By Megan Gilmore
As a mom of two preschoolers (for a few more weeks, until #1 heads to Kindergarten), my Facebook newsfeed is filled with links to blogs about parenting, crafts, recipes, and traveling-with-kids ideas. Since we’ve started our adoption process, there are now many, many links to articles about foster care, adoption, and social justice.
Many, many of those articles start the same way, “What NOT to Say to ____ (families with foster children, adoptive parents, pregnant women, working moms, stay-at-home moms, etc.).” So many of these articles rant on and on about things that offend others (“Someone saw me at the grocery store with my six kids and said it looked like I had my hands full! Can you believe that? How rude!” “Someone noticed that two of my children are white, one is black, and one is Asian—and they looked at us! Can you believe that? They smiled at my family, and I’m offended because clearly they were thinking that we’re different!”)
When did we become overly sensitive, friends? Seriously, mom of six at the grocery store, face it—your hands are full. Even if your children are literally perfect angels that never touch anything in a store, never whine, and never ask for candy at the checkout, by definition of “full hands,” the fact that there are six of them, a cart, groceries, and one of you with only two hands…those hands are full.
It’s not necessarily a negative comment. Not everyone is judging. Yes, a family made up of children that are clearly from different backgrounds is going to get noticed… but maybe it’s because your children are beautiful, and worth being noticed.
Here’s my concern with all of these blogs about what NOT to say to people: they isolate. They isolate us even more as a society, to the point where people are afraid to talk to each other, are afraid to interact with children, and become more and more like ships passing in the night than a community of people living together.
We are creating a culture where people do not interact, for fear of offending someone else, and we’re doing it so loudly and so proudly through social media rants.
I know I’ve done it… the elderly lady who followed me through Target when #1 was three weeks old, repeatedly offering to hold her so I could shop…yes, it was really weird, but why did I automatically jump to “She wants to steal my baby” mode? She was well into her 80s. I could’ve outrun her any day. I think she was just coming from a place of seeing a really upset, stressed new mommy, and wanting to help. I came home and blasted the situation on Facebook. In retrospect, it didn’t need to happen that way.
This past Sunday, #2 was running around after church, and made a beeline to the door. A newish friend, who recently moved here from Africa, saw her, and stopped her. He bent down, talked to her, pointed to me, picked her up, and carried her back over to me.
My initial reaction? “That was weird. I can’t believe he just picked her up and brought her to me. Someone should tell him he shouldn’t talk to kids, and especially not touch them, here in the US.”
Then I thought about my experience earlier that week in Target (I know. I spend a lot of time at Target.) A little boy, maybe 4 or 5, was in the aisle, crying and mumbling “Mommy, I can’t find my mommy,” as person after person just walked right by.
I did a quick scan of the area, no mommy-ish looking figures around, so I walked over to him. I stated loudly (for the benefit of the other adults around me), “Hi. I see you’ve lost your Mommy. I know you’re scared. I am a teacher, and I will help you find someone who will get you to your Mommy. Will you hold my hand and walk with me to find someone wearing a red shirt? I need you to help look for someone in a red shirt.”
He came with me, and we found the nearest associate, who took him from there. I was dumbfounded that nobody helped this kid. Nobody. Why? Could it be because they’re afraid of being the next victim of a society-bashing mommy blog, entitled “Why You Should NEVER Help My Child When They’re Lost at Target”? Perhaps!
We are making society weird.
Seriously. We’re building up walls around our families, telling everyone what to NEVER say/do/think about us, our lives, and our kids. We’re making normal everyday interaction so taboo by criticizing everything people say and getting offended by everything people do, that nobody knows what to do anymore…leaving people with nothing but weird, non-authentic comments, which lead to more blog posts.
Can we just stop? Can we smile at people when they look at our different families? Can we respond with a “You’re right—my hands are full, can you pass me a jumbo pack of paper towels, please?” before we get all hurt?
I don’t want to live in a world where nobody speaks to each other, and nobody looks at my kids (come on, my 5-year-old has rainbow hair for the summer…go ahead and look! It’s weird! Comment on that!), or nobody helps a child who is clearly panicked (seriously, if my kid’s crying that she can’t find me in Target, please take her to an associate for help).
While there are people who will make comments that are awkward and weird, perhaps even inappropriate, maybe if we engage in an actual dialogue with people, we’ll start to re-form actual human interaction and community.
Megan Gilmore is the mom of two preschoolers, wife of a teacher, and a special educator working in the field of assistive technology and a children’s ministry worker at church. When she’s not working, she loves spending time with her family gardening, cooking, or creating fun art projects.