Last May, when I went to my ob-gyn for my four week postpartum follow up, an elderly woman watched me struggle with a screaming newborn and a precocious three year old. I balanced my wallet on top of the stroller as I swiped my card at the hospital ATM to have cash to pay for parking. Mini Gwinn was trying his best to sit patiently on the bench while 2.0 wailed his banshee scream. She stood silently for several seconds before saying, “My, you have your hands full.”
We’ve all heard that, at some point or another. Our hands are, quite literally, full, as we toggle the weight of 60+ lbs. of human beings in our arms, grocery bags, an inevitably ringing cell phone, and a surprise poop wafts in the air. The stares of single women bore into the backs of our heads, and their thoughts are broadcast on their faces. And we want to say something to defend ourselves, to give ourselves some credit as the mom- world collides with the real one, but we’re sleep deprived and juggling lives and food, so we chuckle nervously and agree. Some of us dwell on what we should have said.
I suppose it’s a sentence of good intentions. At least that’s what my mom says. ” They’re just trying to think of something to say.” My ungraceful response to the elderly woman mentioned above was, “And you have on a red shirt.” And that was that. I didn’t smile, I didn’t say “thank you,” and all my Southern manners flew out that hospital parking lot window, because my life doesn’t need a commentary when I’m having a rough moment(s). In this instance if there isn’t anything immediately kind to say, don’t say anything at all, especially “you have your hands full”. We all already know.
But people still say it. Just about every time I am out with my kids. So instead of replying with something obvious about their appearance, e.g. “your shoes are brown”, I’m coming up with a list of responses, some more gracious than others.
“Wouldn’t it make you uncomfortable if I told you I was pregnant with twins?” – bonus points for grinning madly
“I can’t think of anything better to have my hands full of. Except maybe donuts.”
“These aren’t even my children!”
“These aren’t even my hands!” – cause, why not be extra weird?
“I have even more stored in the car, in case of an emergency.”
“If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart.” – I read this from another blog, but I can’t find it, otherwise I would cite it appropriately. Sorry!
What do you say when you’re confronted with badly worded “kindness”?