Monday, November 07, 2005

Does This Make Me Look Fat?

Within the last month and a half, I've had three different people ask me if I was pregnant. I find this disturbing, especially since I started working out regularly at Curves 2 months ago. I haven't lost weight, but I have lost inches. I've never been one to obsess about my figure. However, I decided I was at a point where I needed to be more active. Diabetes runs in my family. I know what that entails, and I don't want to have to live that kind of lifestyle with its accompanying risks.

So I wonder what it is that makes people think I've got a bun in the oven? Is it bad posture? Bad wardrobe choices? I'm not sure. We've got three boys, and I often get questions about whether or not we're going to "try for a girl." Why does that matter? Don't get me wrong--I think it would be great to have a girl, but I'd be perfectly content with another boy. I love my sons, and after three of them I think I have the boy thing down. But why is it that people assume that because I have three of one gender I must necessarily have this obsessive desire to have one of the other?

I suspect that timing is a motive behind the pregnancy questions. My "baby" is two years old now. Apparently, that means it's high time to add to our band of ruffians. Who developed this timeline anyway? Sheesh. Do I have to follow the perceived "Mormon standard" of kids two years apart just because I belong to the predominant religion in Utah? Do the math with my other boys and you'll see that I've rebelled against that standard. My first son was 3-1/2 when son number two came along, and son number two was 4 when son number three came along. If I continue that pattern, I won't be thinking of bottles and newborn nappies for at least another year or more.

My sons have been their own form of birth control every since they were born. Neither my husband nor I do well when sleep deprived. I can't be a good mom when I'm grumpy and tired. And unlike those few lucky parents whose newborns sleep through the night from day one, our babies don't reach that milestone until they're at least 5 to 6 months old. Do you know how long it takes to make up for half a year of lost sleep? Those first smiles and coos are a great reward, but they don't give your body the sleep it craves.

Our first son has been a real challenge from day one. First children are always challenging in some way because as new parents you feel like idiots. You have no idea what you're doing or why they let you come home from the hospital with this new little person. What if you feed him wrong? What if you don't put the diaper on right? And heaven forbid you should have to give the kid a bath--you might break him or something. It's really scary. But then you figure it out and the baby survives and you realize that you CAN be a parent--at least until the kid turns about 17 months old. (At our house, the "terrible twos" start early.) Overnight, it seems, your angel child turns into the spawn of Satan. Then what do you do?

I distinctly remember an incident with my first son, A--, when he was about 2-1/2 years old. We were living in Layton at the time, and our back fence (which had blown down in a wind storm) bordered the driveway of our neighbor around the corner. A-- and I were in the kitchen getting lunch ready. We could see out the back door into the yard and onto the neighbor's property. We noticed that the neighbor, an elderly gentleman, was outside getting the mail or something. On his way back up to his door, he bent down to reach something on the driveway. About 5 minutes later, A-- asked me why that man bent down. I told him I didn't know--maybe he picked up some trash or something. I hadn't been paying attention that closely. This launched A-- into a FULL BLOWN FIT! I had never seen anything like it until that point. He literally screamed at me, "YOU HAVE TO KNOW!!!!" He wanted me to go over to the guy's house and ask him what he was doing when he bent down in his driveway. Yeah, right. You can imagine how well that conversation would have gone:

"Um, excuse me, sir. I'm your neighbor to the west. My son saw you bend down in your driveway about 10 minutes ago. What exactly were you doing? He's two and he just has to know."

That was the first of many similar incidents. Once, he asked me, "What does a chair say?" I told him chairs don't say anything. He insisted otherwise, which started a long afternoon (and several weeks following) of kicking, screaming fits about what noise chairs make. Is it any wonder, then, why we waited so long to have another child? Who wants to deal with two out-of-control children at the same time?

So here we are with three kids and questions about when/if we're going to have more. I wasn't offended by the questions--mostly because two of the three people who asked are good friends and the third is one of the girls in my Young Women class. It's only that it made me wonder why they would ask. How do you respond to that question anyway? "No, I'm not pregnant, I'm just gaining weight. Thanks for noticing, though." Kinda makes you uncomfortable. It's one of those "forbidden" questions, like "Do I look fat?"


compulsive writer said...

Just tell them you swallowed a watermelon seed...

Seriously, I know what you mean. Sleep deprivation--mine lasted till they were two or three, then begins again when they are teenagers who think they are entitled to a night life. Oh well. I will get sleep again when I die.

Kactiguy said...

Three questions for you.
1. What the heck was that guy picking up?
2. What sound does a chair make? I think it depends on the make of chair.
3. Isn't it about time to stop having kids? Time for a nap.

Lorien said...

hee hee. watermelon seed. good answer.

