”Never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.”
Anonymous (some really wise American Indian dude)
“You have seven kids? What, you didn’t have television?”
Seriously, people, you can’t think of anything more original? I always answer that, yeah, I had seven and would have had a lot more had I not shot the stork. They always think that’s funny. I’ve said it so many times I’ll shoot myself instead of the stork if I have to say it again. Oh, wait, I shot the stork. Anyhow, the comments and questions are always the same, which gives me insight into how people all over the country manage to come up with the same stupid jokes decade after decade. Before the internet, we had pen pals, before that, the Pony Express, and before that, I can only imagine carrier pigeons were somehow involved. So it’s unlikely these “jokes” magically traversed the country to be told around the same time.
This became pretty clear to me when I worked at Walt Disney World at the Tiki Bird Show, (sadly disassembled now). When people approached me to enter the theater after our pre-show, (introduced by audio-animated birds), they would make what they thought was some clever remark, (and it might have been had I not already heard it a hundred times), and I would smile politely and give the expected giggle in return. I started to wonder how many times I myself had committed that very same blunder. To this day I still catch myself doing it.
Case in point: When I was driving to California to visit family I was surprised to have to stop at some inspection booth before I could enter the state.
“What?” I said to the attendant, “Do people have to pay to come into California now?” Pause as the attendant smiles obligingly. “Well I hope you take blood or I can send you my firstborn, because I’m a little low on the cash front.”
He laughs. Who knows, maybe I was actually clever and he’d never heard that one before. Doubtful. Anyway, people are rarely as clever or original as they think they are. But, I digress, and, if you continue reading, you’ll find I do that a lot. Something to do with the “flake gene” my mother gave me. No, really.
Having seven children in this day and age, you run into a lot of people who can’t wait to tell you what they think about that, especially when they find out five of them are chronically ill. Then the “Oh my gosh, seven kids!” becomes “How could you keep having children knowing they’d be sick?” My thought is, “How can you keep speaking when everything that comes out of your mouth is stupid?” But I don’t say that. I’m from the South and we are taught at an early age to say anything but the truth if it’s uncomfortable or impolite. (I may be from Texas but respect to you New Yorkers. You may make sucky hot sauce but I envy you the ability to say what you think.) And so, for some bizarre reason, I go into this long explanation about how I’m Catholic, and it’s a one in four chance they’ll have Cystic Fibrosis each pregnancy, and I’m open to life and, damn, here I go again. Why can’t I just say, “It’s none of your business!” That’s right, I’m a southern gal and Daddy wouldn’t approve. Besides, he himself fell into that “have you lost your mind” category. In his defense, he saw beyond my wannabe Pollyanna view and knew the harsh reality of what having so many sick children would mean. Nonetheless, a part of me was tempted to explain the stork couldn’t take them back because I shot him. Hey, don’t judge me too harshly- sometimes you have to find humor in heartache. Otherwise you walk around crying all the time and, if you’re me and forgot your waterproof mascara, that’s not very pleasant.
I will now take my defensive stance and tell anyone who’s judging the multiple sick kid thing, that not a single one of my children would turn back the clock and send their little souls back into the Great Beyond. Life is precious however it is received- just ask folks who know their days are numbered and are fighting like hell to stay here on earth. Who are we to judge the value of that life? Do we walk in that body, think with that mind, feel with that heart? And who’s to say you aren’t going to have a perfectly healthy child who someday goes swimming in a warm water lake and ends up with a brain-eating parasite? Or you think you have a perfectly healthy child only to find out in their teens that they have bone cancer. Or perhaps your son or daughter becomes a soldier and is injured in battle and loses a limb or limbs. We have seen the fight and resilience, against overwhelming odds, in both children and adults determined to beat their illness and/or disability. Would they have that determination if they didn’t believe their life had worth? Would they fight so hard to live? Would they say, “Why the hell did you give birth to me?” Unlikely. There might be a few exceptions out there, sadly, but most people want to live, are geared to live, and have a built-in powerful survival mechanism that automatically comes into play when their lives are threatened. So, a little piece of advice: the next time someone tells you they have a bunch of chronically ill kids, just do the southern thing and say, “Oh, how nice!”
I have sooo much more to share about my children and the blessings and challenges of raising them. Few can say the majority of their children are statistically supposed to precede them in death. I refuse to accept that medical prediction and have already witnessed numerous miracles in life and death battles with my own children. I have my faith to thank for that. At some point machines and medications fail; I can remember one 911 call when all you can hear in the background of the recording is me screaming Hail Marys and Our Fathers. But those prayers got me through- and my son, too. I’ll never be preachy about it, rather, I will relate my own personal experience. And maybe, just maybe, someone out there will find hope and help.
In the very least I get to vent … I mean blog. And I’ll share my moccasins in the process.