Thursday, October 10, 2013

The One Question {It Seems} Everyone Is Asking Me These Days

"So, are you done yet??"

I get this question a lot....a LOT.   Mostly from perfect strangers.  You know, the ones who feel the need to shout it out down the check out lanes at Target, or out in a parking lot while they hold their fashion encapsulated pooches.  It's always a great "get to know ya" question that waiters in restaurants often pose, the ones who can't believe we're not running a day care, the ones who cannot hide the fear that our little devils might spill a cup of water or drop a nugget on the floor, (God forbid) that would have to be cleaned up.

The question doesn't bother me as much as it used to, I've learned to roll with it.  What bothers me, is that no one really wants to hear an honest answer.  They want a short "yes" or "no."  What I've come to realize is that the poor folks have no idea that they've just asked a very personal question.  Their candidness can only lead me to assume that they believe either:
1.  My fertility adventures should be made public knowledge or
2.  They are weighing out my intellectual capacities vs. my ability to reason, so therefore they can walk away loathing my ignorance, (even better) or out of charity whip out a population chart from their "save the planet" stash, hoping I'll have the time and attention span to pay attention to their lecture while my toddler repetitively rams the back of my legs with the shopping cart.

Either way, the question is out there, and I keep thinking that there's got to be an honest, succinct way to summarize my thoughts and feelings for these people.  I've tried diverting the questions back on them. You know, since we're on a personal level and all.  But, they typically don't appreciate having to answer how much they weigh or how much money is in their bank account (Okay, I don't really ever ask that, but I'd like to). If that's not public information by now it soon will be, given our current administration.


I really didn't intend for this post to read frustration, or mommy-snark. My intent with the first few paragraphs was to introduce what I'd LIKE to say (if there was time) to every person who has ever asked me (whether out of complete condescension or innocent curiosity) if Steve and I are done having children.

Here's my answer (grab your coffee, this will take a minute):
Whether you're a parent of two or ten children, I think that most of us would agree that having children teaches us to love, to give love and to receive love in capacities beyond what we knew before becoming mom and dad.

With the addition of each precious soul to our family, I am always in awe of God's grace working within Steve and I, expanding our perspectives, stretching our hearts to greater depths in the way of charity and love.

This special grace cannot be contained within us, it is not ours alone.  It naturally spills out into the children as they too have learned to love each new sibling as they have joined our family, a love that is nurtured each day through both the naturalness of affection and joy as well as through their effort to work out the challenges of overcoming their own self-centeredness.
The older four boys are in an especially beautiful place in their relationship with Charlie right now.  As I stand back and watch them interact with him from sun up to sun down, my vision is filled with tenderness, joy, humor, generosity, protectiveness, consolations and encouragement.  While the big boys may not have quite the chemistry between each other (trust me, they're boys, they can duke it out BIG time!), I am amazed at their sensitivity towards Charlie's littleness and how they respond to it by giving of themselves so freely to him.
It seems to me that even though Charlie is nearly two and a half years old, his life, his presence in our family, holds a sort of perfect freshness for his older brothers.  They are able to experience the fragility of his petite stature, the sweetness of his innocence and yet embrace his physical growth and independence all at the same time. They protect and shelter him as the youngest, yet run beside him with great expectations, watching and celebrating every milestone, every little sweetness as champions of brotherhood.
I cannot explain how beautiful it is to watch all of this nurturing unfold before me in such a natural way.
This unexpected and incredibly gratifying dynamic between the boys is something I personally could never orchestrate or plan with my own ambition.  I wonder, sometimes, if we as moms intuit some sort of false expectation from the world to have a picturesque life.  A life that MAKES SENSE to others, a life that we can EXPLAIN, a life that looks perfect in pictures, a life that FEELS just as perfect as the plans we've made, plans that make us look like we know what we're doing with our lives.  What if  those very plans hold us back and keep us from saying "yes" to one more child, because we fear that we simply cannot do it, and do it according to plan?

Desiring and being open to having a "big" family (more than three kids) isn't a popular plan for most couples.  And I want to be careful to communicate my aim with this portion of the post, which is NOT to debate family size, or to stand on a theological soapbox, or to sound insensitive to those who are unable to have children (they really are the most noble of us all), but rather to say that all of the fear, the waves of doubt and the nervousness that have naturally arisen with giving life to 5 children, for us, cannot be compared to the richness and rewards that have been heaped upon Steve and I in our openness to life.

