How Else Will They Know?

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My brother and I used to do these goofy plays. Don’t think Shakespeare in the living room. This was more like SNL. Anyway, the big ending to one of our plays was, “Somebody must tell them!” said very dramatically to the audience with great pause. (Then my brother would say, “The Meme!” which we thought was oh so hilarious, but no one else got, which was what made it so funny! Note, this was not yet a thing, since this was 1996. Nonsense was the name of our game. But that bit doesn’t pertain to this right now.) We find ourselves at a place in our culture where we all yell, “Somebody must tell them!” We neglect to see that *we* are telling *them* every single day with every single interaction.

Have you ever thought about the above quote? That you will either build someone up or tear them down in each exchange you have with them? That is some heavy weight. That burden is not feeling light about now. But you know you’ve been there.

Sitting in a waiting room trying to wrangle all six kids to be quiet, don’t touch the fake plants, do not tear out all the cards from the magazines, don’t put their feet on the couches, dear Lord stay off the ground! A woman looks over and says not to you, but to the air, “Some people should not have kids!” And just like that- pfft. Punched in the gut. All your air is gone. Your struggle just ended in defeat. You’ll question what you could have done better. Then your humiliation will turn to anger. And you’ll be mad at that idiot. Mad at the world. Mad at your culture.

Sitting in a waiting room trying to wrangle all six kids to be quiet, don’t touch the fake plants, do not tear out all the cards from the magazines, don’t put their feet on the couches, dear Lord stay off the ground! A woman looks over and says, “You are doing a good job. They are well behaved and lucky to have you to teach them.” And just like that- you feel lighter. All that work and someone noticed! She said you’re doing a good job! She knows you are trying. She sees the kids really are trying and doing a really great job considered how long you’ve all been sitting here. You are happy. You are doing this hard work well! What a great community to build one another up.

I have literally had both of those things happen to me. Not on the same day, mind you. Different days. Different people. Different waiting room. Same me. Same kids. Same eternal struggle. And there were some people who said nothing, but gave me that judgy look. That unhappy to be sharing the same space with you look. And others that give you the “been there, done that” smile and nod. They’re with you. They understand.

We all have this power. Every day. Every interaction. I can build this person up. I can make their day a little brighter. I can be a little bit of sunshine. OR I can tear them down. I can make their day a little darker. I can be the rain on their parade. That is a lot of power. A lot of power in the small things.

John 13:34-35 I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.

I have a funny t-shirt that I still wear that was The Pastor’s in college. It says, “They will know we are Christians by our t-shirts.” And it was funny tongue-in-cheek poking fun at the Christian culture of the day. Wear your Jesus shirt, slap an ichthus on your car, burn your secular CDs and we all know you love Jesus, right? I don’t know what our modern equivalent is. Maybe tell everyone how perfectly broken you are, Instagram your devo time, and talk about how authentic you are? Maybe that isn’t fair. The point is, the WAY to know we are Christians is by our LOVE for each other. So simple. We haven’t grown past this. This is basic. God loves us. He LOVES us. Like, love loves us. We are loved. And what do we do? We love!

This common courtesy is honey. It draws people in. It builds them up. It plants seeds in their life that will grow when the soil is ready.

“Healing becomes the opportunity to pass off to another human being what I have received from the Lord Jesus.” -Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.

But WHY? I don’t have time. I am busy. Can’t I just ignore everyone and keep my head down and get through? (1) Where is the victory in that? (2) No. Sorry. This isn’t about you. If you are too busy to show some common courtesy, you need to reevaluate your calendar. If you are too busy to be kind, you need to evaluate your priorities. If you need more reason…

“According to that mysterious substitution of Christ for the Christian, what we do to one another we do to Jesus.” -Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.

 Galatians 5:13 You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love.

“Lodged in your heart is the power to walk into somebody’s life and give him or her what the bright Paul Tillich called “the courage to be.” Can you fathom that? You have the power to give someone the courage to be simply by the touch of your affirmation.” – Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.

I’d like to leave you with the following challenge. go in love

Affirm Their Worth

So, what is this common courtesy business? Well, I consider it a spiritual discipline. In fact, this spiritual discipline is more difficult for me than prayer, fasting, Scripture reading, hospitality- anything else. When God first started working on my heart about common grace, you could feel my soul yelling, “Anything but this!” Seriously. Some people find this sort of thing easy. I do not. A punk rock teen grew up to be a punk in adult’s clothing. Polite is almost the opposite of my core. To me, polite felt like a lie. It felt wrong. Chit-chat seemed like wasted meaningless words. A waste of the limited time we are given! Oh how wrong I was. I mean, I thought I was right. My logic made sense. But God has a way of taking those things we hold as true and exposing them to light, and we see that we only saw a shadow of the issue at hand.

