It’s Personal

Last week we had a guy come over to measure our kitchen for new cabinets.  It is the first time I met him, as he came in my front door, and all I knew of him was his first name and the fact that he built cabinets.  As he was measuring, Chase came home from school, bounding through the front door, looking for a snack and then settling at my kitchen table with his epic score of string cheese and a small pack of chocolate candy (a 4-year-old has an amazing palate).  As Chase sat down to eat, cabinet guy Steve says to me: “he’s adorable, how many kids do you have?”.

I realize that this is such an innocuous question.  I realize that people ask this question every day.  However I can’t help but think, if you can see the one kid sitting here at my kitchen table, why do you need to ask?  If there were more, they would likely be here, no?  And honestly, if they weren’t here, if they were off on some play-date somewhere, do you, cabinet guy, really need to know?  Is asking someone how many kids they have just as nonchalant as mentioning the weather?  I think the number of kids a person has, or intends to have, is a personal matter, and for the love of God people stop asking.

As soon as cabinet guy asked me how many kids I have, I turned, looked him right in the eye, and said: “I have two.  His older brother died 3 years ago from brain cancer”.  The guy looked at me, with his mouth hanging open as if I just took his lollipop away, of course responding “I’m so sorry, that’s terrible”.  For a while, when people responded like that I would say “oh that’s ok”.  I felt like it was my job to comfort them, because now the shock of my son’s death was clearly too much for them to handle.  They were just making small talk.  Clearly I was supposed to say: “oh we have an older son as well, he’s at soccer practice right now”.  But as much as I want that to be true, it isn’t.  The fact is that Tanner had cancer, and Tanner died.  It shouldn’t be my job to comfort the stranger who should have just focused on measuring my kitchen.  But now, he knows.  Telling him the truth made him aware of pediatric cancer, and it made him aware of the sensitivity of the question.  The next time he goes into a home to conduct business, he may not ask that question of a bereaved mother, or a mother who miscarried, or a mother who is going through infertility – because the fact is, we don’t wear a scarlet letter on our chest, and we look just the same as any other woman.  It is a sensitive question and although to some people it may be as harmless as talking about the weather, to others it may trigger a flood of emotions and pain that they worked very hard on coping with that very day.

This crazy world is full of joy, but it is also not without pain and sorrow.  Everyone is fighting their own battle and no one lives a perfect life with a white picket fence.  Speak gently, and think… because everyone has a story.  Everyone has gone through something that has changed them.


Tanner’s Momma

everyone is fighting a hard battle


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  1. I do agree, we never know what anyone is going through, being kind and choosing our words is very important, beautifully written and very wise advice.

    Comment by Deanna (@UnnaturalMother) on June 2, 2014 at 7:05 pm

  2. Yea I do hate that question it differs how I feel every time I am asked that question you just hope you dont snap.. especially when they go on with further with questions when you have answered them … dont feel any guilt I sometimes just say I have two girls here and I am waiting to meet my son…. if you font want to hear this don’t ask the question because this world id fucked up

    Comment by niko on June 3, 2014 at 5:15 pm

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