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The Zinger’s Sting

My husband and I have what the majority of society would deem a large family.

We have 5 children between the ages of 7 and 16.

In the early years, when they were all home schooled and I had to take my entourage everywhere with me, I was exposed to the usual comments by strangers. “Boy, you have your hands full.” “Are you planning to have more?” “Do you know what causes that?” “Have you thought about getting a tv for your bedroom?

I found these attempts at conversation frustrating, mostly because, in my mind, I never seemed to have a good reply.

Then one day, when the grocery store employee looked at my cart filled with groceries, a baby, and four hands attached to the sides and asked, “Are all these kids yours?” I was finally ready.  “No,” I replied. “I thought it would be fun to bring other people’s children out grocery shopping.”

YES! I finally had a zinger!!

Well, in case you haven’t figured this out yet, whenever one gets a little too proud of themselves, God is right there to provide some humility.

“Oh,” the man replied. “My wife and I foster kids and I thought you might be a foster family, too.” That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. My great “zinger” was directed at a man that actually did, purposefully and with love, take other people’s children to the grocery store.

Who knew I could shove my foot in my mouth so fast?!

I’d like to say I offered a heartfelt apology right then, but I’m pretty sure I just mumbled a “that’s very nice” and dashed for the door. 

Many of us that practice the Catholic Church’s teaching of being open to life, face comments like these regularly and I think we have a tendency to be offended or irritated by them. We can mistake them as personal attacks on our life choices. But I think it’s much more likely that people are just attempting to employ humor to open a dialogue about something that’s somewhat foreign to them, and it provides us an opportunity to practice kindness and speak of the blessings that come with a family that’s larger than the norm.

 My advice is to hold on to that zinger, offer a small chuckle and a smile, and open that dialogue. Kind words tend to taste better than your own foot, after all!

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Elizabeth Jara

Elizabeth is part-time home schooler, part-time Youth Group and Confirmation director, and full-time wife and mom of 5.

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