“Once we get over our egocentric arrogance about the fact that people don’t really want to know how we are when they say “How are you?” we can see that it is just an American way of acknowledging our presence. We can wave and acknowledge their presence too without feeling the need to give a prognosis on our latest headache.” – Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Did that hit you as it hit me? Honestly, that single concept took me years to master. Years. And I still think I struggle with it from time to time. My brutal and completely open honesty struggles with this concept.

“The specific acts will vary from culture to culture, but the purpose is always the same: to acknowledge others and affirm their worth.” -Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

You read that? Read it again. Let that sink in. Does my need for this ideal of brutal honesty mean more than the worth of the person in front of me? No. Does my internal punk screaming for truth matter more than this moment to affirm this person’s worth? No. In these seemingly small moments, we make people. We breathe into them that thing we find in our Great God- worth. We shine a light into their darkness and say, “Hey, you! You’re worth my time and my attention.”

Titus 3:2 (CEB) They shouldn’t speak disrespectfully about anyone, but they should be peaceful, kind, and show complete courtesy toward everyone.

pip handYears ago, the thought of someone touching my baby would have sent me into a tizzy. You’ve seen that Steve Harvey video? No, not the Miss Universe one, the one about the woman who didn’t want strangers touching her baby. (I linked that for ya, just in case you somehow haven’t seen it.) Well, that is the world’s wisdom. And years ago, I would have been the first person and the loudest person saying, “If you want to touch a baby, have your own baby!” But you know how God works in ways different than the world? And you know how God changes us sometimes, even those pieces we didn’t think needed to be changed? Well, that is what He did to me.

Not long ago, in a coffee shop, I had Pip all wrapped up snug. It wasn’t cold out, and his feet are so dang fat socks are just not an option unless he really might freeze without them. So, I am standing and waiting on my café au lait, and a woman approaches me. She says, “Oh! Those feet!” Now, the judgement police sirens are going off in my head. I am sure I am about to get a lecture about how he will certainly catch pneumonia and die in 70 degree weather. I smile and mention that his feet are too fat for socks. She says, “May I?” Nodding to his fat little foot poking out of the carrier. I say, “Sure.” The lady proceeds to just hold and rub Pip’s foot for a minute. She has this sad kind of smile while she does. Pip is just grinning at her, because that is what Pip does. She then says, “Thank you so much for sharing him with me today. You have no idea how much holding that fat foot meant to me.” And then she walks off.

Now, five years ago, I would have in no polite way told her that she may not touch his foot! I would have likely acted like I couldn’t hear her when she first spoke to me, since I assumed she was just being Judgy McJudgyPants. But God was working on me. And in this moment, I chose to just show simple kindness. We’re not talking about some incredible heroic act. I was simply kind and polite. I shared my baby’s foot with a stranger for a minute. I’ll never know what that woman was going through. And I will never know what that moment meant to her. But to me, it seems Pip and I were there as an act of grace to her that day. We simply acknowledged her, and somehow we brought a little light.

Common courtesy is a simple act of compassion. It is a small act of service. Are you like I was, unable to small talk because of your own ideals? Perhaps those assumptions of others are keeping you from the smallest kindness? Will you acknowledge others and affirm their worth? Will you pray for opportunities to practice small kindnesses to strangers?

Common Courtesy

Common courtesy. Small talk. A smile. Giving a little of your time to make the day of a stranger a little better. On the one hand, we gravitate toward stories of the small “random acts of kindness”. We post them on social media. They might bring a tear to our eye. But when it is us in a situation where we could use a little common courtesy, how often do we find ourselves showing that small grace?

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Usually our reasons to not be courteous seem valid.

We’re busy! We need to get home and get dinner started or we won’t have time to feed the kids before they need to be at the ball field. We have a ticking clock in our heads telling us there are not enough hours in the day to make our obligations. We certainly have no time for chit chat. We certainly have too much on our plate for patience.

We’re stressed! All those million things that jam pack our schedule full all fall on us my shoulders right this second. If the kids are late, my fault. If their homework isn’t done to perfection, my fault. If their dinner isn’t healthy & nutritious enough, my fault. It all falls on me and it is all bearing down every second of every day. Stressed seems too tame a word for what we feel!

We’re tired! Burning the candle at both ends, trying to make all of this work. Kids finally get in bed and we’ve still get a few hours worth of work before we can tuck in. And just as we do, someone is crying in the night needing us. We haven’t slept in a decade and that never seems to be ending soon!

We’re selfish! Let’s stop pretending. We don’t want to chit chat when we could be reading our e-mails or playing Candy Crush in a moment of zoned out peace. We like to talk about “me” time and try to sneak it any way we can.

We feel judged! Usually because we judge ourselves. We feel like every statement is somehow a commentary on our lives. We may find we are quick to judge others, and assume the same. And yes, sometimes this really is the truth, but so are all the other things I listed.

We’re oblivious! You might say, “Well, this belongs under selfish!” Stop judging me and let me talk! (Ha! JK) This is when the selfishness gets so engrained, that it literally doesn’t even occur to us to think of someone else. You might argue, but we’re parents, we are always thinking of others! Thinking of your kids and thinking of complete strangers are two completely different things. But too often we get so into our own lives that we are completely oblivious to the lives of others.

