I read an article yesterday about the dumb, insensitive things people say to large families .
The article gave all kinds of clever and sharp responses to the invasive and inappropriate questions people ask. I got a real kick out of it especially since I grew up in a large family myself and remember some of the ignorant comments people made to my parents about having soooo many kids.
Even though I enjoyed the article, it also got me thinking about the way I respond to people when they ask me questions or make comments that I think are dumb or intrusive. At this point in my life, most of the questions and comments I find irritating pertain to a) not having children and b) what I do all day (since I don’t have children and only work part-time outside of the home).
As far as I’m concerned, it’s nobody’s business why we don’t have children and Darren and I joke about the inappropriate and sarcastic things we could say to people to let them know it’s none of their business. Usually we’re perfectly polite and tell people we’re just not ready to have kids–this generally leads to a torrent of unwanted admonishment and advice:
- “You’ll never have enough money to start a family so you’ve just got to go for it!” (I never said I don’t have enough money or am waiting for enough money).
- “Kids are such a joy and add so much to your life–you won’t regret it!” (I never said children are kill-joys or that I’m not looking forward to all they will add to life).
- “You’re running out of time.” (I’m 26, I mean really?).
- Oh, and my personal favorite said repeatedly by my father–“I’ll be dead before you have children and then I’ll never get to enjoy my grandkids.” (Dad, you are a young thing–let’s all just breathe shall we?).
I could go on and on but what I’m starting to realize and think about is this: All the annoying things people say and all the ignorant questions they ask are very likely said with the best of intentions. For the most part, I don’t think anyone who has said these kinds of things to me is trying to be mean, irritating, or intrusive. Most likely they’re just trying to encourage me and let me know that they’re interested in my life and are excited about the day when I start a family (what’s more exciting than a brand new baby after all?). And considering that most people aren’t actually trying to hurt me, is it really fair that my response to them be sharp, sarcastic, or unkind? After all, I’ve asked some pretty dumb questions myself.
There are so many opportunities in life to ask ignorant questions. For example:
- When kids are graduating from high school or college everyone (including me) wants to know what they’re doing next. It’s a pretty harmless question but I remember being the kid graduating and getting asked that question 15,0000000 times and not having an answer and it really drags on you until you’re ready to verbally assault the next person who wants to know “what next?”
- When you’re single, everyone (including me) wants to know if there’s anyone special in your life or if you would like to meet their second cousin’s uncle Fred who’s a really nice guy. When you’re single, the last thing you want to talk about with near strangers is why you’re single and how long you plan on being that way as if there is something wrong with you or something wrong with being single.
- When you get married, as I already said, everyone (including me) wants to know when a baby will be coming.
- When you are pregnant everyone will point out to you that you are pregnant and man you are soooooo big!
- Once you have baby number one, everyone wants to know when you’re having baby number two.
- When you have baby number two everyone wants to know if you know what causes all these babies and when you’re going to stop.
- Regardless of who you are or where you are in life, at some point everyone (including me) is just going to want to know what’s wrong with you and why would you do whatever it is you are doing.
But here’s the thing about all these stupid, annoying questions–they are usually innocent. Yes they can be ignorant and insensitive but they really aren’t meant to harass or hurt you; they are meant to show interest and curiosity. They are meant, in their own odd way, to show love. I can’t even imagine how many dumb hurtful things I’ve said to people over the years but I can be sure that I almost never meant to hurt or to intrude. So the next time someone says something to you that is reeeeeaaaaally really none of their business, just try to remember that you have (or will) ask the same dumb questions at some point and the people asking the questions are just trying to have a conversation not an inquisition (well, most people that is).
Let’s be nice to each other shall we? :]