As for your son, here was your first mistake. You let him sense weakness. NEVER let your children think you are fallible, even if it means lying. What you SHOULD have said was, "Why, darling, he was checking to see if his shoe was tied and he can't see very well." Done. Problem solved.

What does a chair say? "Pbpbwhrrrrr" when it scoots across the floor. That's an easy one. Or "Hey, get off! Your butt stinks!" What son wouldn't like that answer?

You simply need to be more creative, dishonest and decisive in your answers to your children. Show no weakness and they will learn to accept you as the font of all knowledge.

Julie said...

compulsive: Great answer! We should talk about what childless couples should say when they get the question "When are you going to have kids?"

Lorien, the only problem with lying is that son number one could tell--even at age two. He had a preset answer in his mind to his own questions, and if my answer didn't match, watch out! He's still that way. He asks questions and will argue whatever answer I give him, whether it's true or not. Wanna trade kids? (I have to admit, though, the "Get off, your butt stinks" answer might have worked.)

Sadly, I have never been the font of all knowledge for son one, although I have enjoyed playing that role for son two. You could tell son one on a clear day that the sky is blue and he'd argue about it with you until the proverbial cows came home. (sigh)

Guy: Three answers for you.
1. A nose hair.
2. It depends on what you ate for dinner the day before.
3. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

compulsive writer said...

That's one question I have no response for. It's also a question which shouldn't even be asked. My standard answer when the question was posed to me--starting about 6 minutes after we were married--was that we would start having kids after I got the first one (meaning Shane) raised. The next year when I was pregnant with Luke those who had heard my response asked why I hadn't waited till the first one was raised. I replied, "This one is an accident.'

Lorien said...

great answers.

In the mood I've been in for the last week or two, if I was childless and someone asked me, I think I'd say, "because I don't like kids. Back off." or "None of your ____ business." Or maybe I'd start explaining the reproductive process and detail which aspect wasn't working to produce the expected result. Cranky me. Got any mood altering drugs I could borrow?

Wait! my word verification is "kasyguts"! That might have done the trick! For a minute anyway.

becks said...

Now i feel bad for asking my friends that are married when they are going to have kids. but, I only see them every once in a while and its always one of those forced conversations because I wasn't really close to them. So the only thing I can think to ask them is "How are you?" and "when are you going to have kids?" Then I always feel like a dork because I know that I would hate to have people constantly ask me that when i'm married, which is in the very distant future.

Does anybody have any good suggestions of questions i can ask these people in these not so often and forced conversations that are unavoidable? Apparently I'm not doing so well on my own.

Lorien said...

Ask them how much money they make now. I find that people always like to share their financial successes.

compulsive writer said...

Just ask them how they are, then say, "Enough about you, here's what you need to know about me." Redirecting the subject of the conversation will also help you avoid other potentially awkward questions such as, "So, how's your sex life?"

~j. said...

I once had a woman who I had never met before ask, "Which ward are you in, and what is your calling?" I answered and we never spoke again. Lorien, you're my Utahnics expert - is that code for, "What do you do, and how much money do you make?"?

I'm always prepared to answer if someone asks if I'm pregnant. The answer is, "Yes, seven months along." Then, I look great.

Lorien said...

That's a great answer, Jenny. I wonder if they are still watching, going wow, is she overdue?

Utahnics lesson: You were close, but you missed some fine distinctions. "Which ward are you in?" translated literally, means "Where do you live?" However, the more important, implied meaning is indeed "How much money do you make?" The more direct question for these probing individuals would be, "How much was your tithing check this week?" but that information is confidential, and therefore the question taboo. The other, more subtle, part of the exchange, "What is your calling?" is easily misinterpreted as a simple "What do you do with your spare time?" But actually, it is more probing and significant than people often realize. It means, "How spiritually gifted are you? Do your leaders recognize your spirituality or are you only suitable for a lesser calling? And how proficient are you with centerpieces, creative handouts, and other essential feminine skills?"

I hope that clears the water for you, Jenny. Please let me know if you need any other subtleties of Utahspeak revealed.

compulsive writer said...

So I didn't grow up here and I guess I'm a little slow.

For the record I'd like it to be known that if I ask you what ward you're in, what I'm really saying is, are you close enough a neighbor I can ask to borrow a cup of sugar?

And if I ask you about your calling it's probably because I'm wondering if I need to apologize in advance if you've got one of my kids in your Sunday School, Primary or YM/YW class.

Julie said...

I grew up in Utah, and I agree with Dalene. Sometimes I ask "which ward/what calling" just so I can see what connections I can make to other people I know in that area.

Lorien said...

Ah, but did you grow up on the west side with a poor kid complex? It explains a lot, really.

Julie said...