Even in the midst of the real daily struggles, of raw emotion, of flooding tears, disappointments and exhausting sacrifice we still LIVE the beauty.  Yes, hidden behind the heaps of laundry, sleepless nights, marked up furniture and broken dishes, not to mention financial sacrifice and social rejection, there is beauty.
It really is a mystery to both of us, how some moments of parenting really are terribly terrible and deeply burdensome, and YET the life and the love that pierces through all of it, somehow makes room for more - more children, more joy, more blessings, more romance between Steve and I.  Our love for the boys, multiplies our love for each other, and this is grace, this is not of our own doing, of our own skillful planning.

So, now for the short answer? No, no we are not "done." One day my physical nature will give into time and I will indeed be "done" having children.  But, my soul, the part of me that really LIVES all this beauty will never truly be done.


  1. That is a beautiful way to answer a very complex question. I find that people are more curious about the "are you done?" because you (and I) have all boys (albeit, I "only" have 4).

  2. I love your answer! I find it rude when people ask if anyone is 'done' yet. It's such a personal decision. We have two beautiful boys, but we are done...I think. I always dreamed of having at least four boys, but I don't know if we want to do it again...hubs just turned 40 and I'm in my late 30's...we kinda want sleep at this point! :)

  3. Susan, you say things so well. When we announced we were having our fifth, people actually shook their heads and muttered about how it was silly of us to have more. My big kids would not be the kids they are without their little brothers. It truly is gorgeous to see the big ones choose to take the little ones under their wings. And to see the little ones' faces light up when the big kids do...heart-melting.
    Perhaps you should just print lots of copies of this and carry them in your purse. When someone asks the "are you done" question, you can give her the pamphlet to read at her convenience. :)

  4. Beautiful, beautiful post. And yes, I do think they are crass enough to think our private details should be available. This burns me and yet I never know what to say after all these years and ten children later, either, not a quick answer anyhow.

  5. What a beautiful post. I have 3 children and I've heard this question so many times. It used to really irritate me. Now I just say, "probably not." But then there are those people who can't leave it at that. They just have to add witty comments like, "oh daddy's gonna be busy then," or some other bedroom references that shouldn't be said while my kids are standing right next to me. Seriously, why do people have to be insensitive like that?

  6. Love this! I'm so glad for you and feel the same way!

  7. Oh, sister. I needed to read this today. The hubby and I are "in talks" about what our family plans are and it is a hard decision. But like you, I will never say "done" until God does.

    BTW, this made me so teary eyed! Your family is so beautiful, and I love your big boys' love for little Charlie.

  8. I love this post and your answer.
    I'm sure you have also been asked "Don't you wish you had a girl?' I have 2 boys and people always ask me that or "Are you going to try for a girl?'' (like I have any control over the sex!!!) I have never understood why people feel entitled to ask questions like that all the time.
    I think your family is beautiful - I can see the love y'all have for each other in every picture you post!!!

  9. Well said! (or should I said written?) It so true that it can't really be answered in a simple yes, no, or even maybe. I have 6 kids and I have heard some doozies when it comes to the size of my family. But I think my all time favorite had to be the woman who when watching my husband and I walk by her house (we only had 4 at the time, though all under age 4) and she screamed " Have you ever heard of Norplant?, you just stick it in your arm!" All while gesticulating wildly and hitting her arm. She was just trying to help, right? :)

  10. Well written Susan! I agree with everyone here that the things strangers choose to say can be shocking. Our society seems to have largely lost sight of the beauty of family. People seem to adore their children but then act like having more would be horrific. I just don't understand. Your family is so beautiful-- don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

  11. Aah... your post made me grin.. and giggle. Most of mine are out of the house or practically grown but I do remember the question. I even remember some jokes and some suggestion on a TV on a deal. I totally agree with you concerning the life lessons learned from a house full of many; lessons that surely have been lost along the way with the families with the 1 or maybe 2 children. Lessons on sharing, giving, helping and the every needed lesson that the world doesn't revolve around one individual. Let's don't forget strength in numbers...

    Your family is beautiful and full of love don't you feel sad for the ones who just don't get it.?

  12. Oh you took the words right from my heart and put them on your blog. I don't know how you did it, but it was beautiful. I only have four (so far) and I get this question a LOT as well and have always struggled with it. The best I have come up with is that we are never done. As parents our job is for a lifetime. But what you have written here is so wonderful and written so well. I will be bookmarking this for sure. Thank you and what a beautiful family!

  13. Amazing. You have a beautiful way of saying EVERYTHING!!

  14. My husband and i were talking this question over and how wildly inappropriate it is to ask about "fertility adventures." Especially the "have you started trying" again...


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