Conversations with strangers

Conversations with strangers

I understand that a Mum with three little boys is slightly outside the norm. I know that strangers at the cafe, post office, park, supermarket, library etc. are trying to make conversation.  I’m polite and always have conversations with strangers, but really my boys and I aren’t that remarkable.

Here are the most common remarks strangers make to me, they aren’t especially witty or insightful.

Are they all yours

Almost every time I am out with my three boys someone will ask me “are they all yours”? We’ve been asked so many times that the biggest lad now replies “Yes, three boys”, and then introduces himself and his brothers. I have three kids, three. Not seven or eleven, three. Surely that’s not unusual? Sometimes I feel like saying, of course they are all mine, do you think I am crazy enough to lump myself with extra kids? And dear stranger, a cursory glance will tell you that they all look remarkably similar. Obviously they are brothers!

Three boys or are they twins

Yep, that’s the next go to comment, “three boys”! Hello! I am well aware that I have three sons. They are loud and demanding and really hard to forget. I may be sleep deprived but I’m across the fact that I’ve got three kids. The other comment is “are they twins”? referring to the biggest two boys. Seriously people, look at them! One is significantly taller and bigger than the other.

They are close in age

You know what? My boys are all two years apart. So (a) they aren’t actually THAT close in age. There’s plenty of kids born much closer together, and (b) I know! What is with people pointing out the blatantly obvious to me? I gave birth in 2010, 2012 and 2014. I’m well aware of their ages. Then I am often told that two years is a ‘good’ age gap. Really, what makes a ‘good’ age gap anyway? There’s no right or wrong time to have a second or third child. It’s just the way it is, ain’t nothing going to change it.

You’ve got your hands full

Wel actually, given I have three kids and two hands I’d say my hands are more than full. I’d love to smile sweetly and say “my hands are not as full as my heart” or something equally sweet but I fear I’d not be able to keep the sarcasm from my voice. Here’s a thought, dear stranger, I do have my hands full so perhaps it’s not the most ideal time to strike up a conversation. Perhaps rather than comment on how busy my life must be or how full my hands are, just say something kind, or even better help in some small way. Trust me, you think you know how full my hands are but you have no idea.

You’re brave taking them all out

Lovely stranger, I am not brave venturing out of the house with three boys on my own. It’s called necessity. This mummy needs coffee, the proper stuff, so out of the house we go. The boys need to run around, get fresh air, be occupied so off to the park, playgroup, library, pool or other kid friendly spot we go. Do you think we’d all be alive at the end of the day if we didn’t leave the house? I’m joking, clearly, but we’d all be feeling a little fragile and the house would be in a state of chaos is I wasn’t ‘brave’ enough to go out. As an aside, why do people think going out with kids is brave? It’s just life.

Boys!

Conversations with strangers always include comments about my three children being boys. These are the most offensive comments. I gat variations of “were you trying for a girl/will you try for a girl/were you sad the baby wasn’t a girl”. How are these questions appropriate or acceptable? I’m convinced that there’s a current societal preference for girls. But you know what dear stranger, I love my children. The stuff between their legs isn’t important to me. And, kind stranger, why do you care about the gender of my children? They are healthy, thriving boys. Really, what’s the issue here. Often people look at me with great sympathy and in a hushed tone say “Oh, three boys”. As the Thud says, three sons seems to be an epic disaster. There’s no need for sympathy people, it’s not a curse. My sons are all fabulous little people.

While this post sounds bitter, I love people and random conversations with strangers. I just wish that the conversations were a little more imaginative and I didn’t feel like I was receiving condolences. Often the best conversations are with Chinese, they literally pat me on the back for producing three sons.

I’m thinking about getting a t-shirt that says “Nothing to see here people, as you were”. Problem is, slogan t-shirts aren’t really my style! I’d love to hear about your random conversations with strangers.

Running in Lavender
My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows

70 thoughts on “Conversations with strangers

  1. I always get ‘gee your boys look alike, they’re identical!’ Yes, I agree they are very similar but no, they are not identical. And yes, like yours they are close in age but not that close. I have also been asked on occasion if they are twins. Clearly not!!!

