When I am out doing errands, with a a baby in the sling and two children either in a stroller or attached to both my hands, a large percentage of the people I pass choose to comment on our "large" family. Most of the comments are meant to be neutral, I suspect, but end up sounding rather negative. It is the tone, I think.
The interesting thing is that these neutral/negative comments come, without fail, from adults between the ages of 20 and 50. These are the career women, the parents of one, the bachelors.
Most of the time I hear "Wow, you have your hands full." My stock response to that is "yes, in the very best way!" Once I was shocked into silence, however, when "you have your hands full" was followed up by "I'm so sorry." Yes, that unfortunate woman was sorry that I have been blessed with beautiful children. I am sorry for her.
I respond with a smile because I want these people to know that I rejoice in my children, even on the hard days. I want them to know that my hands are full by choice and that I would not have it otherwise. But it is not their comment that makes me smile, and after the sixth one in an afternoon sometimes I want to grit my teeth and ask "did you think that comment was original?"
(Of course, I won't. But oh how I want to!) :)
Not everyone thinks that I have my "hands full" however. There are the teenagers, who usually don't notice anything around them, but if they do notice us, they think that my family is "awwww, just sweet!!!" (with all three exclamation points). And there are the elderly, who light up my day with their genuine smiles. From them I hear "Children are such a blessing, aren't they?" and "You have three boys? - what fun!" and "What a beautiful family you have." Many of them want to stop and chat; smiling at each child individually, telling Jonathan that he must be a so proud to be a big brother, asking Thomas how old he is; enjoying their chance encounter with these, the very newest generation.
What has changed? The elderly know the joy and the value and the very full hearts that come along with the full hands. The generations that followed them seem to have missed that truth, and I wonder why.