I never would have imagined that casual playground conversations with total strangers, neighbors I’ve known for 5 minutes, could quickly turn to personal, and may I say, intimate, topics. There we are one second, discussing teething woes and sleep habits, and the next I’m asked to divulge the innermost workings of my sex life. In a casual way, though, because apparently that’s not taboo. This particular case was a stay-at-home dad, who of course was in shock when I told him that my two girls are 15 months apart in age.
“Wow! So, you just got at it right away, huh?!”
(…Yes, sir. We… did). “Um, yeah…! They’re a lot of fun!”
“You figured you’d just get all the hard stuff over with at once?”
(I’m envisioning that many more years of fertility will mean many more years of this “hard stuff”). “I guess so…?”
At this point, I figured he was done with the inquisition of my very personal family planning history and possible future, but nay.
“So, two girls? And Dad’s ok with that??”
(Well, you know, I really tried to make it a boy, but, wouldn’t ya know? Didn’t work!) “Yeah, he loves them! We definitely want some boys, but for now we’re just good at girls, it seems!”
And then, thankfully, my oldest decided it was time to head home for lunch.
I shouldn’t really be surprised by this variation on a theme that plays out in multiple conversations I have with other parents, all total strangers. No one ever has any qualms jumping right to these intimate questions, about family size, when we’ll be “done”, why we had children so close, so soon, and now apparently, even our children’s gender, as if that’s something we can control, too. But in a culture where children are seen by most people as an accessory, the next “thing” you do as a responsible, debt-free, home-owning, dog-owning, two-income couple, why shouldn’t we talk about them as things? When couples can turn off the woman’s fertility at will, and then assume they have the power to turn it back on, why shouldn’t we talk openly about when, how, and why we want to space our possible children? With total strangers.
Never was I intending to open fire on his lifestyle choices: why does your wife work instead of you? Was your career not lucrative enough? Are you wife? No. Because that is his life, and I literally have no say or stake in it, nor do I want to pry into his personal business. I don’t have that right. It never fails to amaze me that people have so utterly lost the art of polite conversation, and have no problem letting themselves into the privacy of your marriage unasked.
I know that living in an upper-middle class, mostly white neighborhood, I will continue to have this conversation on repeat. Except it will probably get weirder as I have more and more children. What’s “cute” or “fringe” right now to people will probably look downright ridiculous a few kids later. It’s a small price to pay to witness to the inherent goodness of life, but it is a price. It requires getting over what people think, smiling and gritting your teeth at the approximately 1,000th rendition of, “You’ve got your hands full!”, and calmly and happily admitting that YES, you will have more, NO, you’re not done, YES, it’s a lot of work, and definitely, YES, better you than they. If people are going to ask ridiculous, intrusive questions, they are going to get the truth. But they are going to get it with a smile, because I want them to know that I chose this willingly, and believe it or not, I like it. And then I will kindly point them to this article, so they know that my 2 small fry are a drop in the bucket compared to this awesome family, who are also, against all odds, enjoying life too.