    1. Lise, you’re boys are clearly brothers but they are absolutely not identical, nor do they look even remotely like twins!

  2. Recently married and of a certain age I often get “Oh, so when are you having a baby?”, “Pregnant yet?”, “Are you trying?”. “When are you due?” etc. These questions come from hairdressers, massage therapists, the lovely woman at your regular shopping haunt etc, the usual people you might have more than a quick hello/goodbye type of interaction with. BUT, they also come from well intentioned good friends, with children of their own.

    My response is always the same “I’d love to have a child but it happens more quickly for some than it does for others”.

    I guess the ‘moral’ of your story and mine is that people need be more aware of the impact that throw away comments can have. They may be well intentioned and trying to make polite conversation and this is great and the world needs more people with good intentions. However, perhaps we could all strive to make our polite conversation more meaningful and sincere?

    1. You’re right Jacqui, the world does need people with good intentions. But questions like “are you trying” are basically questions about your sex live, which is clearly inappropriate! You’re response is very measured, I like it.

  3. Love it! As soon as my son turned two I started getting the “so when’s the next one?” Comment and when I would answer “oh no that’s it for us, we’re not planning on having more” jaws drop and people immediately launch into a lecture telling me why I simply cannot just have one, because of course my son will be spoilt, lonely etc. I just honestly don’t understand why people, especially random strangers feel it’s ok to do that, we’re happy and that should be all that matters!

  4. Tshirts, great idea … careful what you say Claire coz they’re super easy to order here and we can have some ready for when you arrive. Matching couple Tshirts are very popular …. what do you want for Mr and Mrs Wallace ‘yes, they’re all ours’ and for the 3 boys ‘no, we’re not twins’?! (don’t worry I wouldn’t)

  5. I also occasionally get asked if my oldest two are twins. When I had no. 2 people actually wrote in their congratulations cards how clever I was at producing a pigeon pair / job done / no need for more! A few were genuinely shocked that we chose to have a third.

    1. I suspect that the ‘pigeon pair’ is societies ideal family makeup, so you must therefore be crazy to have a third! Weird isn’t it. I do remember an older relative telling us when the biggest lad was born that it was ok to have a girl now. Umm, seriously?

  6. Claire, you have 3 absolutely gorgeous boys! Healthy children is all that matters! Having 2 boys for me is very special and everyday is a blessing. What a beautiful family you have. Its so nice to see/hear that you are doing so well. Love Nicole xx

  7. Lovely write up Claire, seems we’ve all experienced many of these very same conversations! My favourite is my nearly having an argument with a woollies check out chick (sorry that’s probably not p.c) because she was INSISTING my girls were twins! My line was “I was pregnant on 3 separate occasions and gave birth on 3 separate occasions, but thanks for your opinion!” and I should add, yes this was after the ‘pigeon pair’ people refer to!!! As my Mr Wallace says ‘opinions are like rear ends everyone seems to one”.

    1. Wow Nim, how could someone possibly challenge a mother about whether her children are twins?!? I like your Mr Wallace’s thinking!

  8. Two of my cousins each have three boys and when they all go out together you wouldn’t believe some of the comments they get! Or maybe you would; )

    I have a girl and a boy and am always being congratulated on producing a pigeon pair – as if I had any say in the matter! People should just keep their ridiculous chit chat to themselves.

    1. Mumma McD, the whole ‘pigeon pair’ thing intrigues me! It’s clearly people’s preference for family makeup, but it’s also clearly out of your control. I suspect if you had a third child kind strangers would think you very odd!

  9. What a great post Claire – strangers always offer their opinions don’t they. When you have one child – they ask when you’re having another, two of the same they ask ‘will you try for a …’. You are so right in that we should be grateful with whatever we are given – and are so fortunate to have healthy children whatever their gender.

  10. I also have three boys, but mine do not look at all related. I have a red head, an olive skinned brown head, and a little blonde head whose skin tone is roughly halfway between the other two boys’. I frequently get asked if I am certain that none of them were swapped in the hospital.