I have absolutely been there. God has been working on me with this issue for years. Honestly. You can ask some of my small group peoples. I don’t do common courtesy. Until this past year or so, that is. This anti-chit-chat girl has become friendly to strangers. It didn’t happen overnight. And I still have to actively force myself into this common courtesy business. But I think this is something we all need to hear. I think this is something God is calling us back to in our culture. I’m not talking about online. Redeeming social media is another discussion completely. I’m talking about real life. We’re talking about loving the neighbor right in front of you right now.

I’m breaking this down into smaller bites, because what I have to say may get long. And you may need time to digest each piece. I know I did. This is also written to Christians. I don’t expect the World to live like Christ. I expect that of Christians. So, my secular readers, read on if you find interest in the inner workings of Christian life, but know where I am coming from, The Cross.

Am I Crazy?

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Of course the answer to that question is almost always yes, otherwise, I wouldn’t need to ask. But really, am I crazy or are people seeming nicer these days? Are people seeming to come out of their narcissism or cynicism or what ever kind of -ism they find themselves, and notice the whole world around them? It seems that way to me, at least, in my little community, at least.

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There was a time when I dreaded leaving my house. And not for the usual mom reasons. It wasn’t about someone will inevitably pee their pants and it will never be the child you brought a change of clothes for. Someone will start crying that they are hungry and refuse the only snack on your person and proceed to whine for 45 minutes straight. There will be someone who will loose a shoe, a dinosaur, a book, a hair bow, a quarter- something they just can’t live without and you’ll spend 30 minutes in Target searching for said item. It wasn’t about those things. Those come with the territory. It was about *them*. Those mean people who would make jokes about my family size. (*Ahem.* Not funny.) Those people who would act shocked and make rude comments about me within earshot or directly to me. Those people who seemed to always seemed to send my kids the message that they were unwanted in my community; that our family was the wrong kind of family. They could turn a simple run to the grocery store into a nightmare for me. I have six kids, which means I do not need the added stress in my life of meanies. Not that anyone with one kid , two kids, twelve kids, or no kids needs that kind of meanie stress.

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But slowly things started to change. First, it was just a few people. The random person who would tell us we had a lovely family. The passing stranger who would comment how lucky my kids were to have so many siblings. The outrageously generous person who paid for our meal last year around Christmas because she remembered how tight things get with having kids around the holidays, particularly for large families. Suddenly there were small sparks of light out there. And going out and mingling with the community didn’t seem quite so bad anymore. (As an introvert with General Anxiety Disorder, it is always somewhat of a difficulty for me to be new places talking to new people. However, I am talking about this added stress that made it almost unbearable to be part of life outside our safe walls.)

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We went from having the worst experience imaginable at one Waffle House where the waitress was downright rude and nasty to my family. To a few months later experiencing a wonderful brunch at Waffle House because people were just so kind. (By people, I mean the other customers. The waitresses were at least not rude this time.) One older gentleman even paid for every kid’s meal because he said they were so polite.

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Something changed out there. And I don’t know what it was. Maybe the people in our community are just used to us. But I think people are just becoming nicer. I know that sounds completely naïve, but I really believe they just might be nicer. People are finally realizing what an impact they have on others, on complete strangers. They are finally seeing the power in their words and glances and interactions. And they see they can make the world better, happier. They have the power to change their world. They can help a stressed mom out by telling her they appreciate her efforts in raising the next generation. (Yes, I have been told that by a complete stranger. I was having a hard time getting my kids to behave like normal people, you know those days. So I felt like I was doing nothing but correcting them and correcting them and correcting them. It was getting old. Then someone acknowledged the work I was putting into getting my kids to sit in that waiting room. They told me that I was doing a good job in raising the next generation and my kids were lucky to have a mom who cared enough to help them.)

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So what changed? Are there less jerks in the world? No. I highly doubt there are. But those neutral people, those people who minded their own business before, they are stepping up in a big way. Those little lights are burning bright out there. I now see more light than darkness. The darkness is still there, but people are kindling their fires. Why? I think social media has a little to do with it. We see articles and posts all the time about the downfalls of social media and how it is removing our ties to one another. And maybe that was true, but I think we’re starting to build them back. We see uplifting videos, get inspirational words send to us daily, and we kindle our fires, burn a little brighter, and pass the light on.

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We look at the news at say “Where is God?!” But I see Him out there. I see Him in my neighbors. I see him in a teenager helping an elderly lady in the parking lot by returning her buggy (I’m Southern, I don’t know what the rest of y’all call those things) to the store. I see Him in a lady stopping to help another woman at the store when she knocked over a display of cheese. I see Him when I am greeted with a smile and not a scowl, when the words on the lips of others is not scorn, but encouragement. Those bright lights, they’re the sparks of life in us, the breath of God. We share the grace we receive. Sure, bad things happen all around the world. I have honestly had one of the absolutely worst years of my life- I’m not even kidding, it has been truly awful. I have no idea how I can even hold my head up with how beat down I have been this year. Crushed and then crushed and then crushed a little more. But then I’m offered some grace- some word of encouragement, some pleasant compliment, some hope- and I see God is with us. I see that God is with me. I see broken people offering hope and light, even when they need some themselves. That is self giving love. That is God.

