I am beginning to understand how a zoo-confined gorilla must feel watching the crowds pass by. Some of the spectators breeze by while making subtle comments while others stop to stare. The caged animal has a choice to make – carry on as if they don’t notice the attention or acknowledge the gawking with a nod and a wry smile.
Yesterday at the supermarket, I was the gorilla choosing the latter.
When my five children and I go anywhere together I will admit that we are tough to ignore. Whether it be the cranky infant that hates her car seat, the devilish 3 year-old that never seems to be satisfied or the three older kids acting like Larry, Curly and Moe, we are a noticeable bunch.
I usually think about my taking the kids anywhere on my own as a “1-on-5” fast-break in basketball. If we were on the court, a smart player would pull the ball back out and wait for his teammates to arrive to take on the five defenders – not this Good-Bad Dad.
I’ll charge toward the hoop – or, in this case, aisle two for the jumbo-sized Ibuprofen. I do so because being drastically outnumbered is a way of life for me.
In the midst of the managed chaos of shepherding my flock alone, I constantly face off-handed comments from strangers. Although I try to smile and nod as the gorilla might, I am no less annoyed. Although innocuous, the comments have worn me down.
Human Zoo Comment #1: “You really have your hand’s full!”
I hear this multiple times each week. Usually the timing is exactly at the point where my 3 year-old has decided to take a closer look at the Pinot Grigio bottle while my teething infant spits out her pacifier.
Even though I politely chuckle and smile, I want to react. If I did reply, it would sound something like:
“The floor is about to be full of Pinot if I don’t stop this 3 year-old rampage you’re keeping me from. But hey, a broken bottle of wine might give me a nice buzz of radiant fumes – just what I need to get me through the check-out line. In that case, maybe I should be thanking you.”
Human Zoo Comment #2: “These kids are all yours?”
I try to have fun with this comment in real-time. While on my recent “1-on-5” I came up with the following:
“I’m not sure, I lost count at three. One thing is sure, I’m footing the bill.” The uneasy laugh I collected from the elderly woman told me that my wit might have been lost on her.
Human Zoo Comment #3: “You know how this all happens, right?”
This comment usually follows #2 above – particularly when I acknowledge that I never intended to have five children. Given the hidden reference to sex, I typically keep quiet. I can think of some good ways to nip this question in the bud.
I’d like to say, “I obviously have no idea. Can you tell me?”
Even worse, I could put an end to the conversation quickly by saying, “My wife and I just can’t help ourselves.” (I’d add a wink for good measure.)
In reality, I’m too proud to react as I might want to. Just like the aforementioned gorilla staring at the passersby, I’ll put on a happy GBD face because I know that such questions are bound to continue. They are as well-meaning as they are annoying.
The comments should give me the opportunity to come up with good one-liners. No matter the mood I’m in or the question being asked, rest assured that I will no doubt be thinking to myself, “I know I have a big family – get over it!”
That thought will provide the laugh I need to make light of my family’s permanent residency at the zoo we call home.