Yes, I Have A Big Family – Get Over It

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.



  1. Jon(Carolyn) McArtor

    I hear you. My kids are all grown now, but I used get the same stuff with my 4 boys. They would ask me at restaurants. “How do you keep those boys so well behaved?” I would always reply with something like this. “I told them that I would beat them when we leave if they act up.” Most people just gave a nervous laugh, like should I call human services or is he just joking.

    • Tobin Walsh

      Hey Jon…I love the comment and I had no idea you had four kids (probably bad memory on my part). There are two places where I get this most – the grocery store and out to eat. Most of the time, people are shocked that I would take such a trip with such a big, young crew. Even if I know the comments are a compliment (like “you’re kids are well-behaved) I try to come up with something clever. The nervous, unsure laugh that follows is the pay-off! Thanks for reading…hi to Carolyn and hope you visit again soon!

  2. Matt Peterson

    My wife came to my work one day to drop off something I forgot and on entering the lobby with all of our 6 kids the receptionist said, “Are you on a school field trip today?”
    Also don’t forget the comment from the men they say right after the comment you mentioned above ” you know what causes it right?” They usually follow up with, ” I need to give you my Dr business card to help you?”
    Oh yeah and don’t forget the other usual comment, “are you done yet?”

    Great article. I love it

    • Tobin Walsh


      Thx for checking it out…when I emailed the team about having the baby, the first comment back was “let’s all chip in an early xmas gift – a vasectomy for Tobe!” That was a good one!

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