Why do you ask?

Bi-weekly columnist touches upon a topic that may be familiar

Karen Haviland

You know, there are some things which are just nobody’s business. Sometimes you have to wonder if some people were raised with wolves, and therefore lack common courtesy and couth.

The other day I was online when a poster commented that some people felt free to voice their opinion on how many children she has. Apparently, and according to those people, the correct and ideal number of children per family is a maximum of two.

Someone should have sent a memo because the poster consciously chose (yes, chose) to have four children. So, in other words, her personal reproductive decisions are up for discussion and comment whether she asks for such or not.

But here’s a newsflash: She wanted a big family. Deal with it folks. It’s her body and her decision whether you agree or not.

Yes, I know it’s unusual to see a family with more than two or three children nowadays. Even I am guilty at sneaking peaks at larger families. I’m not sure why I do this. Maybe it’s just because it’s not commonplace to see “large” families. But if I have an opinion I keep my thoughts to myself unless that opinion is favourable. We all know that raising children is a challenge. I can’t begin to imagine what a challenge it must be in today’s world.

So, if we are dining out and there is a family at a nearby table with well-raised children, I usually go over after my meal and let the parents know how much we appreciate their efforts at raising well-behaved and well-mannered children. People, even parents, need to know when they are doing a good job and I think that kindness and encouragement go a lot further than narrow-minded, judgmental comments.

For those other parents, here are some hints: if you are bringing your child to a restaurant, a nap prior would probably be a good idea. As well, hungry children want food immediately. They don’t want it in 45 minutes. Hungry children=crabby children. Either feed your child a light snack beforehand, or bring some goodies in your purse. You would be surprised how following those few hints would change your dining experience from horrific to pleasant. As to how many children you have, that’s not my business.

When I was growing up many families had four or more children. In fact, my parents were proud that they had five children, and they were especially prideful that we were “stair step” children; meaning, that when we stood together our varying heights, from the youngest to the oldest, resembled stair steps.

And if people thought we were a large family at five children, they had yet to meet the Pipers down the street who boasted 13 kids. Even back then, when large families were the norm, the Pipers were almost considered like a sideshow.

Families, no matter what their size, no matter what their makeup and demographics, should be honoured. Times are hard enough for families, what with the shrinking economy, and worldwide uncertainty. Those young people who are raising children (young to me) for the most part are doing it thoughtfully and with real purpose.

In fact, in my opinion, it seems that I see more of those types of parents than I did when I was raising my son.

The parents of my generation wore bellbottoms and beads. Our biggest concern was the Vietnam war.

Today’s parents have been through two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq. This is the climate in which they are raising their children.

I don’t care how many children you have chosen to raise. Instead, I ask you to raise the kind of children in whose hands we will feel free to leave the future.

Finally, to the young parent of four I offer this advice. My father taught me that when nosy people ask questions, the best answer is to look them straight in the eyes and say, “Why do you ask?”

It stops them in their tracks every time.

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