Just Treatment

Scenario 1: At a church women’s function there’s an activity where we have to find the oldest and youngest ladies at each table, and then from those ladies, we have to figure out the oldest and youngest in the room. When we identified the oldest lady, she stood up and announced, “Yes, I’m [somewhere in my 70s]. And I have 25 grandchildren to prove it.”

Scenario 2: In hundreds of conversations I’ve had with different people, this happens:
Me: So, do you have siblings?
Other person: Yeah, I have [at least four] brothers and sisters. What about you?
Me: Yeah, I have a younger brother.
Other person: So it’s just the two of you?

HOLY COW, PEOPLE, THIS IS NOT A COMPETITION. Yes, families are uber-central to our (Mormon) society and culture, and I know that children become our world once we have them, like how my parents focused on mine and Frank’s happiness as they raised us; how even my brother and I looked out for each other when we were kids, and we are probably more protective now.

It’s not “just” the two of us. There are two of us, and we’re awesome.

Reilly and I have been talking about when we’d like to have kids. Are we going to have “just” three, or “just” two, or “just” one? What if we end up only having one? “Just” one sounds like a disgrace, a failure, an implied incompetence. If we have one child, he or she will be awesome. If we have more, they’ll be awesome, too.

What if I can’t biologically have children? Are we going to “just” adopt, as if it’s a lesser alternative? As if parents use an inferior stash of love for children they couldn’t physically give birth to? Do these parents tell their kids that they’re “just” adopted? Will other kids tell my kid(s) “So, there’s ‘just’ one of you” or “So you’re ‘just’ adopted?”

BLEEP NO. You don’t win all the contests, because THERE ARE NO CONTESTS.

Sometimes people don’t even realize what they’re saying. And maybe I could be less annoyed. But should I be less sensitive when it comes to my family and my potential family? Are you really going to sit back and take it when I say that you have “just” a boy or “just” a girl or “just” twins or they got “just” Bs on their report cards? First, you know I wouldn’t think those thoughts, let alone say them. Secondly, you would defend your children if someone made these statements, because you love your children, and they’re awesome. That’s all it takes.

Think about what you’re saying. Think about the implied devaluing and belittling in that one little word. Be mindful of the context in which you use it. Make an effort to stop using it in the situations I’ve mentioned here.

Just stop.

6 thoughts on “Just Treatment

    • If that actually solved the problem, then maybe. I was also thinking of friends and situations outside of Utah when I wrote this. That type of insensitivity is not exclusive to here.

      • Nothing is generally exclusive to one place but I definitely feel like things like this are definitely more rampant in the Mormon bubble out there. I’ve never noticed anybody saying “just” to me about my one child although every now and then people do ask when I’m having another one to which I reply “maybe NEVER”. So maybe that’s the same thing. But since there were 5 of us growing up I guess I haven’t had a life of “just” comments for it to bother me the way it does you. Sorry for people’s insensitivity. I guess all we can do is make sure we’re more mindful of the things we say ourselves in an effort not to spread the insensitivity.

  1. I know what you mean. I can think of two even worse situations. When somebody tells you that you need to start having children (I got this a lot, and of all things, when my wife had just miscarried), and when people brag about all of their children or grandchildren going on missions and getting married in the temple (my mom always hurt because she felt she had failed when some went astray). There’s nothing wrong with encouraging bringing up righteous children, or even being grateful for the amount of children/grandchildren you have and/or for the amount that remained faithful and served missions. I like it when people say they are grateful for that actually. But bragging about it, competing, or denigrating others for not accomplishing such is very problematic. You’d be denigrating Lehi who had children go astray and others like him, and people whose children weren’t able to go on missions for whatever reason. You would be denigrating the impotent, even Abraham’s wife Sarai for having “just” Isaac, and several like her who have one or two children. It’s just not appropriate.

    • Thanks for your comment and perspective. You make some fine points. We often don’t know what people’s circumstances are, so maybe we should take care in our conversations with others about these especially sensitive subjects. Thanks again.

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