    1. Oh that’s funny Emily! I’m guessing you might also get the “are they all yours” question? People really do come out with some cracker comments.

  11. As a mum to 4 boys (yep FOUR) I have heard it all before, especially the trying for a girl, which started after we found out our second was a boy and has only just recently stopped, even though our youngest is almost four. I did find however, that when asked if we were going to go back for one more chance at a girl, that saying “my whole pregnancy was 8 months of hell with Hyperemesis gravidarium, high blood pressure, moving towns at 34 weeks pregnant, being induced at 38 weeks due to a constant blood pressure of 200/140, a blue baby at birth who needed to be resuscitated, a major haemorrhage (for me), neonatal jaundice requiring phototherapy, hip dysplasia requiring him to wear a brace from 9 weeks to just after his 1st birthday, constant ear infections and tonsillitis as well as sleep apnoea requiring a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy at 23 months, especially as the sleep apnoea would wake him throughout the night and he could not settle himself back to sleep, hospitalisation at 17 months due to salmonella poisoning, and severe oral, verbal and motor dyspraxia, means I have had a really hard struggle these last 4 years that I have barely survived. So no, even if I could guarantee I would have a girl, I am not going back for one more try” tends to shut the conversation down quite quickly.

    I also find it silly that people comment on the fact they are all the same sex as if you can dictate the sex of your unborn child. They seem to forget there is basically a 50/50 chance of a particular gender.

    People also seem to forget that a few generations ago, a family with only 3 or 4 children would be considered a small family, nowadays they are considered large.

    1. Oh Belinda, sounds like you had a rough start with your youngest son. I do hope his health has improved. You’re right, people do seem to conveniently forget that the gender of your baby is entirely out of your control. I find the ‘large family’ concept with three kids rather odd. I contemplate four children and people think I’m mad to want such a huge family. I guess it’s all relative.

  12. When i had my first daughter clearly a little girl dressed in pinks and purples and bows in her dark curly hair i was asked how old is He im sorry what my baby is a girl hence the bows in the hair and the pink blanket. This happened so often when we were out that when they would ask what is His name id simply reply Lucy watch them try to work out if i called my little boy a girls name. I got asked when she was 2 and in a pink summer dress with bows in her hair how old He was i said my daughter is 2 hence the pink dress and bows. Did you dress your boys in pretty pink dresses? I used to get so angry… now i have 2 girls this new bub is only 6weeks old. Hopefully she doesnt get this as well every time we leave the house…
    We are also a mixed race family and my daughter is significantly darker than my lily white.. so they would ask if she is mine where did i get her? Completely inappropriate and none of their business!

    1. I love your response to the question “what’s his name”, classic Stacey! I often got asked if my middle son was a girl because of his curls and blue eyes, even if he was dressed head to toe in blue and carrying a truck! But ‘where did you get her’? That is offensive and as you say absolutely none of their business!

  13. I absolutely adore this article! Your boys are fantastic! I have 3 delightful boys born 2010, 12 & 14 also. I get all of those same remarks on a daily basis. Another regular one is “better start stocking up your pantry”. The loveliest remark i got was from an elderly lady at a supermarket. She looked at my boys lovingly and said she has 3 boys & told me a little about how they grew into energetic & determined teenagers then husbands & fathers & that she is so proud of them all. The comment was so out of my norm it brought tears to my eyes.

    1. Thank you for your lovely words Dani! I personally think three boys are terrific. Occasionally I’ll get a compliment about my sons similar to the lady you mentioned in the supermarket. Every time I want to hug that stranger for saying something kind and as you say, out of the norm!

  14. I have 3 girls. Born 2010, 2011 and 2013 and i get exactly the same questions without fail everyday. ‘Are they twins/triplets, wow you have your handsful, didnt you wsnt a boy etc etc. But as my children are mixed race the one that i get more than any is ‘where did you adopt them/ are you fostering them’. At first it was a little funny and people were actually quite polite and were actually thanking me for doing what i do (fostering) but now it come with complete shock and an ‘oh really/are you sure’. My girls pet hate is rhat everybody comments and touches their hair. They will eventually grow up to get used to it however i cant help but feel they shouldnt have to. Some people are wonderful and i really enjoy talking to them but its the ones with the ‘judgement’ in their voices and eyes that get me.