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So, keep it up people. Your words are powerful. Even when you can’t help in other ways, words are free, and words are healing. When words fail you, smiles and friendly looks will suffice. A small act of kindness to help you fellow man (or mama). I can see us changing and I like the change in us. “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”- St. Francis of Assissi

So, Someone You Know Is Pregnant…

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So, someone you know or just met is having a baby or just had a baby. Here on some tips to keep them from possibly harming you from saying or doing the exact wrong thing.

My editor (The Pastor) has insisted I put up some disclaimers to avoid hurt feelings- yours and mine.

**Disclaimer #1- I am not pregnant. Don’t ask someone if they are pregnant. If they want to tell you, that is their news to share. Never ask a woman if she is pregnant. Seriously. I have two shirts I can no longer wear in public because some punk asked when I was due while wearing them. I don’t have enough clothing options to keep this up. That is an old ultrasound pic. If you clicked over here expecting some big news, sorry to disappoint you. ZERO ANNOUNCEMENTS are going on over here. None. Kind of like the time I posted a picture of my dishwasher with little flour handprints on it and everyone thought it was an ultrasound picture because I added the caption “proof of little life around here” and I meant, proof a toddler and preschooler were being punks in the kitchen with some flour, but so many people same multiple fetuses in that picture. This is like that photo. Not an announcement. **

**Disclaimer #2- Do not ask us if we are having more kids. We’re kind of still working on the adding of the sixth kid. I don’t want to think about it right now, and I don’t have to. And really, you don’t want details. You don’t need them. There are words like amenorrhea in there, so just don’t ask. It gets too personal really quickly.**

**Disclaimer #3- Some of these things have personally happened to me. Most are things I have picked up from being around lots and lots of growing families and hearing their issues. Take no personal offense. I would have told you if you personally offended me or annoyed me. You’d know. If you don’t know, it is because you didn’t.**

**Disclaimer #4- I probably left some things out. I have only had six kids, there may be some more tips people need to know that I haven’t come across yet. You can add your own tips in the comments. Just keep your language clean so the editor doesn’t delete them.**

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Now, tips when someone you know is pregnant!

Tip #1- Their pregnancy and anything pregnancy or baby related is theirs to share. DO NOT share a pregnancy on Facebook unless it is your own. Seriously. Can I tell you how many people I got to tell I was expecting my first baby? Um. One. Seriously. I got to tell my husband. Things just exploded from there. While your enthusiasm is a welcome thing, let new parents share their own news.

Same for when the baby is born. If you look at their Facebook page and they haven’t posted about the new baby yet, don’t post it. Let them post it when they are ready. Same for e-mails. Definitely DO NOT send e-mails to everyone about the birth of a baby unless you have express permission from the new parents.

If you share news that isn’t yours, pretty soon people realize this and you’ll be the last to be told anything, much like the four year old they know cannot keep their mouth shut. They’ll just avoid telling you. Do you really want to be at the end of the list?

Tip #2- The only response to “We’re having a baby!” is congratulations or some form of that. Either muster up some good will, or say nothing. “Are you done now?” “Are you the Duggars?” “But it is too soon!” “But you’re not done with college.” “Will this be your last?” “But you already have a baby!” “Oh my God, I would kill myself.” (Yeah, that really happened. The Pastor almost got that cashier fired.) None of those are appropriate. Either be happy for them or remove yourself from the situation. No one needs negativity during this time. Newly expectant parents have enough on their mind- they just need support. Period.

Tip #3-  No name bashing. I don’t care if they name their kid after Hefty trash bags- either say something nice or keep it to yourself. I don’t care if you think the kid should be little Frank. They don’t care either. All you get when you are negative about their name choice is no heads up on the name next time. Seriously. They just won’t tell you in the future.

Here on some response you can use: “How do you spell that? I want to make sure we embroider it correctly.” “That is a cool name, where did you come up with it.” “That is a nice name, does it have a special meaning.” “I like that name.” “That name will certainly stand out on his college application!” “Are you 100% set? I have a set of bibs to monogram immediately!” “[Repeat name]. That has such a nice ring to it.” “Woohoo! I am [name]’s Auntie!” “Unusual. But I like it.”

If you can’t find something nice to say, tell someone else about it. Really. Do not under any circumstance tell either parent. Tell your neighbor, cashier at the store, online support group, anyone BUT the parents to be.

Tip #4- Never comment on a pregnant woman’s size. Just don’t do it. She’ll be told by one bystander she is huge, immediately causing her to freak out about gestational diabetes. The next person will tell her she is small, causing her to stress over intrauterine growth restriction.

