Our House: A family of our size is never off-stage
Adam Mead and his family turn a lot of heads when they go out in public—there’s nine of them, after all, and another on the way. While he and his wife have gotten used to the comments, he wonders what effect it’ll have on his kids.
“Look at all of those tax deductions!” Normally, anything involving reducing my taxes is music to my ears. I own two businesses (yogg and Land of Adam), and know firsthand the much-needed relief that tax credits and deductions can provide.
But this comment wasn’t from my accountant during a tax planning meeting or while filing corporate returns. It was exclaimed by a person walking by my family at the grocery store.
You see, my wife and I have been blessed with seven children. The eighth is due in early November. And while we do receive deductions on our taxes for the number of our dependents, I can assure you that nothing is farther from our minds when deciding to have children. We agreed a long time ago that there would never really be a time when we felt “financially ready” for children, so we dove right in at the age of 23. Sure, it would involve a lot of hard work, and we’d have to figure it out along the way because let’s face it–regardless of whether you have one or a ton, kids are crazy expensive. If I was truly concerned about wealth accumulation, I probably wouldn’t have had any in the first place.
So I struggle with this inner monologue in the face of offensive comments. While I would love nothing more in the moment than to spew rational thinking all over this rude person’s face, I realize none of it matters. What does matter, however, is making this person a friend. So I joke. “Uncle Sam just hates us!” Then we both laugh and go about our ways.
Not everyone agrees with my family’s lifestyle. Honestly, I think that’s great because people who are different than myself offer me an exciting variety in life. It seems like a great idea to me to eat Alamo barbecue every single day, but I know that eventually I’d want something different. Maybe sushi? Maybe something on pumpernickel? Regardless, what I have come to learn from this and countless other encounters is that my family will always be on a stage, and its up to us to determine what type of act we’ll perform.
I tell my children that all the world’s problems could be solved with one thing–respect. You can’t always get it but you can certainly give it.
I don’t consider myself to be funny or witty. There are times when I can throw out one-liners or my imagination can take a conversation to some strange places, but generally speaking, I am not the type of person who can spontaneously make up original content right on the spot. I just don’t have the chops for it. What I do have though is a list of one-liners I use for the most common comments, because I would much rather put on a comedy show than a drama. David Letterman, not Jerry Springer.
Our family is large by today’s standard, and I know we are not the norm, so I completely understand the surprise people experience when I tell them how many kids we have. The face draws up, the eyes open really wide and it culminates with a look of either insult or excitement. It’s about the way I would expect them to look had I slapped them in the face with a wet fish, so I’ve aptly termed it, the Wet Fish Effect.
This name isn’t intended to be insulting. It’s astonishingly accurate. Just tell someone that you’ve eaten 47.5 hotdogs in one sitting without barfing. You may experience something close to the Wet Fish Effect. With this reaction in mind, you can only imagine the questions that follow. I’ve heard:
“You know what causes that, right?”
My typical responses are, “That’s half the problem!” Or “She just can’t keep her hands off of me!” An obnoxiously nasal laugh accompanied by repeated elbow jabs usually drives home the point that if you’re going to ask a question with sexual innuendos, then expect a response that’s equally as off-color.
“What is wrong with you?”
My response, “I can’t help myself.” Or, “Hey, I mean, just look at me.”
“Better you than me, bro!”
Me, “Are you available to babysit Friday night?”
“Do you live on a farm?”
I honestly have no idea how to answer such a dumb question. I just shake my head and offer a smile. It’s 2015, dude.
My wife bears the brunt of the comments though. She typically has all of the kids with her when she grocery shops, so you can imagine the target they have on their back. I can’t tell you how many times a week she hears, “Is this a daycare, or are all of these yours?” Occasionally we have the pleasure of hearing, “Don’t tell me all of these are yours.” My response is “OK, I won’t. But when you’re ready, I will. You ready?”
I tell my children that all the world’s problems could be solved with one thing–respect. You can’t always get it but you can certainly give it. My wife and I are confident in the choices we have made for our family, so disrespectful comments don’t bother us that much. We’re used to it.
What we can’t get used to is the impact these negative words have on our children. If you really think about it, when someone makes fun of the size of our family, lighthearted or not, it sends a message to our children that their parents made a mistake bringing them into the world. Regardless of age, race, gender, creed, or sexual orientation–nobody deserves to hear that. So we try our best to just be respectful of others’ opinions and know that they are exactly that–opinions.
Now, lest I be accused of being ungrateful or stretching the truth, I don’t want to paint the picture that everyone is a jerk. That’s not the case at all. For every less than favorable comment we receive, we get something positive. In fact we have had more than one occasion when a server gives us our bill anonymously paid in full by someone impressed with the behavior of our children. While it is never expected or needed, these acts of kindness–even the simple statements like “You have a beautiful family” really make us feel comfortable and welcomed. The challenging part, however, is that we always have to be prepared to react to both sides of the attention we undoubtedly attract. We always have to be ready to perform.
I love my family and I couldn’t imagine my life being any different than it is right now. Just like anything else, we have to take the bad with the good. But I know with the right attitude and a respectful disposition, the bad becomes not so bad and the good will always become great.
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I have 8 siblings both natural and adopted and had hundreds upon hundreds of foster siblings. We all made it out as normal and well adjusted as our various genetics allowed. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.
Second of thirteen here. All biological, not that it matters. I remember feeling uncomfortable when my family was singled out as different because of its size as far back as second grade. There were six of us then, 3 girls and 3 boys, and eeeevreybody loved calling us the “Brady Bunch.” I was very sensitive about that sort of thing, and even though I loved my brothers and sisters I still longed for our family to be “normal.” I don’t think the poking fun affected all my siblings the same way. I think it is important to keep in mind that children might be affected diffently and to not let any one child think his way of feeling is wrong.