    1. Wow Sam, people really do need to think before they speak! It’s so bizarre that people would doubt you when you say your children are in fact your children.

  15. My youngest and third child is a girl, but due to my being ermm…frugal, she wears a lot of blue. I prefer to be on the recieving end of the ‘oh three boys’ comments than the ‘so lucky you got a girl’ ones. Especially since people say that right in front of my two wonderful boys!!

    1. Absolutely nothing wrong with girls wearing blue! I know what you mean about ‘lucky you got a girl’ being rather offensive to your lovely sons, as if somehow they are not as special because they are boys.

  16. I have two boys and the photo of your 3 boys makes me want to have a third boy. The way your biggest is holding your littlest is more than gorgeous.

    My second boy is just 3 months old and I have been surprised by how many times I’ve been asked already if I’m going to try for one more baby to see if we get a girl.

    We scattered the ashes of our first baby, a girl, in the ocean. It took us over 5 years of trying to have babies. You wouldn’t believe how much I appreciate my healthy amazing boys.

    1. Oh Sarah, such kind words about my boys. The littlest and biggest boys do have a special kind of bond. Thank you for so openly sharing the loss of your first daughter, it made me rather emotional. Healthy children are a blessing xx

  17. I have three small boys too…my random conversations with strangers go, surprise surprise, very much like yours lol

  18. We have expanded our family from two children to four children within 8 months… We have welcomed a little boy into our family through permanent foster care and another little boy who is a birth child. Which means that we now have three boys and one girl. So many times I’ve been asked the following:
    -will you be giving back your foster child? (Answer is NO! He’s one of my babies!)
    -was your youngest an accident? (Answer is no)
    -so, I assume you’re done having children now (answer…. Not sure)
    -so, I assume you’ll stop fostering kids now? (answer…. Nope, not yet!)
    -which ones are your real children? (answer…. They’re all “mine” and they’re all real)

    1. That’s fabulous Beth. I find the ‘giving him back’ comment rather amusing! He’s a person, not a pair of shoes you take back because you changed your mind!

  19. I have three, two boys and a girl. I get all these comments too. When #2 was born visitors in the hospital after Id just had my 2nd son asked if I was having another, like I needed to quickly rectify the situation. Oh and when I announed #3 was a girl there was an outpouring of relief from. People still ask what would you have done if #3 was a boy? I dont get it. I always wanted three regardless of gender. I tell people it makes me feel superior to parents with two or less 😉

    When people say “you have your hands full” I have found the best response to be. ” better then empty” or “I’m very lucky” In response to these comments I often get grandparents and parents with older children telling me how they miss their kids being little. xx

    1. How funny that people were relieved when your third child was a girl, because it would’ve been dreadful if she’d been a boy?!? I love it when older generations make kind, insightful comments!

  20. My eldest daughter inherited her colouring of blone hair, black eyelashes and dark eyebrows, I never thought anything of it as I have the same colouring, until a lady approached me in the supermarket and asked if I had drawn my daughters eyebrows on (she was 8mths old at the time). I eventually replied with ummm no they are natural.

  21. I have 7 children, 5 boys, 2 girls…and I’ve heard it ALL! I have made a personal vow that I will never say such things to people as have been said to me. I had 3 boys before my first girl was born, and strangers would say “Oh, you’ve got your girl, you can stop now”…like the boys were the failed attempts at girls. It made me so angry! Now mostly people compliment me on how well mannered they all are, which is much nicer. I’m sure you’ll get nice comments too. Blessings.

  22. Having 2 girls 15 months apart I get soo many comments from strangers assuming my second was an accident! They all seem very sorry for me as well! Someone told me I should tell my husband to walk around the block at night (presumably rather than coming home and impregnating me!) they are all horrified when I tell them both my babies were very much planned. Nosy strangers.