Tell her she looks cute. Tell her she is glowing. Tell her pregnancy suites her. Tell her you miss your own baby belly. Tell her she is radiant. Tell her she is a beautiful picture of motherhood. Tell her how awesome her bump is.

Tip #5- On a related note, once the baby is born, make no comments about the baby’s size! She’ll freak out that she isn’t making enough milk or that the baby will be obese for life or he’ll be labeled as failure to thrive. New moms have enough worry. Don’t add to it.

“He’s healthy!” “I forgot how tiny newborns are!” “Look at all those sweet rolls!” “He is growing really well!” “She is beautiful!” All of these are appropriate. Just avoid implying the baby is too big or too small, even if you are just “observing”. She’ll freak out. It is what Mom’s do.

Tip #6- New Parents will not tell you this, but what they really need is money. Really. I know you want to buy something baby, and that is cool and awesome. But think of all the ridiculous expenses pregnancies and new babies bring. You want to buy 15 hair bows, but they really need breast pads and lanolin, which make an awkward gift. They really need money for the poise pads, hemorrhoid cream, and take out food post birth. But they can’t tell you that. They can’t tell you they don’t need another bath set for the baby, they really need to pay their insurance deductible. They really don’t need five sets of tiny nail clippers and 20 pacis the baby will refuse to take because they decide that one obscure paci you found in that one random shop one time is the only one for them. They need a pregnancy support pillow, V2 support belt,  and prenatal massage to make those last days more comfortable.

It doesn’t really help to ask what they need. No one wants to name a high dollar item when you’re looking to spend ten bucks. No one wants to tell you something ridiculously specific. So, they usually just say “nothing”. Or they point you to the registry they know you’ll ignore. Because telling people what you need it hard.

Tip #7- Don’t offer your advice. I know you think you’re just the most awesome at everything, but they’ll be making their own way. It isn’t personal. You know you didn’t do everything exactly like your mom, aunt, second cousin, neighbor, or stranger at the store either. If they don’t ask you about teething remedies, don’t give them. I don’t go around sharing advice on how to deal with head wounds unsolicited. Don’t go and give your baby advice unsolicited.

Tip #8- Avoid asking about their reproductive future. This couple is just wrapping their heads around THIS kid and you’re already asking about the future ones that they haven’t even thought of yet. It really isn’t your business, so just don’t ask them. I know you’re dying to know when little Hefty will be getting a sister, but don’t ask. DO NOT ASK. It’s awkward and weird and they’re already overwhelmed and now Uncle Bobby is asking about their sex life. Don’t ask. Not your business. Again. Not your business. People usually only want to talk about such things with their spouses or BFFs. That’s about the end of the list. So, I know you’re curious, but don’t ask.

Tip #9- Don’t assume anything. If the mom to be has not said she is breastfeeding, don’t assume she is. If she hasn’t mentioned an epidural, don’t assume she’s getting one. You can safely assume that if she hasn’t brought it up with you she doesn’t want to talk to you about it.

Tip #10- Don’t ask personal medical questions. If the expectant couple has something to share, they will share it. Don’t ask about dilation (some of us don’t have that checked ever *gasp*). Don’t ask about the results from the trisomy screening. Don’t ask how much weight they’ve gained, what their blood pressure is, if they’ve had bloody show, if they’re leaking colostrum- if they don’t tell you, they likely don’t want you to know. It is sometimes hard to remember that in pregnancy, all these things are still personal medical questions. We don’t go asking people about their thyroid levels or menopausal status, so let’s keep it down with the pregnant medical stuff, too.

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Tip #11- I know I said “Don’t assume anything” but, assume you are NOT invited to the delivery room unless you are asked to be there. Don’t ask to be included. It just makes it awkward for everyone. Some people may not mind, but there are very few who feel comfortable telling family or friends to get out. (I happen to be one who will absolutely tell my family and friends when I need them out of my space, but I appear to be abnormal in that way.) It is weird and presumptive to ask to be there. They get that you are excited. I’m excited that you’re excited. But let them decide when and how they want you present.

The same is true for ultrasounds and doctor/midwife visits. They may want to share that with you. If they do, they’ll invite you. Don’t ask to tag along. It puts them in a really awkward spot. And really, do you want to be there if you aren’t really welcome? Let them ask you. Or not.

Tip #12- Don’t take it personally. When the new parents want some time alone with their infant, it isn’t about you, it is about them. When they don’t want you visiting immediately after birth, it isn’t about you, it is about them. When they don’t want to let you hold the baby immediately, it isn’t about you, it is about them. Their name choice isn’t about you. Their diaper choice isn’t about you. Let it go and just go with their flow. Everyone will be happier.

