We took the girls grocery shopping today, like we do just about every week. We went up and down the aisles, Luna snuggled on Zach’s chest, Ari chatting away in the front seat of the cart and Elsa happily curled up in the back of the cart, drawing.
As Zach pushed the cart by two men, one of them looked at our children and then to Zach and said, “Wow, you sure got your hands full.” We shrugged it off and kept walking, we have heard it a lot.
We gathered everything we needed and started the process of checking out. Ari and Elsa helped to put items on the conveyer belt making the process go quite quickly. As the bagger handed Zach one of our bags he commented, “Looks like you sure do have your hands full!” I sighed and Zach simply smiled.
I had to do a second small transaction so Zach took the girls and the groceries to the car while I finished up. The cashier smiled as I tried to remember the date. “It is ok,” she said when I commented that I always lose track of the date. “Things were pretty chaotic with your children. You sure do have your hands full!” I blinked. There had been nothing chaotic about the shopping trip or the checkout process.
“Yeah, your daughters are beautiful,” the bagger chimed in, “and you totally do have your hands full!!”
“No,” I said, “they are not a handful or chaotic. They are wonderful.” I forced a smile as I left.
When I got to the car I told Zach that I had heard the dreaded “hands full” comment two more times. He shook his head as we got into the car. From the back seat I heard Elsa’s small voice, “Momma, Daddy? Am I a handful?”
“No!” I quickly replied, blinking back tears.
“Then why did all those people say that to us?” She asked me.
“Because, I think some people believe that children are a handful. They think that because we have three it must be hard. But your daddy and I don’t think that. We think you and your sisters are all blessing and each of you is a gift. You are absolutely not a handful.”
She smiled and said she loved us. I tried to keep her from seeing my sadness.
Words matter. What may seem like an innocent observation may have a negative impact on someone. If you do witness a parent struggling, offer to help them out, let them know that they are doing a good job, give them a high five. Having three kids not your thing? Fine. But, don’t project onto anyone.
Don’t hand over a statement that may not even be true and then walk away while I have to assure my children that they are not, in fact, a handful.
I know no one meant anything negative about my children. Yes, my hands are full but what they didn’t know is that they are happily full. That we struggled to fill our hands and our hearts with the three precious little people.
So yeah, I guess my hands are full but my heart? My heart is overflowing.