    1. Walk around the block, that ought to do it! Seriously, it’s so inappropriate to ask if a child is an accident, somehow implying they aren’t wanted.

  23. Great post Claire – I can really relate!

    I can’t go out without getting comments about my 4 children! All the ones you mentioned – especially ‘you’ve got your hands full’ get me going, I know people mean well and they are just trying to chat but they possibly don’t realise it’s the 4th time I’ve heard it that morning!

    I think the one that bothers me the most which I get on a pretty regular basis is ‘are my twins IVF.’ They were conceived naturally, but it’s such a personal question to ask a complete stranger and absolutely no ones business. Along the same lines ‘are you breastfeeding’ – again total stranger, none of your business, why would you even want to know!

    I feel like the only appropriate thing you should ever say to a parent out and about is “what beautiful children, you’re doing a great job!”. Easy

    BTW Claire – your 3 boys are gorgeous and you are doing a smashing job of being their Mum – go you!

    1. People ask you whether the twins were IVF, isn’t that essentially a question about your sex life? Wrong! Totally agree, comments along the lines of ‘you are doing a great job’ are all that is needed. Thanks for your kind words Bec, sending you a virtual hug xx

  24. I had 3 children, because i wanted to have children, just happened i was blessed with 3 boys!! Yes i would of loved a girl, we tried all the tricks for a girl with our youngest, but I have to say, i do not feel like i missed out on anything since surviving raising them through their teenage years and seeing what parents with girls go through . I got all of these questions and more.these days when i see a parent struggling in the shops, i always smile and tell them that they will grow up…..eventually lol. My older boys have been with me when I’ve said this to someone and they have piped up saying, wow i remember doing this to you when i was little, i say, so do i son, so do i haha.

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment Julie. I often get told by strangers that the teenage years will be easier with boys, fingers crossed! Your ‘so do I son, so do I” comment made me laugh. I can picture the scene now!

  25. I can definitely relate! As a mum to 3 boys and 1 girl it is so frustrating to get constant comments on ‘how nice you finally got your girl’, or as another mum has already mentioned here ‘you do know how this happens right?’. I usually like to give a long winded response on how we didn’t want a girl, just a healthy baby and yes – we planned all of our children surprise, surprise! Strangers say the strangest things sometimes!! I figure if they want to inquire about our sex life (i.e. baby attempts), I’ll give them uncomfortable details 😉

    1. Manda, the ‘wow you got your girl’ kind of comments would infuriate me! It’s offensive for many reasons and so insensitive to your three sons.

  26. Thanks for linking up with #anythinggoes linky. i love this post, although I only have 2 boys 3 years apart I can totally understanding what your saying. These are totally the sort of things I would say ha ha xx

  27. I’d start giving deadpan silly answers to some of these!
    ‘Are they all yours?’ – ‘That’s what we tell people.’
    ‘Three boys.’ – ‘How dare you! My daughters look nothing like boys!’
    ‘You’re brave taking them all out.’ – ‘Not really. I’ve been told I’ll be in big trouble if I leave any of them behind again. It’s my final warning!’ #sundaystars

  28. Ah I love love love this post as a mum to three girls I get the exact same comments from strangers. I never get the your brave taking them all out it’s just what you do, not everyone has an extra pair of hands on tap to help them! Thanks for linking up to #sundaystars

  29. Ive got 3 boys and a girl. I hear the same wow you have your hands full comments a lot. They are older but still I hear it even now and its normally from the same people you would think they would be used to it by now 🙂 #fartglitter

  30. I get certain variations of these myself, and I have a boy and a girl. It seems as though I have reached a point where I just smile and nod in response. Love the comment about the Chinese, though! 😂

  31. As part of a two mum family we’ve had a few awkward conversations with strangers. I try to tell myself they’re just trying to be nice and make conversation but sometimes it’s annoying. At the moment my son is too young to understand the questions so we often give non-committed responses. We don’t really feel like discussing the ins and outs with complete strangers. We’ll need to figure out better responses soon as my tot will soon know what’s going on.

    Thanks so much for linking up to #fartglitter x

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