Summer has ended, and I’m reminded of a summer “vacation” when my oldest was three and my triplets were one. Notice I put the word “vacation” in quotes here. My husband was in a fishing tournament in Panama City Beach, FL, and along with my mother-in-law, we ventured out with four toddlers. All in all, it was kind of a disastrous vacation which ended in a way I’ll never forget. I was sweating profusely as I tried to buckle four toddlers into their car seats when a woman screamed down from the third floor of the hotel balcony. “Are those triplets?” I nodded yes as sweat rolled down my cheeks. She continued to yell down three stories. “Are they real or did you use fertility?”
If you gasped in disbelief, I’m here to tell you that moms of multiples hear some outrageous things on a daily basis. Here are some basic guidelines of things you shouldn’t say to moms of multiples or really just moms in general:
- Are they real or did you use fertility? I’ve heard several versions of this over the years. While any question about what happens in the bedroom is incredibly personal, I’m actually happy to discuss fertility with anyone who is straightforward with their questions. If you are struggling with fertility, be honest and ask honest questions to the mom of multiples even if that mom is a complete stranger. All four of my children were conceived with the help of fertility treatments, and I am so thankful for modern medicine! I’m actually quite happy to discuss my fertility journey or offer a word of encouragement. However, I really don’t think the woman screaming at me from three floors up was actually interested in which fertility doctor I used. Oh and, by the way, Panama City Beach Tourist who has never met me in her life, my children are as real as real can be!
- How are you going to pay for college, three cars, three weddings, etc.? While I was pregnant, we had some friends who had a complete meltdown at dinner questioning how we would handle everything. How were we going to pay for college for the triplets? Would we buy all three of them a car and how could we afford insurance for triplet teenage drivers? What about slumber parties? How would we handle that since the triplets were two boys and one girl? The list of future questions went on and on until my husband said, “You realize WE are the ones having the triplets, right?” There is no need to plant future worry into the minds of parents of multiples. It’s there. They’ve probably considered most of what you are asking and more. Much of our journey has been a leap of faith. Don’t tell my kids, but my husband and I don’t know how to raise triplets either! We’ve never done it before, but just like all parents we are learning as we go!
- “You’ve got your hands full!” While this comment doesn’t bother me on the surface, I usually hear it right before someone slams the door on me as I’m trying to maneuver out of a restaurant with four kids and fourteen bags full of their stuff. Technically, you can say this to me as long as you hold the door open. Is that too much for a mom who has her hands full to ask?
- Can I take their picture? Nope! That’s weird on all levels! I realize they are adorable and slightly a phenomenon, but really? This happened while my children were with their nanny Chris. I thought Chris was going to karate chop this woman. So, even if you are thinking of saying something strange like this, don’t do it when Chris is around. Chris rocks!
- I often hear, “Better you than me!” or “I could never do that!” My children are older now, and I’m always worried they are going to think they are a burden because they are triplets. When people say this, I think they are trying to compliment me in some odd way, but my kids are listening. My kids interpret this to mean that my life is worse because of them. Nothing could be further from the truth. My husband and I feel so blessed to be their parents.
Speaking of blessings, the number one thing that I hear on a regular basis is “Bless Your Heart!” There’s nothing more Southern than using this phrase, but any true Southerner knows that this is no compliment! In fact, the Yankee translated version is I feel sorry for you. I’ve heard it so much that my sweet mom gave me a decoration with this painted on it. Anytime I hear it, I choose to hear the “Bless” part of it more than the rest. Because that is exactly how most moms of multiples feel – blessed.
So next time you see a triple stroller or double car seats, think before you speak. Multiples are interesting, and parents of multiples are on their own special journey. Make sure your words are kind. And to that lady in Panama City Beach, I’ve got one thing to say to you! Bless your heart!