We just need a few things, I think to myself as I pull into the grocery store parking lot. We can be in and out in fifteen minutes. I get my five children unloaded out of our suburban – the five month old in her carrier in the basket, the two year old buckled into the seat, and the nine, eight, and five year olds walking next to me. I admit it, we can be kind of a sight to see. We make our way into the store and within a few minutes we are stopped by a middle aged woman.
“One, two, three, four … FIVE?! My goodness, you sure have your hands FULL!” she blurts out at us.
“Yep, sure do!” I respond, as I push my basket past her.
Her comment hardly elicits a response from me. If I am out in public with my kids, there is a very good chance someone will stop us and inevitably this phrase makes its way into the conversation. However, there was a time, not long ago, that I would get so irritated when a stranger would suggest that my “hands are full.”
I’m not talking about people who stop us and are friendly and sweet. I’m referring to the one who stops us to say “your hands are full” but what they mean is “I would hate to be you.” It’s their tone.
When you have enough people go out of their way to tell you that, it gets old. I put off announcing our fifth baby as long as I could, because quite honestly, I just couldn’t stomach the negative reactions.
I get it, we are like a traveling circus.
But remember, you only see one little snippet of my life, one moment in time when this group of loud, laughing, bickering, fussing, giggling kids pass by you. And all you can think is “I could never handle that!” As if this snapshot you see in front of you is how my life is all the time.
What gets me is that for as long as I have been a mom, I have been told that my hands are full. Crying baby in church? Sleepy, cross toddler? All girls? Two under two? Strong willed child? Yep, my hands were full all of those times too.
All you can see is how full my hands are. Now, let me tell you what I see.
I see a nine year old girl who will soon be a pre-teen, nervous about starting middle school and having a locker and switching classes. She is smart and quiet and funny and will play any instrument she can get her hands on. She is a little mama, fiercely protective of her little sisters, and loves to snuggle babies as much as I do.
I see an eight year old who is strong and athletic. Since birth she has been determined to keep up with her big sister, who is just 17 months older than she is. She is afraid of nothing, which scares me to death.
I see a five year old who is my only girl with bright blonde hair and cobalt blue eyes, and her imagination is wild and free. She is in the age of unicorns and dinosaurs and loves our puppy Brody like he’s her brother.
I see a two year old who is as sweet as she is rambunctious, who will (both literally and figuratively) plow through any baby gate in her way. She is our rainbow baby in every sense, the answer to so many prayers, responsible for so many tears of joy.
I see a five month old who is our lagniappe baby, a precious surprise we never knew we needed, who we welcomed less than two years after her sister. She melts my heart with gummy grins and her abundance of chubby baby goodness. I also see the two babies we lost, and the absence of both is so obvious to me. Losing our first broke my heart, losing our second crushed me.
I see five sisters who will share clothes and shoes and secrets. I see five girls who will look out for each other and protect each other and there will be dances and dates and heart break. I see sisters that will one day be brides and bridesmaids and mothers and aunts, who will hold each others’ hands and snuggle each others’ babies. I see five confident, determined, independent, strong willed girls who will each change the world in their own way.
So when you see our crew wandering past you like a herd of feral cats, just remember: that’s my tribe.
You may think you would never want to be me, that maybe my world is too busy, too messy, and too loud. But I would never trade this gaggle of kids for the world.
You might say my hands are full, and that’s just fine with me.