It’s Sunday afternoon here in Northeastern Nevada. It’s a warm, still day today—a small pause from the wind lately. I’m listening to A Prairie Home Companion, thinking about the new baby coming soon. My lovely wife is soon due to deliver our fifth child, our third girl. A special feeling it is to be a parent, a father; also, daunting because it’s not easy and it’s laden with responsibility. Without romanticizing it, it’s hard. I’d like to turn this reflective post away from sounding like a sage-on-the-hill, and turn it over to reflecting on a few interesting responses I have received from acquaintances and fellow men folk on the job.
1. “You know what causes that, don’t you?”
Definitely had to start with this response because it’s said so often. If there were royalties paid out for this question, I’m sure the originator is stupidly rich, sipping on a cappuccino garnished with gold dust on his moon yacht. “You know what causes that, don’t you?” is the ultimate response question! After our second child was born we began to hear this particular chestnut just about every time we went to church, the grocery, the bank, the library, as well as the waiting room at doctor’s office (because if the doctor asked us, we would probably have to find a new doctor for obvious reasons).
I generally favor the most direct and graphic answer because it fits so well in directing the flow of the conversation.
Now, on the fifth kid, when my wife and I hear the painfully predictable question, we break out some of the new playfully sarcastic retorts we have stowed away for just such occasions. I generally favor the most direct and graphic answer because it fits so well in directing the flow of the conversation. Once in a while, I’ll answer this as if the grown ups in the room have absolutely no idea what sex is and roll out with this: “So a mommy and a daddy have very passionate feelings for one another in such a way that…” And that usually keeps things lively.
2. “You have how many kids?”
This has been a tricky one due to the fact that this could go a couple different directions, but we have usually been able to skate through this segment by being ready for the follow-up questions such as: “Are you Mormon?” “Are you Catholic?” “Are you stupid or sumthin’?” After stating our non-affiliation with Smith and Young or the Vatican, and declare our historic, Protestant-Evangelical beliefs, and how really we’re not really crazy, errant members of the Patriarch Movement, the questioner is usually nominally satisfied.
3. “Are they all yours… by the same girl?”
Yeah, this has usually been directed to me. Yes, by the way, good people, they all be my progeny by the same girl. I had a co-worker ask me this recently. When I answered in the affirmative, he proceeded to laugh out a wow and walked away.
Sometimes the responses aren’t negative or condescending at all. Sometimes there’s just awesome people out there with a genuine love for families with lots of children.
4. The Best Response Ever
The transport company I work for does a lot of work for a local branch of the drilling company Boart Longyear. We haul their drill rigs, water and pipe trucks, drill pipe, and whatever else they need hauled out to their drill sites. There’s a yard man named Dave, who I’ve come to respect and admire for the plain and simple fact that he’s a pleasant fellow who knows a thing or two. Since we transport often for Boart, Dave knows all of us drivers. When I was almost brand new, a few weeks into the job, he began chatting with me as we chained down a Rolligon on a lowboy.
In a genuinely interested tone, Dave finally got to the meat of the matter. “So I heard from the other guys you have a large family. How many kids do you have?” Oh, great, here we go…
I told him, “Four with one on the way.”
He smiled and nodded his head, “Oh, well, I have thirteen.” He didn’t say it quite like he was flaunting it, but I could read between the lines that he thought my “large” family was a cute concept. If he had a microphone, he could have dropped it while looking at me and then walked away. So rock star.