Tip #13- Don’t forget Dad. This is a big time in his life, too. He’s part of this. A big part. Don’t assume he is ignorant. Don’t assume this is all about mom and baby. Don’t assume he is stress free. Many Dads find that they are extremely stressed during pregnancy. They have their own brand of worries. Will their partner be okay? Will they be able to provide for their family? Will the baby have their unfortunate ears? Will the family finances be okay? How on earth are they going to pay for that crib? And the mattress isn’t included?! Dads worry, too. And they dream in their own way. And they are just as stressed and sleep deprived as Moms. So keep them in mind, too. And definitely don’t try to elbow them out or imply you can be better support. Dads are invaluable.

Tip #14- Holding the baby isn’t helping. There are a million things that need to be done. Super shame on you if your solution is to hold the baby while the woman who just pushed that cute little bundle of joy out takes care of the household chores. Laundry still needs to be done. Groceries still need to be purchased. Bathrooms need scrubbing (and remember she’s been super pregnant so that has probably gone undone for a long time). Dinner needs to be on the table at some point. The grubby 4 year old could use some outside time. Don’t ask “What can I do?” You know what you can do. Just roll in and do it.

At the same time, don’t be offended if they just don’t need the help you want to give. You may want to take the kids to the park, but that just stresses the new parents out thinking about swapping car seats around, so they say no. Or you want to bring them dinner, but they have such strict dietary guidelines, they really can’t explain to you what would be okay to bring. Accept it. You offered. They are grateful you offered. If you can help in some other way, cool. If not, that is okay too. Some people may not want you touching their bloody laundry or grocery shopping for them. It is okay. Again, not personal.

Tip #15- Don’t ask if this baby was planned. Really, what you’re asking is really awkward. Did they have sex knowing she was fertile? You really want a discussion about fertile cervical mucous or basal body temp testing? Do you really want to hear about her cycles and how regular or irregular they are? Along the same lines, avoid asking if the baby was conceived “naturally”. Babies are conceived, just go with it. Don’t ask about fertility treatments or drugs or herbs or anything of that sort. The fact is, if you were close enough to ask about such things, then you are close enough that you wouldn’t need to ask because they would tell you.

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Tip #16- Don’t ask about birth plans. This is such a charged topic and such an emotional one for so many women. If they had a c-section before, you can’t assume they’ll have another or assume they’ll have a VBAC. They may be wrapping their head around their options and they really don’t need more pressure from you. If they want to talk to you about the pros and cons of home birth, they will. But unless they bring it up, assume they’ve got things covered.

Tip #17- Don’t ask how they are paying for things unless you are willing to pick up the tab. Not everyone has insurance. It happens. Not everyone has the same priorities as you. Don’t imply they are irresponsible because they don’t have a college saving account already set up. Don’t imply they aren’t responsible because they don’t have the means to pay their insurance deductible the minute the stick showed two lines. Home births are often completely out of pocket with or without insurance, don’t judge them because they can’t just easily throw down whatever that might cost (usually around $3000-$5000, if you’re curious). Unless you are wanting to help financially, don’t ask. Even if you are wanting to help, just ask how much or give without asking. Imagine if someone came into your house and judged every single thing you spent money on this month. Not helpful. Big life changes don’t need financial judgement or commentary. Be helpful or be quiet.

Tip #18- Don’t harass them for information they don’t want to give. If they don’t want to tell the name until birth, they can do that. If they don’t want to find out the gender before birth, they can do that. If they want to find out and just not tell you, they can do that. Harassing them to tell you only makes them want to tell you less. Let them do this their way.

Tip #19- Don’t share horror stories. Seriously. A pregnant woman or her spouse do not need to hear about your Uncle’s third cousin’s fourth degree tear that required extensive corrective surgery. They don’t need to know about your friend’s mother-in-law’s baby who was born with eight toes. They don’t need to hear about your neighbor who had a surprise twin at birth in the 60s. They don’t need to hear about that woman who had a 15 lb. baby. Really, they have enough stress and worry without the horror stories. Even if it seems mild, like you had ridiculously bad hemorrhoids with your third kid that still haven’t gone away 30 years later- they don’t need to know. Keep things positive. Keep encouraging. Don’t be the black cloud and the rain.

Tip #20- Don’t hijack their happiness. This isn’t a competition. You don’t have to share how exciting your pregnancy was to share the joy of their pregnancy. You don’t have to brag extensively about your all natural dolphin assisted lotus birth. Their birth is theirs. Their pregnancy is about them. You don’t have to one-up everything or use every moment as an opportunity to tell them how awesome your experience was. I don’t respond to people’s pregnancy announcements with, “Congrats! I’ve had six pregnancies myself and they were awesome and I am an awesome pregnant woman.” I don’t tell people how old I am on their birthday. I don’t show people my shoes when they have on new ones. Let their pregnancy and birth and new baby experience be theirs. The sun can shine in two places at once.

(I’m not talking about having actual conversations with people. I am talking about those people who seriously turn everything into something about them. You know a one-upper when you have to deal with them, am I right?)

