Open Letter

To one guy in particular and jerks like him everywhere in general:

Perhaps at the top of the list of rudest things you could say to another person is, “Don’t you think it’s time for you to stop [having kids]?”

We passed you on our way into the store; you were on your way out.  You couldn’t resist the urge to comment on my children: “Are they all yours?” – In a tone that suggested I had an entire preschool with me.  (By the way, do you speak to every person you pass in the store entryways, or only those who have more than three children with them?) 

No, they’re not all mine.  Just one of them.  The rest I picked up at the bus stop down the block.  I didn’t say what I wanted to; I just nodded and continued on my path into the store. 

“I have four kids too.” With a satisfied nod, your smugness was justified. 

You had insisted on halting me to listen to what you had to say, so I decided to throw it out there: “My oldest son is gone on a trip right now.”

“You have FIVE???”  One would have thought that I had just tried to walk three elephants, six giraffes, an ostrich, and a rhinoceros into the store.  “Yes, I do.”  And I tried yet again to continue into the store and get on with my day.

“Don’t you think it’s time to stop?”

EXCUSE ME?  I just stared at you.  I did my best to bore a “did-you-really-just-say-that-to-me” look into a hole right between your eyes.

Instead I tried – one more time – to get one with my shopping trip.  This time you followed me BACK into the store.

“Well?  Don’t you?”

Enough was enough.  I shook my head at you in the way someone does when they just cannot believe what is happening, and I walked away.  Had I been without my VERY LARGE BROOD OF CHILDREN, I might have had some very choice things to say to you.

Did you notice that we are all dressed decently, all looking well-put-together, all of my children calm and behaving themselves (if you ignore the fact that one of my two year olds DID NOT want to sit in the cart)?  I mention these things not because they make us “better” people, but because they are further proof that you had absolutely no call, biased or not, prejudiced or otherwise, to say the things you said to me.

Did you bother to think about the fact that the only reason I am BLESSED with as many children as I am, is because there actually ARE parents out there who should not be having children but continue to do so?  Did you even care to consider the fact that what you see as “too many,” I see as “not enough”?  What you think constitutes “time to stop,” I see as barely a drop in the bucket of the children who need the parents who are not only willing to take them in but actually WANT them to be part of their family, regardless of the personal cost.

Would you have shut up had I set you straight on why I have “SO MANY” children and why, “NO, it is NOT time for me to stop!”?  Maybe, but I’m betting against you on that one.  Because anyone with the audacity to tell a stranger it’s time to stop having children – and attempt to demand an answer when one is not given – doesn’t have the capacity to feel compassion for “the least of these.”

And no, I didn’t bother to set you straight.  I stared at you for a moment before simply walking away.  Because first of all, I didn’t want to say something in front of my children that I would later regret; and secondly, it doesn’t matter, because how many children I have, regardless of how they are granted to me, is none of your business.

You, sir, are a smaller person than my smallest child; and she is quite a peanut.

27 comments for “Open Letter

  1. January 8, 2015 at 8:34 am

    I bet this guy has issues of his own that he doesn’t want to look at, so he’s trying to create drama to distract himself. Here’s a generic response for intruders like him: Don’t you think it’s time for you to mind your own business? Though it’s likely your instincts were on target to just walk away and not engage his issues.

    • January 8, 2015 at 10:57 am

      You’re right; that’s a good response. Honestly, I was so flustered and upset that I didn’t trust anything that would come out of my mouth. I’m one of those people who doesn’t form calm, collected, meaningful responses in the moment.

      • January 8, 2015 at 9:11 pm

        I know what you mean. I’m good at thinking of calm responses afterward. Wrote that one partly to remind myself. in case I need it, in the future.

        • January 8, 2015 at 9:13 pm

          It’s a good reminder which I will try to keep on the back burner as well. I’m sure I will need a calm response again some day in the future. I’m honestly surprised this doesn’t happen more often, given the stories I hear from some of my foster/adoptive friends.