No, but I grew up on the "poor side" of my ward, which was invisibly divided along socioeconomic lines. I wasn't part of the "in crowd" of the young women because we didn't live on the right half of the ward and my family didn't have tons of money. My dad taught school and raised 7 kids on a teacher's salary. Does that count?

Lorien said...

Yes, I think that qualifies, even though you were on the hill. Welcome to the west side!

Lessel Peeper said...

Ah, west-end refreshing.

Lorien, for what it's worth, I've always thought the world of you for who you are--I never knew or cared anything about your socio-economic conditions.

Our family was on "the hill" back in 1959 when lots were $1200 and we were one of only a dozen homes. It wasn't posh then, just average. In fact, our house was on a dead end street for a long time.

Well, where do I start on this one? As a childless couple, we get all sorts of questions and comments. Most are inappropriate and nosy, but if they are well-intentioned they don't bother us. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people that want to criticize and critique.

On one occasion, I was accused of beeing too greedy or something because my wife and I both work and make "plenty" of money. Needless to say, this really pissed me off (can I say pissed on this site?).

After I collected myself, I made it clear that we DO want children, and that we were trying to have some. In fact, we had just lost our first baby the previous month.

The truth is, we've been trying for years and have spent a great deal of time and money participating in studies, running tests, and doing all sorts of "wonderful" things to make this happen. wonder we both work. If you thought a $20 co-pay was bad, most of ours are around $300 and are getting worse. In fact, the next big one in our future is somewhere around $10,000 (yes, that's a comma).

So, it's okay to inquire if you do it out of concern. When it's done to pass judgement, back off or you're gonna get hurt. Do people really think we haven't looked around and noticed that there aren't tiny versions of us running around? Do they ask why it's hard to be called to primary or nursery? Do they wonder why it's sometimes uncomfortable or difficult for us to attend baby blessings or activities with our friends and their families?

No one understands what it's like to be a parent until you are, and on one understands how hard it is to lose a baby until it happens. Likewise, until you've suffered the stares, whispers, and assumptions about why you don't have kids, you don't know what it's like.

I really love people who seem to rub it in.

Julie said...

Wow, lessel. That was long enough to be a blog all by itself. :-) Thanks for commenting.

Lorien said...

Hey, thanks, peeper. Mostly I've gotten over my west-end complex, but it rears it ugly head now and then. :)

It's amazing that some people can't seem to understand that there may be people with experiences different than their own, isn't it? I'm sure we're all guilty of insensitivity (usually because of ignorance--hopefully) at some point, but you hope that after people have been around for a while they'll get the idea that everything isn't rosy for everyone all the time. I'm sure at sometime I've stuck the ole foot in the mouth with regard to children or the lack thereof, but I've learned over the last few years that it's best not to ask, and unless you're really good friends and invited to that topic, it's none of anyone's business. There. More sound wisdom from the Fount of Lorien.

Lorien said...

Oh, and seeing that this is JULIE'S blog, I'm thinking language shouldn't be too much of a problem...


Julie said...

Thanks, Lorien. You're such a great friend! And I will refrain from mentioning your use of the occasionally inappropriate word.... ;-)

Much love from your fellow pottymouth.

Lyle said...

When they ask the "uncomforable" question. Tell them that they would be the first to know, when it happens. Smile, and then change the subject.

In all seriousness, any questions relating to pregnancy that is not initiated by the subject in question, will always be one of those cultural taboos that end up as verbal boo-boo's. Just like you can tell a kid not to touch the stove because it is hot, the will anyway because it is programmed into the DNA.

And to Lorien's comments: It's okay that you did not grow up living in the Condos and have a swimming pool. The West side had "the field". Oh wait, that was usually more interesting for the boys. So you were a girl on the west side with a mullet and headgear. Things could have been worse.

Julie, It's quite okay that all you have is boys. I have one brother that has 4 girls, no boys and one brother that has 3 boys, no girls. "Ignore the Ignorant" is a nice motto.

Lessel Peeper said...

Lorien, you're a true oracle. (choirs of angels sing)

I guess the flip side of kids/no kids it that there are also people that have a million kids but are in no position to support them. I'm not talking lavish lifestyle, but you have to be able to provide for their basic emotional, temporal, and spiritual needs.

I've met several families through various callings and assignments in church whose children would have been better off if the parents had figured this out earlier. Neglect and abuse are terrible offenses.

However, kudos to those parents who know when to stop :-) and that care properly for their children.

A thought on big families....

I always laugh at a line from the recent remake of the film, "Cheaper by the Dozen," starring Steve Martin.

A person newly introduced to the family repeats (with great incredulity) "You have twelve children?"

Steve Martin replies, "Yeah, I couldn't keep her off of me."