“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I had the baby beans with me today at the mall.
And this one wasn’t the unhealthy-looking, ghost-town, empty storefronts, shell of a place I was used to back home in Illinois. I only used to go to the mall for 3 things, 4 if you count being bored and broke on a Friday night and suckering a group of friends into a couple rounds of lazer tag. It wasn’t shoes, bras, or lazer tag, but make-up I was after this time.
I don’t know why I feel like I have to justify that purchase. I guess because it’s seemingly frivolous in the scheme of things, and because finding mineral make-up in my budget and without my allergens is a chore. As luck would have it, my nearest town has an Ulta. Hooray!
So I dragged all 3 teeny beans (we call them that because of the way they looked on their first ultrasounds…it stuck I guess) out with me and they had their first shopping mall experience.
My daughter ooh-ed and aah-ed over every sparkly hair clip, every bottle of hot pink nail polish, and for one terrifying moment, a really expensive glass bottle of perfune…what a girl! My oldest son appreciated the cool “man chairs” and agreed to be really good so we could go to the “Sport store” once I had found what I needed.
When we walked into Dick’s Sporting Goods, he was overcome with excitement. He walked through the entire store pointing out to me all the cool things he saw– batting helmets, soccer balls, kayaks, “awesome sport clothes”, cleats, and a giant red kick ball.
The babiest of the babies started fussing toward the end of our time at Dick’s so we made a B line for the door and I was overall pleased with the experience (no Victoria Secrets to avoid or explain) and their behavior was pretty darned good! I didn’t even have to usher them away from Auntie Anne’s pretzels or the gigantic cookie stall.
And then… I heard it… From about 50 feet away came a sardonic, “Bless your heart.” At first I thought maybe it was an older lady who had also raised several young children, offering me some good ol’ southern encouragement. But when I locked eyes with the speaker, it was a middle aged man shaking his head in what was either disgust or disbelief, or possibly a mingling of the two. I distinctly remember being surprised by his dismal facial expression. I smiled and kept walking, mostly out of awkward confusion. The kids and I walked out of the mall and counted the painted squares made by the crosswalk and I kept replaying that exchange in my mind, because that’s what introverts do with awkward social happenings.
My kids weren’t misbehaving. They weren’t even being particularly loud. We were having fun! But I guess people just don’t know what to think of “large” families anymore. I thought my husband and I were part of a fringe group making a comeback by not restricting our family size. Turns out, we’re just fringe.
I think what bothered me is that the man actually felt pity for me/and or my kids. Again, a thought I just cannot process. Sure they scream at meal times, fight in the car, make me cry hot tears of frustration and exasperation at bedtime, and are perpetually sticky… But that’s just part of having kids. And it’s a small part that’s overshadowed by the moments when my oldest looks at my daughter and says, “Guess what? Did you know that I love you?” And she answers, “uh-huh!!” And then they hug-tackle one another. Or when my daughter cons a piece of cheese before dinner but also takes one for her brother, because kids are cool, and they get that it’s nice to share things you love with other people. Or when they argue over who loves the baby most or who gets to hold him.
There are a lot of us. But we love each other. And I wish that’s what people saw when they looked at me walking two very small toddlers and wearing a baby. I wish they saw the sacrifices my husband makes so that I can be home with them, raising them to be decent humans.
I need to remind myself of the good stuff because the bad days are like stepping in chewing gum on hot asphalt– trying to keep you stuck in it.
That doesn’t mean I don’t get overwhelmed or frustrated or wonder what I’m going to do when I have to wake up and do it all over again in the morning. It means that I’m not doing it for me, I’m doing it for the glory of God, with the grace and peace of Christ guarding my heart and mind.
Because as much as I love my kids, they belong to God and He loves them more. He merely entrusted them to my care. And that knowledge truly does bless my heart.