  2. January 6, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    What a great post Leigh. It brought tears to my eyes reading about your love for your children and being a mom. So much love and devotion. Every child deserves that.
    What an ass he was! I could not have kept my cool like you did. I really do not think I could have. You are an amazing person. Your post was just so awesome though. Being able to vent about it in a way that also showed your love for your kids and the importance of being a mom and also the need for every child to have a loving home. Just really touching. <3

    • January 6, 2015 at 2:44 pm

      Thank you <3. This post was a few months in the making, in order to be able to address it without losing my cool while writing the letter also ;-).

  3. January 6, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    My mother in law had four biological children, and a stepdaughter. She fostered thousands, over a few decades, and adopted five of those.

    I’m sure she would tell you that it wasn’t enough- because, when age forced her to stop, there was still nothing telling others to stop having children they didn’t want, or couldn’t care for…and nothing really to be sure that parents would be capable and willing of caring for the children they had…

    I’m glad you kept your cool. I’m glad you wrote this, too.

    • January 6, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      God bless your mother in law. That is amazing.

      Exactly. I daily fight the despairing thought that nothing would be enough, and try to listen to my husband’s words of wisdom that for OUR five, we changed the world. (I hope. And I hope that for the ones who didn’t stay with us, we also made some sort of difference.)

      And thank you. I’m glad I was able to write it.

  4. January 6, 2015 at 11:27 am

    My sister had five kids who all ended up with advanced degrees and have added substantially to society. Should have told that person “bite me.” (quietly so the kids wouldn’t hear)

    • January 6, 2015 at 11:30 am

      I’m glad to hear it! I would have, if I could have been certain my mouth wouldn’t keep talking without my permission ;-).

  5. January 6, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Wow that was pretty awful of them to say, and in front of your kids too. I think you were right to not engage with someone like that. I’ve been trying for a year to have a kid and I’d feel blessed with just one. Good on you for not stooping to their level.

    • January 6, 2015 at 10:51 am

      Thank you <3. In the moment I really did want to say something, but I was a little afraid I would lose my temper; hence the walking away.

  6. January 6, 2015 at 10:35 am

    You tell ’em, Leigh. You’re right – saying something to him wouldn’t have made a difference because to have done what he did in the first place is a clear indication that he has no sense of thought beyond his own needs and opinions. It would have been like trying to argue with someone on the internet. Useless.
    Glad you were able to get this off your chest. 🙂

    • January 6, 2015 at 10:49 am

      Thanks – that was what I thought about it too, though I felt rather stupid afterward for not responding. It actually happened a few months ago, and I started a post then, but I think I needed a little time to be removed from the situation so I could think clearly enough to articulate the whole thing. I guess the fact that I came back to it at all is an indication that I still needed to get it out :-).

  7. January 6, 2015 at 10:28 am

    I simply do not understand people sometimes. Although he doesn’t deserve it, I will apologize for the idiot and let you know that the world needs more fantastic mothers and families, no matter the number. <3

    • January 6, 2015 at 10:39 am

      Thank you <3. I agree. Perhaps if the world had more great mothers, it would be a lot better place. I'm left to wonder what kind of mother he had, and what kind of mother his children had. Hmm...

  8. January 6, 2015 at 9:23 am

    Wow. I wonder if he asks people with less than four kids if they think it’s time to have another.

  9. January 6, 2015 at 9:23 am

    When my third was born, my childless sister-in-law have us a rabbit statue for Christmas because we were, “Multiplying like rabbits”. She remained childless and miserable and we have two and half grandchildren and have been very happy to share in their joy.

    • January 6, 2015 at 9:43 am

      Good grief. I will never understand why some people can’t seem to comprehend that bitterness only hurts them. Children really ARE a joy – if you see them that way rather than seeing them as a burden.

  10. January 6, 2015 at 9:18 am

    Gosh! I try to not be astounded at the audacity of people, but they seem hellbent on surprising me on a daily basis
    Good for you guys taking the higher road. Kids or not, I don’t think I could have kept my cool.

    • January 6, 2015 at 9:48 am

      I have heard stories from other foster and adoptive parents, but this was the first blatant rudeness I had encountered. I HAD to walk away or I may not have kept my cool.

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