Not ‘Just’

To those who talk about the number of other people’s children or grandchildren with the word just or only in front of that number: don’t do that. Perhaps without meaning to, you’re inferiorizing them. They’re not below people who have more kids. And the folks with no kids (“no, it’s just us”) are no worse than those with children. Nobody’s worth or value is not tied to the number of children or grandchildren they have. Or don’t have.

[I’m aware of the single people who struggle and say, “It’s just me (for now).” I hear you, and I believe you when you tell me about your experiences listening to how people talk of marriage. You have my support, and I promise I’m not ignoring you; this post focuses on my annoyance with conversations revolving around how many children people have.]

I’ve always flinched a little when people flaunt the high numbers of their progeny. Yes, the numbers are impressive, and it must be something to be surrounded by all that youthful energy and innocence. There probably is a bond within really big families I admit I don’t understand. And honestly, I celebrate your happiness; I rejoice in your joy. But then the conversation turns, and then you’re saying to me, “Oh, just one?” or about someone else, “They have only two grandkids.” Without outright saying it, the subtext to these statements is, “How sad for them.”

And it might be they are having a sad experience, but the context of our conversation compares the number of your kids/grandkids to the number of my kids/others’ grandkids, and that actual difference in those numbers defines sadness to you. That single aspect convinces me that you do not feel empathy, but pity.

We do not need your pity.

Pity allows you to go right back to bragging about how blessed your life is, implying how much more blessed you are, because you have more children/grandchildren. Pity helps you dismiss our situation with platitudes: “Oh, you’ll have more someday.” “You deserve more children!” “Trust in the Lord’s timeline.” And other similar, general statements.

Perhaps well-intended, but really not helpful. Actually judgmental, and dismissive of individual situations. Ultimately hurtful to people like me who may not have toughened up to this kind of talk. As challenging as it is to give birth, it can be just as challenging to conceive. Or to find a good way to adopt or foster. Or stand by a decision not to have children. Any of these, without feeling guilt or shame.

On the other hand, I have had good experiences where people have used sensitive language, specifically at the doctor’s office. It’s possible to use better words, and it really does make a difference to me in how relationships form. The effort tells me you understand the value of my child.

Then again, maybe I’m too sensitive. Maybe I’ve put too many eggshells around me. Maybe I should learn to brush it off and be ok that people aren’t always going to understand my situation. But I want to be sure that my child understands she’s more than just one child, more than an only child.

Her understanding has to be a priority, so please disregard all the whining I did above.

Instead of complaining, feeling offended, and doing nothing, perhaps I can be a turning point to a heightened perspective in our culture/society, the presence my daughter needs me to be. For her. To help her understand her worth. To know she doesn’t have to listen to comparisons of others to her.

What I need to do more: When people ask how many children we have, or if we have children, I answer, “We have a daughter.” And if they say, “Just one?” I say, “Not ‘just.’ She’s really great.” She needs to hear that.

And I smile.

She needs to see that.

To feel it.

To know deep in her soul how much we love her.

Last week I didn’t attend a funeral.

The bishop announced it the Sunday before. I wept.

A baby girl was born. Received a name.

The baby had a condition called Potter Syndrome. She had no kidneys while she developed in her mother’s womb. She could not produce amniotic fluid.

But she was born. And she spent 90 precious minutes with her family.

Her parents and older brother and sister held her. Talked to her. Smiled, took pictures.

The bishop said the family felt incredibly blessed to spend that much time with their baby girl.

After an hour and a half, her frail little body stopped working, and she returned home. To a sibling who also came home, but only 40 minutes after being born.

They’re home. Where they no longer have Potter Syndrome. Where they will have kidneys.

Where they wait to see the rest of their family again.

Friday Hodgepodge

I didn’t get home until late, so this post will be quite short. You’ll forgive me, I can tell.

Three things tonight, then I’m off to bed.

1. So, we were at In -N- Out this evening, and Reilly and I ordered our cheeseburgers “animal style.” I wondered if anyone has tried ordering their burgers “Gangnam Style.” What would that mean, exactly? Would you get your burger with a mini Psy doll? Would the song blare through the speakers and the cashiers do the famous dance? Could some try ordering this way and let me know how it goes?

2. Have I mentioned that my brother-in-law is in a band called Book on Tapeworm? They had a slumber party concert tonight, and it was awesome. They were also on a radio show called Radiowest. It’s cool hearing people you know on the radio. It’s especially cool hearing all of a personality in a voice: in sentences, in mumbles, in single syllables and hesitations. Listening to both shows was a lot of fun.

Seriously, though, buy their debut album. You won’t regret it. (And while you’re on that page, watch that awesome video again.)

And listen to yesterday’s radio show. They played live in the studio, and you won’t find much difference in sound with the recorded album. They’re that awesome.

3. I have not cried more reading any other blog than Miggy’s. (That’s her internet handle. The family members she writes about get nicknames, too.) Today’s post was incredibly touching. I attended the same LDS ward in NYC with the author for a couple of years. Not only is Miggy really creative and artsy (she makes her home decor, makes clothes, transforms cute shoes to even cuter shoes, paints, etc.), she’s also a very cool mom with a terrific perspective on life because of the experiences she’s been given. If you don’t end up regularly following the blog, at least read the one post. It made my day.

Proof I’m Learning Stuff

Well, at least about writing.

I got a paper back tonight. My first of the semester that wasn’t French. It earned an A. Nice surprise, considering I’d written it in a big hurry, pretty much until just before it was due.

A year ago, I don’t think I would have written a first paper – in that manner – that would have done as well.

I’m becoming way too comfortable with procrastination.

Also, I’ve learned just not to write about Jane Austen.

So far, I’ve gotten A’s and A-‘s on French papers.

My first French grammar midterm earned a B+ (89% – so close!), which relieved me. I remember leaving the testing center thinking I’d be perfectly content with a B. The exam ended with writing a short composition about the novel we’re reading. I remember feeling pretty good about the essay. The professor gave me a bonus point for style, with a little comment at the end: “Vous êtes poète!” Also, thank goodness for bonus points, for I  might have dipped down into B- or C range without them.

So, that balances the ridiculous crying I did today. If those good things hadn’t happened, I would have chalked today up as an epic loss. Of course there are worse things.

Thanks for the comforting texts, you. I wish I had a gold star to give.

Vanishing Points

See those photos, there, from yesterday. I see a series of parallel lines, along the X and Y axes, giving the illusion of a Z. Put something where the lines are wider, it looks closer, and where they narrow, farther away.

Follow the lines, follow the rules.

What if I stood outside of these lines? Would it skew your perspective? Can there be more than one horizon? What if I stood without the convergence, at its very end? What if I withstood it? Could you still see me? Would I disappear?