As we entered an elevator this evening, I was asked a question I have heard a thousand times by a nice older gentleman: “Are they triplets?” he said squinting his eyes on my three girls.
“Irish triplets,” my youngest knowingly said, providing the answer we’ve given so often over the years.
“These two are twins, and she is sixteen months younger,” I said with my standard smile.
“Wow, you’ll have your hands full in a few years….I don’t envy you! Three teenage girls, three weddings, three college educations…all at the same time. Wow, I wouldn’t want to do that. Wow. Hope your husband is loaded,” he said.
Fortunately, we were only going to the fourth floor, so I did not have to hear all the ways having my kids close together sucked. Yes, I am terrified about the impending hormones that will hit our house with full force all at the same time. Yes, I have thought about the cost of three weddings and it already gives my husband heart palpitations. Yes, we are really hoping all the soccer training will pay off one day in scholarships since we will have three kids in college all at the same time for several years. But hey, dude, thanks for the reminder. I was enjoying myself and needed to get whipped back into reality.
Obviously this was not the first time I had heard this commentary. My husband and I hear it all the time from random people we don’t know, some speaking with adoration and some with pity. Sometimes I handle it with a smile and endless conversation, other times I have to take deep breaths not to throttle someone.
Any parent of multiples can tell you the whackadoodle things people have said to them. It ranges from “Are they natural?” (no ma’am, they are genetically modified) to “Are they identical?” (here is your hint….if one kid has blond hair and blue eyes and the other has brown hair and brown eyes, then no, they are not identical.) This stuff is easy to laugh off and take with a grain of salt.
But then you get the people who say things like this: “Better you than me, I could NEVER handle twins!” (well, I thought about sending one back, but I lost my receipt.) Or “Three girls, you are so screwed!” (yeah, I talked to God about setting me up right with the two boys and a girl I asked for, but he must have been focused on something else that day.) These are the comments that often make me bite my tongue in two in order to preserve some sense of decorum.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I regret having my children in the order I did. I feel blessed to have any children, nonetheless three. In fact, after dealing with infertility for nearly three years, I would have been ecstatic if that sweet ultrasound tech told me I had a litter inside me nearly a decade ago.
But having twins is hard. Not doubly hard, but exponentially harder. Then there was getting pregnant with the third, just when I started looking like I wasn’t pregnant from the twins. I can honestly say that I cried almost every day when I found out I was having another baby so soon, including every single time someone told me a story about their cousin’s best friend’s sister who had fertility treatments and them BAM! They got pregnant right after. Because sharing that information with me subsequent to me getting pregnant really helped my mindset.
And when people say to me that my girls are like having triplets, I often respond with: “I would never insult a parent of triplets by saying I could understand what it’s like to have three babies at once.”
There is a lot online about dumb things people have said to parents of multiples. Some are hilarious, some are crass, and some are even defended by the notion that a stranger asking how you breastfed two at once is just polite conversation. As the receiver of these extremely personal questions, it’s hard to read things this way, but I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt.
I’ve also read a few articles from parents of multiples that have provided some suggested “approved” commentary of what you should say to a parent of multiples, most of which I don’t get. This includes:
+ “The more the merrier!” Um, I don’t know about you, but this was not my thought at 2:30 a.m. when my 16 month old twins woke up as I was nursing a newborn. It’s hard enough when one kid wakes you up out of a dead sleep. Adding another one (or two) doesn’t normally help the sleep deprivation.
+ “You are SuperMom!” I know this is meant as a compliment, but I don’t want to be SuperMom. I just want to make it to bedtime with all the kids alive.
+ “God only picks special parents to be moms of multiples.” This is a nice, well-meaning sentiment, but I like to think God has bigger fish to fry than divvying out three kids to me in 16 months. Or he has a really twisted sense of humor.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you have one kid, three sets of twins or ten kids spread out over twenty years, it is all hard and we all just want to love our kids and see them happy.
So, the next time you see someone with twins, triplets, quads or a litter, maybe you can just give them a little smile. But just in case you can’t hold your tongue, I made you a little cheat sheet in order to help the conversation:
+ If you hear someone is having multiples, try this: “Congratulations! Let me know how I can help!”
+ If you see a parent of multiples in the grocery store, try this: “They are beautiful! Do you need any help?”
+ If you see a set of kids that look exactly the same at the playground, even if you want to ask all about their genetic make up, breast-feeding history, and sleep patterns, try this: “You have some really cute kids!”
+ And if you see a woman with three beautiful little girls that look like triplets that are acting well-behaved in the elevator, try saying: “Girl, you’ve got this.” And maybe a high-five.
What crazy things have people said to you about your brood?