Tip #21- Do not ask “How are you feeling?” every single time you talk to them. Really, it gets old. And most people don’t even want a real answer. They don’t want to know about the varicose veins, unending nausea, pressure on your bladder, horrible hip pain, constipation you cannot even fathom is possible. They want to appear caring, and I think it is awesome that they care. But “How are you feeling?” is such a loaded question when you are pregnant. And it is downright annoying when you ask in *that* tone. (You know the one. That patronizing sing-songy one.) Unless you really want to know how a pregnant woman feels, don’t ask.

Instead of asking how they are feeling, greet them as you would if they were not expecting. Tell her you’ve been praying for her (if you have). If you must ask something pregnancy related, ask about whatever milestone just passed or ask about whatever they have mentioned to you in the past. Or say, “You look radiant.” Always tell a pregnant woman she looks radiant. Or give her a cookie. You can never go wrong with either of those. “How are you feeling?” is acceptable once in a while, if it is a legitimate question. Just don’t let that be all you ever say. And don’t use *that* tone. But be prepared! Pregnancy isn’t always pretty.

Tip #22- Newborns look like newborns. Do not tell a woman who just had a baby that her precious little bundle looks exactly like your Uncle Irving. You know that baby looks like every other baby born. They look like newborns. Squishy-faced, discolored, newborns. She doesn’t want to hear the baby looks like her father-in-law. She doesn’t want to hear the baby looks like cousin Larry’s new baby. The baby looks like a baby. You don’t have to immediately start playing the “who’s genes are stronger” game. Really. No need. Especially DO NOT tell them the baby looks nothing like them, mother or father. Never tell a parent that, newborn or not.

Tip #23- Do not tell a pregnant woman that her baby will be too big to come out. In addition to not telling her that her belly is huge, never tell her the baby IN her belly is huge. That baby has to come out. And she’s already wrapping her head around that seemingly impossible process. Don’t imply the child is massive. Who would that help? (When I was in labor with Pippin, my L&D nurse told me numerous times that my baby was huge. It was very, very unhelpful. I told her many times he was not huge. She just kept on. It didn’t help. And she was wrong. So, a jerk and a wrong jerk. Even if she had been right, she’d still be a jerk.) Don’t be a jerk.

Also don’t imply the baby is too small. Unless you are her chosen medical professional qualified to make such an assessment, you’ll just cause stress. Babies come in a variety of sizes.

Tip #24-  Don’t be pushy with your own agenda. Don’t buy them bottles when you know she is going to breastfeed because you are just sure she’ll need them. Don’t buy paper diapers when they told you they are going to use cloth. Don’t buy all pink when they express that they’d prefer things to be gender neutral. These first things may not seem like a big deal, but these are the first of their parenting decisions. Earn some brownies points by showing them that you respect them as parents and you will abide by their decisions. People tend to want to be around people that encourage them and don’t make them feel small and stupid. Don’t discourage them from these decisions either. If she says she wants a natural birth, don’t tell her she can’t because you couldn’t. If she wants to breastfeed, don’t insist she’ll need to pump so you can feed the baby. These things aren’t about you. Offer your support and encouragement.

Tip #25- Don’t buy yourself baby gifts. This isn’t for strangers, usually just close family. But don’t buy yourself a car seat for the baby for your car unless you have talked to the mother or father to be and they have expressed that you NEED to do so. Do you know how ridiculous it is when Grandma has an entire nursery and Mom and Dad and trying to scrape together enough cash to pop up a pack and play in their room? I cannot tell you how many grandparents have fully outfitted nurseries only to find they didn’t need half the stuff because the parents thought they were a little off their rocker setting up an entire nursery. Unless you have talked to the parents about it, and not in an informing way, but the parents have indicated this would be welcome, don’t set up a full nursery. Sure, a pack and play and high chair at Grandma’s are usually welcome. But don’t take it too far. Don’t buy toys just for your house or other gifts with strings. If it stays at your house, it isn’t a gift for them, it is a gift for you. It is just weird. And it is a big red flag to most new parents. Really, they get that you are excited, and they are super excited to have your support. But know your role. Grandparent is a wonderful title and a wonderful role in a little one’s life. It doesn’t look like the parent’s role. It is different and wonderful in its own way. Foster that wonderful role you have to play and don’t try to steal the parent’s role.

mom,dad,pip

Tip #26- Celebrate! If this is kid number one or kid number 9, CELEBRATE! A new life has entered the world. Celebrate. All babies deserve to have someone celebrating their arrival. ALL OF THEM. (I won’t rant here about pro-life people who are anti-large family or mean to unwed mothers or any of those things. I could, but I’ll refrain. Just be nice. BE NICE.)

The Day The Comments Wouldn’t Quit

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Remember that time when I said I was going to blog the annoying things people say to me so I don’t go crazy on people in public? No. Well, I said it. At some point.

