By Will Odom, Contributing Writer (and Erin’s husband!)
The couple at the table next to us smiled as my daughters and I sat down at a restaurant that we frequent. I was taking them to lunch so that Mommy could have some alone time.
I loved these outings. They were always a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the daddy/daughter time…except when they all had to go potty (but that’s another story).
Between mouthfuls, the man at the table looked at me and said, “Man, I hope you have a male dog.”
With 3 girls, I was used to comments like this by now, and it didn’t bother me. It just rolled off my back. I laughed and responded, “Nope. Just a betta fish.”
But his next comment did catch me a little off guard, “Well, I feel sorry for you. Stuck with all those girls in one house,” he laughed.
I smiled politely and answered, trying to put a positive spin on his comment, “Nah, we have a lot of fun. Yes, there’s a lot of drama, but we have a good time, and they are such blessings.”
I turned my back to look over the menu, even though I already knew what I wanted because I always got the same thing.
I had no desire for the conversation to continue because I noticed out of the corner of my eye that my 6-year-old was listening intently to the dialog, as she typically does, soaking in everything that she hears or observes.
I thought to myself, “Really? Feel sorry for me?”
I actually felt sorry for him. His comment betrayed a deeper issue concerning his view of girls, and quite possibly, the broader context of women in general.
I wasn’t trying to psychoanalyze him, but I couldn’t help but think….
My thoughts were interrupted by my daughter’s question, “Dada, I’m sorry you only have girls in the house. Do we need to get a dog so you are not by yourself?”
I reached out to her, and as I answered her, I glanced over the menu at the man who had, albeit perhaps unintentionally, devalued my girls and caused my oldest to apologize for who God had created her to be.
Granted, she soon forgot the man and his statement, but she has since asked me again about getting a dog so I have another “guy” in the house. (But secretly, I think she just wants a dog.)
His comment itself did not bother me. I know he meant no harm and was trying to be funny or supportive in some strange, manly way.
However, the underlying attitude that positioned my daughters as somehow second rate really rubbed me the wrong way. And they, or at least my eldest, had heard him.
Would he have made the statement if I had sat down with 3 boys or 2 boys and a girl?
If I had sat down with 2 girls and a boy, would he have said, “At least you got your boy?”
I have heard that statement said about a friend’s children as well as listened to other comments concerning kids and parenting.
I had learned long ago not to let statements people make bother me. I have heard plenty. Things like:
- “You have your hands full.” (I’m sure anyone with kids — no matter the number–has a lot to do, but my hands are full of three little blessings.)
- “Wait ’til they are all teenagers and on their periods.” (I am well aware of female biology, but why is that appropriate to discuss with a stranger?)
- “Hope you are saving for all those weddings.” (I will be happy if they get married and add sons to our family…but still blessed if they don’t.)
- “You are surrounded by women.” (Why, yes…yes, I am. Thank you, Captain Obvious, for clarifying.)
- “Are you going to try for a boy?” (Well, we may have another child, but I am not concerned about the gender.)
Most of the comments are harmless and go in one ear and out the other. People are just trying to make conversation, and I try to assume the best. While I don’t particularly enjoy the comments, they are not offensive to me.
However, some statements do cause me pause; not because I’m offended or sensitive, but on some level, I feel troubled or saddened.
Some statements about girls reveal a disturbing narrow-minded perspective camouflaged behind humor.
On another occasion, at a different restaurant, a guy with 3 boys told me, “Looks like I won.”
I know he meant nothing mean or rude by this statement and was just engaging in friendly male banter, but I didn’t quite know how to respond.
My internal question was “What exactly did he win?”
Just because he has all boys and I have all girls, does that entitle him to some trophy or priority status in our society? Do their anatomical parts make them superior?
I’m pretty sure my girls can be just as rough as boys at times. They really don’t follow the stereotypes. They climb trees and watch Super Hero Squad as well as have butterfly tea parties and sing Frozen…nonstop! They play with worms and have their nails done. And I’m totally fine with that…well, except the nonstop Frozen.
The dialogs above demonstrate to me a very low value placed on girls. And though I cannot speak to raising boys since I have all girls, I know there are challenges there as well.
No, it’s not always easy being in a house full of estrogen, and I get frustrated at times, but I love my wife and my girls. They are all an absolute blessing to me and bring me more joy than anything else in this life.
Yes, I struggle with the drama and the whining sometimes, but I would not trade them for anything.
The squeals when I come home from the work as they run to the door to greet me with hugs and kisses. The tea parties and dances. I would not change any of it.
I’ll be glad to be stuck with them for as long as I live.
They are sweet and kind, yet they are strong and passionate, and I love that.
Now, I am not supporting some hyper feminist philosophy, but girls (and really any child) should be valued for who they are and who God created them to be.
I strongly believe that God created men and women differently for a reason, but we are all equally valued in His eyes.
I’m sure parents with all boys or those with large families or those with one child or those with no children can all share stories about things people have said to them about children and parenting.
I tell my stories…
- To make us aware of our words and how they affect others, even some we may not think are listening.
- To bring attention to our underlying preconceptions about children or parenting that we need to challenge and change if necessary.
- To encourage us to value all of our children — no matter their differences — as blessings knitted together by the Creator. (Psalm 139)
We all say or do things without thinking at times. Or at least, I know that I do.
But we really do need to stop and consider what little ears may be listening and how they may process those comments. What is seen as some harmless banter may reveal a deeper issue that needs to be addressed.
How do you handle comments about children or parenting? Do you find other people make these types of comments to you? Do you try to consider your own words before speaking?