Regarding the lady at Walmart with six screaming kids

Clay directed me to his Facebook wall today to read a status and its comments.  The status reads:  “To the woman with six screaming kids in Walmart, if you wonder how those condoms got in your buggy, you’re welcome.”  This status prompted a long list of comments, most of which were in agreement with the mindset of the status.  The status, along with most of the comments, were seriously disturbing to me on several levels.

First of all, the status implies the attitude of most Americans today:  six kids are too many.  Or maybe we should back up and say that five kids are too many.  Heck, let’s just be honest:  most of us think that four kids are really too many!  I’m not sure–maybe if the six kids had not been screaming, then would it have been ok to have six?  Our culture is so prejudiced against having more than three kids that it’s becoming ridiculous.    We have had so many comments on our family size, most of which are just people trying to make conversation in a way that comes out kind of irritating, but not downright rude.  But I hear conversations among others around me regarding the size of this family or that one that are completely critical and judgmental.  When did it become a negative thing to have children?  When did it become one of the duties of Walmart shoppers to be the judge of the other families in the store, regarding size or behavior?  Every couple has the privilege of forming their own opinions regarding how many children they would like to have, and God opens and closes the womb as He sees fit.  I would think that that decision is a weighty enough one that we would be content to only make it for our own family and not try to then move on and decide for others when they should stop procreating.  Let’s show some grace here, people.  If you have two children and think that’s enough, great.  But some of us have more.  Please cut us some slack.

Second, some of the comments took the status to a whole new level, addressing the issue of large families being on government assistance.  This discussion started here:  ” I am guessing she gets a check for each and every one of those kids-you are in KY.”  Now, I will be first in line to agree that too many people are on government assistance, and that the “assistance” is often used in very questionable ways, with food stamps or WIC paying for way more than just necessities.  However, let my family be the case in point–just because a family has “a lot” of children absolutely does not mean that they get a check from the government.  The government has never bought the first gallon of milk for my family and I know that to be true of several other large families.  It’s insulting to me that someone would look at my family or another family with several children and make a critical assumption like that on the spot.

Finally, a couple of comments were critical of the lady simply because her kids were screaming:  “I have 5, but I assure you they don’t scream in Walmart, nor did they when they were that young,” and “I can honestly say that that I never allow my 2 boys to act like that at Walmart or any places period………..not even at home…..”  I used to say things just like this.  Until one day it was my kids screaming in Walmart.  I have a hard time believing that the children of the people who wrote these comments never disobeyed in a store.  As a general rule, our children are pretty well-behaved, but we have had our moments.  Even out in public.  When you’re out shopping or at a restaurant and there are children going wild or crying, please do their parents a favor and give them grace.  Maybe those kids have been in the van for ten hours that day as they travel to visit family.  Maybe they’ve been sick for three days and this is the first time they’ve been out of the house all week.  Maybe this is the 8th errand their parents have drug them on that day and they are worn out.  Maybe they just came from a birthday party and are still keyed up.  Children are children.  They will not always be on their best behavior.  Yes, parents should be always training, always dealing with behavior that is less than socially acceptable.  We should, no matter how many children we have, teach them to be respectful and calm in public places.  But children will have days when they just don’t behave in the store.  (So do grownups, you know.  Ever been shopping on Black Friday??)  So regardless of whether you think the parent is handling their misbehavior appropriately or not, please just give them some grace.  If your kids are still little, they may be the one going wild at Walmart next week, no matter how much you swear that they never will.  For those whose kids are grown, since we tend to look backward with rose-colored glasses, my guess is even your kids did disobey in a store at one time or another.  Yes, it’s annoying to be shopping next to screaming children or to be seated next to the wild kids who throw food and are running all around the table at the restaurant.  But that in no way excuses the annoying critical attitudes of those who make judgments about them on the spot.

Ok, maybe this rant was not justified by one little Facebook status.  But my family has been the recipient of judgmental, critical attitudes on more than one occasion so this is a soapbox issue for me.  Somehow in our society, everyone is an expert and feels justified in making snap assessments of those around them with no background information and then moving on without ever realizing how destructive that is, not only to the people they are criticizing but also to themselves.  We are so critical of others, and once you fall into this habit, you will be annoyed everywhere you go because everyone around you will be doing things the “wrong way.”  There are many things that are right or wrong, black or white.  But there are many more areas of life in which we all have the freedom to decide for ourselves what we believe and how we will live. Where there is room for grace, give grace.  No one will do things exactly like you do, which means that no one will do things exactly how you think they should.  That’s ok.  Give them grace to be different from you.

The next time you see a woman with six screaming kids in Walmart, pray for her to have the strength to parent them well.  Pray that someone would come alongside her and offer her the respite she may need, or the mentoring she may need, or just be her friend.  Don’t say things like, “You’ve sure got your hands full!” or “Someone’s not happy!”  She already knows those things, and those comments in this moment will only stress her out even more.  Just move out of her way and let her get her shopping done without making things worse for her with your condescending attitude.  And please, for heaven’s sake, don’t throw condoms into her cart.

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