People aren’t always mean. In fact, last week, a few days before Christmas, a lady came and asked me if they were all mine while we waited for a table at a local Mexican restaurant. I replied that they were, and I even smiled. She just smiled and walked away. A few minutes after we were seated, she appeared again, and told me that we reminded her of her family when her kids were small. They are all grown now, she informed me. She said that someone had once paid for their dinner around the holidays, and it was such a blessing to them. Seeing us, she was reminded of that night, and was doing the same for us. Merry Christmas. And that was awesome. So generous, so sweet.

Four times over the weekend (my inlaws were in town, so we were eating out more than often), someone approached me or The Pastor to tell us how wonderfully behaved our children were and how great it was to see our family. (A couple times, I might have looked a little shocked. It isn’t easy on my end to keep them civil while waiting at the chiropractor or waiting for a table in a busy restaurant. And my boys are, well, all boy.) But I was surprised and encouraged. It took a lot of work to keep them quiet, feet not on seats, and eating with silverware, but apparently my hard work was working! People were not bothered by my children, but delighted by them.

boys

Then I have a day like today, and all those positive, encouraging interactions seem to fly out the window in the face of some crummy ones. Today, I felt like a walking target. The kids were being decently behaved. We took them to Waffle House for breakfast. We had to wait on a table because apparently everyone decided Tuesday was Waffle House day. But they were waiting well, in anticipation of waffles and hot cocoa, I suppose.

Then came the comments.

And they came. And they came. And they came.

“Are they all yours?!”

“Oh my God! And pregnant again?!”

“Bless your heart.” (And you Southerners know this is NEVER a compliment.)

“Better you than me.”

“Your hand are full!”

“Please tell me it isn’t twins again! Or worse, triplets!” (Apparently, my boys being dressed alike made many people assume they were triplets or twins.)

“You must have more patience than me! I could just never…!”

And all this, repeated over and over, in front of my kids, while I am working my butt off at that thing where I keep them all nice and polite in public places and not let them tear Waffle House down with their bare hands. I think the worst part was most of it coming from the employees. We couldn’t even get orders out without multiple snide comments. Let me just say, I wanted to be mean. I wanted to put someone in their place. I wanted to scream.

I don’t like being in the spotlight. I didn’t have kids to be in some bizarre public spotlight. This is just our life. A life that I could do without the snide commentary on.

And I’d like my kids not to feel like outcasts, particularly from adults who should know better. (And especially from adults who are expecting a tip from my order for 7 people!) I don’t need pity. My kids don’t need pity.

I wanted to tell these Waffle House workers that yes, the children are all mine and I thank God that I get to be their mom every day. Yes, I am pregnant again, and I find it just as miraculous as I did the first time. The infertile couple now has six, count them, six children! That is what God can do. I’m amazed. Still. Yes, my heart is very blessed and I am very thankful. And while I am glad that God has given these to me, it does make me sad that so many people are so clueless to the blessings that children can be. I am glad that it is me, but I would like for you to be just as blessed, if not more! Yes, my hands are full. My life is full. My house is full. The car is full. All things I am extremely thankful for. My days are filled with a thousand hugs and kisses. (Even kisses on my hands like I am some kind of Queen because my 3 year old insists on kissing my hands all the time.) No, there are no multiples in the bunch. Not in my belly. Not at the tables. I’m not sure why this is disappointing or surprising. Those boys you think are triplets are 3, 5, and 7. They aren’t that close in age. Sorry to disappoint you. Yes, God has given me more patience with the passing years. It is one of the miracles of motherhood, that God uses it to make us better, to make us holier people. Each child makes me a better person if I can let go of myself long enough to let God change me. I didn’t start this journey with unnatural patience. I still don’t claim to have that much, but proof that I endured this barrage of negativity is probably proof that I do, indeed, have more than I once did. But I am happy. We are happy. This is our life. We’re living it like everyone else here right now, eating Waffle House for breakfast on a Tuesday. And we’re enjoying it. My kids are not burdens. They are not problems to be dealt with. They are awesome little people that I am lucky enough to know.

But I didn’t. Instead, I ordered. I pretended the comments didn’t bother me. I helped my kids cut their waffles. I held it in, knowing that just days ago, I encountered encouraging people who helped build me up. I held it in knowing that I knew what they didn’t- we are happy, all of us, and that is something. I let them overcharge me for my meal. I tipped without a grudge. And I hoped that maybe later, we’ll come across some more of those encouraging people who make the days easier. And hoping that I could be that encouraging person that makes someone else’s days easier.

She Said What?!

People can be stupid. People can be especially stupid to me. I’m not sure what about me attracts the mean/dumb/insensitive comments from strangers. Maybe it is because I look like I need dumb advice. Maybe it is the 4 kids swirling around me. Maybe people are just dumb. Whatever the cause might be, I decided it was time to start blogging the comments I get from strangers. I’m turning their comments into a game. (Helps me see the humor in it and not get angry.) So, here you have the first of such posts!

Lady at The Ballfield

“Oh my! You have four?!”

*nod*

“You one brave woman! At least they all cute!”

*stand stunned, laugh, and then walk off*