing this phrase, one that my children have heard so many times before, my son's hysterics immediately cease as he and his brother and sister turn to look, first at you and then at me.  They are waiting for what inherently comes next in these situations: the heated reply, the instinctive reaching for my purse for any sharp object I can find, the perpetrator recoiling in horror.

You see, I've heard it all before.  As a mom of four children and now two step-children, I am used to the stares and the comments.  I am used to you watching from your car while I unload kids from my mini-van like clowns from the VW Bug at the Big Top.  After a couple of kids, I figured it out.

All of your "well-meaning" advice?  Mostly it means something other than what you are saying.
Just because my yoga pants are on inside-out and there is a sucker stick in my hair, don't think I can't hear the insincerity dripping in your voice.

So here is my HANDY POCKET TRANSLATION GUIDE for all of you "well-meaning" strangers that will inevitably come into contact with me and my brood.  

Are they all yours?
After you had two bad ones, why did you have more?
You are a busy lady!
You need to be on a more effective birth control plan!
I don’t know how you do it!
You aren’t doing it very well.
You look so young to have so many!
I’m pretty sure I saw you on Teen Mom.
They sure are an active bunch!
They look like they could really break things.
Your poor little guy is probably just hungry/tired/teething!
Let me translate why your baby is crying because clearly you don’t understand his needs.
They are so…cute.
I can’t think of anything nice to say so I will lie.

I never brought my baby/toddler/to the store/mall/gas station/restaurant.
I’m better than you.
I would just leave the store if my kids acted like that.
I’m better than you.
You look exhausted.
I take a shower every day.
I sleep when it’s dark out.
These are clean clothes I’m wearing.
And I’m better than you.

So before you have some "helpful" comment you need to share with me, consider the above.

And also consider this--Have you heard the phrase "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all"?  Well, that was your mom that said that. She was saying it to some well meaning stranger who was reprimanding you in the supermarket, for chewing on your shoe.

Your mother knew how to handle other people's advice.  She was doing the best she could, after all.

And she just wanted you to be happy and content. Isn't that all we want for our children?

The stranger walked away and your mother patted you lovingly on the head.  And you happily kept munching that mid-century plastic bootie.

And look how fabulous you turned out to be.

                                      How could you not appreciate their lovable wackiness?

This post is dedicated to Andrea Morrow O'Keefe, thank you for the commiseration and the inspiration. <3

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