Outnumbered

Simply put: my husband and I are outnumbered.

We have four {amazingly incredible, sometimes slightly crazy and/or loud} children.

🙂

Sometimes when you’re outnumbered, you get overwhelmed. At least I do. Especially when we go out in public together as a family of six. You’re trying to hold everyone’s hand and keep an eye on what everyone is doing and ensure that the volume level is no higher than an “inside voice.” Multi-tasking at its finest. And praise God for my husband – my partner, my companion, my better half.

That being said, we don’t go to the store or a restaurant all together very often. Sure, we have our family adventures at least twice a month… but we typically split our regular errands up for one parent and one kid at a time, and we eat most of our meals at home.

But when we do go out in public together, as a family of six, people often take notice. And some often feel the need to remind us that we’re outnumbered. Some do so nicely, or in a playful manner. Others aren’t quite as… tactful. The latter can leave me feeling discouraged, or even offended.

One of our first nights in our new home/new town last June, we had to run to Walmart to get a few things. Jon and I both needed to be there to pick out some necessities for the house – so everyone else got to come along for the ride. As we walked up to the entrance together, each parent responsible for two kids, an older couple walked past us in the opposite direction. The woman turned to her man and scoffed, “Four kids?! I would never want four kids…”

It almost stopped me in my tracks. I realize now that if I heard her, my kids might have too. They didn’t say anything, but there’s a part of me that wishes I would have replied to the woman. In the moment though, I probably would have said something not-so-graceful.

I had sort of forgotten about this encounter until last week.

🙂

We had a gift card to Applebee’s burning in our pocket. Instead of finding a last-minute babysitter for our four kiddos so we could have a date night, we thought: “family adventure”. Family adventures to restaurants can be tricky when you’re outnumbered… it’s dinnertime so everyone’s hungry and we’re at the mercy of our server and the cooks. And we’re out in public so it’s almost like we’re on display – our kids, and our parenting.

So we’re sitting in the corner booth at our local Applebee’s last Tuesday. Waiting as patiently as we can with our kids (ranging in age from 1 to 10). Our four, hungry, mostly quiet, and not-fighting-too-much kids.

An elderly gentleman stops at our table on his way out of the restaurant. He says something like, “Wow! You’ve got a big family. You’re keeping the kitchen clean tonight! You know how to keep this from happening? (pause) You learn to restrain yourself.” And then he walked away.

I sat there in complete shock. Did he really just say that?! To me and my husband? In front of our kids?! That we should have restrained ourselves and not had so many kids?!

Our food comes along, which keeps our kids quiet for a little bit. Then another couple stops by to chat, and one of them says, “Look at this herd you’ve got!”

I wanted to say, “We’re not cattle! We’re people!”

But sometimes there are no words to say. Especially after the first guy had shared his two cents. I think I just smiled and nodded. When I got home that night, I was upset and offended, frustrated and discouraged.

And then I was faced with the question: What do I do when discouragement comes?

I know what I should do. I should run to God first, to the Truth of His word.

Sometimes other things help, too. I tried to laugh about it with my hubby. But there was still hurt under the chuckles. I called my mom and told her what the strangers said… while eating a little too much cookie dough.

But in the end, the only place I found true comfort was in God and His word.

“Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.” Psalm 127:3-5 NIV

“Don’t you see that children are GOD ’s best gift? The fruit of the womb his generous legacy? Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows are the children of a vigorous youth. Oh, how blessed are you parents, with your quivers full of children! Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you; you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep.” Psalm 127:3-5 MSG

My kids are treasures – they are God’s best gifts! An undeserved reward! Jon and I are blessed because of them. We are better for having them. They were each hand-picked for me and Jon to take care of on this earth.  No accidents. No regrets. No shame. No defeat.

They can be loud. They can be disobedient. But they can change everything for the better in an instant. They can say the sweetest things. They can be conduits of God’s pure love.

God put it on my heart to call a dear friend of mine who also has four young children. I asked for her advice and we chatted about what to say and what not to say in reply to these hurtful comments from strangers. When I hung up the phone I was in tears because this friend spoke truth from a place of love and honesty. She knew my pain, but she also reminded me that these strangers – and my kids – need to know the truth. I can reply in love, and let them know that these are my kids. That they’re a blessing, not a handful, not a burden. That I actually I have a lot of helpers. And that this is what I’ve been graced for.

God also brought to my remembrance that each one of my kids is an answer to prayer – their presence in my life is a gift from my Heavenly Father. Elijah is the gift that saved my life. Laci is a gift of faith. Jackson is a gift of restoration (he came along soon after having a miscarriage). And Ava is a gift of joy.

I don’t need to worry about what other people think, especially complete strangers. I’m here to please God, to rely on Him and His strength and grace, and to be the best wife and mom that I can be to my husband and my four kids.

Each child, a precious gift, with so much life and love and potential wrapped up inside. And I get to be their mom. What an honor and privilege. It’s not easy… I know that. But it’s important, and it’s worth it. They’re worth it.

So… we’re outnumbered. But I can’t imagine my life any other way… nor would I want to.

 

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