Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Taking the Freak Show on the Road

There's nothing like a vacation to remind you that your family is far from the average size. Most of the time I don't mind the looks or the comments, and most of the time the things people say to me are positive. I do start to wonder sometimes if I'm the only woman in the world with more than a few children, the way people stare, count, and comment.

This trip, there was no hiding the size of our family. After all, we were driving this monster:

And even when we divided the kids up, someone always had four or more kids. Four seems to be the magic point at which reaction goes from, "Cute kids" to "You must be crazy."

But being a bit unusual does make for some fun vacation memories, such as:

*A few years ago we took our family of five children to Universal Studios. Right after we walked in, we were surrounded by Asian tourists eager to take our picture. We were the main attraction that day. One Japanese woman came and stood next to me and put her hands on my stroller while her husband took her picture with all our kids. At one of the shows, we were about the only people without black hair. I saw lots of folks pointing our way and talking excitedly in Japanese. One woman near us turned around and said in broken English, "one, two, tree, fo, five, All your?"

*In January, we went to a nice Mexican restaurant in Arizona with our six children. I was on edge, hoping everyone would behave. The kids did great, which made me feel a lot better about all the other tables staring at ours. One man came up to us on his way out and asked us if they were all ours. When we said yes, he said, "Large families are awesome!"

*Not everyone likes kids, though. We went to the Heard Museum -- a renowned Native American Museum -- in Arizona in January. As soon as we walked in, a docent saw how many kids we had, and she tried to herd us towards the small children's area on the far side of the museum. The docent gave us detailed directions. We started off that way, but then looked at our watches and realized they had guided tours beginning soon. We went back to the front, where the woman didn't even try to hide her dismay, "Couldn't you find it?" When we told her we wanted to have a tour, she set us up with our own guide so we wouldn't disturb the patrons in the other group. Our tour guide was as nice as could be and really geared his information towards the things the kids would be interested in. It was a fascinating museum, and I'm glad we were able to enjoy the whole musuem, not just the small area for kids.

*I'm always amused by people who think I'm amazing when I only have half my kids with me. I was walking around Disneyland with just four of my kids, when one woman noticed me and said, "Wow, you're a brave lady!"

*Last April, when I was pregnant with #7, we were in line for a show at Disneyland. A woman noticed our children, and said, "Wow, five kids?" "Six actually," we said, pointing to the one she had missed. "Don't you have a TV?" she asked. We stammered something or other, and I think she felt really bad because she then told us about a family she knew with five children and how she thinks it's neat.

*In line for Pirates of the Caribbean, I could hear a woman the next row over counting, "one, two, three, four, five, six . . . SIX children?" she asked me incredulously. "Seven actually," I said.

*We met a family from Tennessee at the Las Vegas Children's Museum. The mother had five kids, the youngest 3-year-old twins. She seemed shocked that we had seven, which in my mind isn't much different than five, but then I realized the incredulity was because we'd been brave enough to have two more kids AFTER having twins.

*If people are impressed with me (for good or ill), they are absolutely flabbergasted at DH. On his trip to California with four of the kids, he got lots of looks and comments. One man assumed he must be the non-custodial dad, taking his kids for "his week," and was floored when DH told him he'd left his pregnant wife home with two more. At Disneyland, DH probably went on more rides with more little kids than I did. At times, he took six kids in line with him while I fed Harmony. He also took six kids swimming a lot while I stayed in our room with Harmony. He has no problem being a very involved dad, and it surprises a lot of people.

Sometimes I like the attention, especially the positive. I don't mind being asked, "Are they all yours?" because I know that people do take other people's children along on adventures -- their kids' friends or their cousins or whoever. I don't mind being asked if twins run in my family, because I know people are curious about that. I like being asked specific questions about how I handle things, because I think I have figured out some good organization methods that I don't mind sharing.

But other times, I get tired of being the oddball. I get tired of moms assuming I must be a totally different person than they are because I have more children. I get tired of being asked, "how do you do it?" because I think I do it the same way they do: one day at a time, the best I can, with lots of mistakes thrown in for good measure. We met one family near the elevators at our hotel who had four kids, one with down syndrome. Even they asked us, "Wow, how do you handle seven kids?" when I was thinking the same thing about them.


Freaky Wizzard MoM said...

Christina -- you just have a way with words!!! I so admire all that you have done with your family and can only hope that at some time in my life I can gain some of those insights that will help things run smoother for us. I get some of those comments when I take the 5 children I have and am shocked when people think it is a lot, when I know that you have 7, and I came from a family of 8 kids ... It's crazy how people connect a number to an amount. A lot, average, not enough -- etc...

Great thoughts and insights. I was laughing through some of it because I can totally relate.

16 blessings'mom said...

I can totally relate to some of the comments you get about "all those kids"....and I sometimes feel like I, too, would like to be just a "normal" mom.....people assume I must have natural extra patience or super-duper organizational skills when in reality I obviously don't....I enjoy your blog.

Jody said...

I would say it is your positive attitude and of course a huge amount of love that is the secret for you and your DH. You also strike me as a very patient person - definitely an asset with lots of kids. I only had 4 but without patience I would have been up the creek without a paddle!

You are doing wonderful and are to be admired.

Hailey said...

My mother-in-law had seven kids in ten years, with one set of twins in there and she actually had a few choice people get upset with her for contributing to overpopulation! All seven turned out exceptionally well, and she even got seven grandkids in six months! (Two sets of twins in there, but still!) I say way to go!

3in3mom said...

Yeah, always great to get "you have your hands full" comments. I think it's great that there are people like you who will obey the call to multiply and replenish and have joy in their posterity. All things you do and I admire.

We are blessed to have our three and though it's not 7,8, 9 or 10 the Lord gives us what we receive--thanks for sharing your family adventures.

Cherie said...

I take a peek at your blog here and there from Nickie's site. This blog made me laugh since I wrote something similar a couple months ago, so I had to say hi!
We have 3 kids that are close together, and we're hopefully no where close to being finished. You'd think the sun was starting to set in the East by some people's awes. It's amazing. Anyway, just wanted to add my encouragements, and that mom's just starting on the paths of further chaos love having mom's "with all those kids" to look up to.

Our little family said...

I think we all look at you and marvel that you're raising 7 well behaved children. But I would never treat you differently if you lived in our ward! I, too, get tired of the "How do you do it?" question as a mother of a child with a disability. I don't see myself as any different than anyone else. I do it one day at a time with yelling and tears and chaos and plenty of love, just like you do (I'm not insinuating you yell a lot :)). Just keep doing what you know is best, and ignore all the comments and stares. And remember that people often say dumb things when they feel awkward or surprised.

Lindsay Ruiz said...

Girl, I think you are doing great. Seven children is a lot and I think I am so amazed because I'm still trying to figure out how to control my three. I want five so it's great to see that you can be sane and happy with that many children. Besides you adjust one at a time, or in your case two, and you grow each time. You're a good example to me and I think you are doing a great job. I would still like to get together and let the little girls play. I also really enjoy your blog. You have great writing skills and your personality really comes through.


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