‘Are they ALL yours?’ My husband loves to whisper, ‘Not all of them are mine. My wife went through a wild phase.’

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“We have FIVE children. Even as I type that, I understand the image it must provoke in your mind. I must clarify that we have no extreme religious affiliation, and I doubt TLC would even offer us a reality show.

My husband and I love each other, and we love kids. Before we knew it, they multiplied and outnumbered us.

Never what we pictured, but as the wise philosopher Drake once said, ‘God’s Plan.’ I digress.

We get a lot of looks and a lot of comments, every single time we venture into public together.

Look— I get it. It’s shocking. We are loud, we don’t all look alike, and usually at least one of us is expressing a big emotion at any given time. It’s natural to be curious.

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If a younger me saw an outsider’s vision of this three-ring circus I would one day call a family, I would have gladly embraced a life of celibacy.

But the thing is, I love my circus and my little circus freaks (is it appropriate to call my children that?) love each other. Most of the time.

We are happy with our life, and we are happy to answer your appropriate questions about adoption or big families, but please remember my children are always listening. They hear your tone and your inflection. They absorb your happiness and joy. They understand your judgement. Your words are important.

We have lately been having a little more fun responding to the questions we get in public and adding a little spice to our answers. Not because we want to be rude, but because smiling kindly and faking the answer you want to hear is getting tedious. Here are some of our real responses and some of the responses we might just get to use in the near future.

‘YOU DO KNOW WHAT CAUSES THAT, RIGHT?’

‘Listen, lady. Sure, one or two of our pregnancies may have been caused by boredom and lack of quality television, but that is absolutely none of your business. All of our children are part of a bigger plan, even if sometimes that plan wasn’t ours.’

OK, OK! I have never actually said this, but I have thought it.

My husband, who is a bit more rough around the edges, loves this question. His go to answer is, ‘Some were caused by the stroke of a pen on adoption papers and some were caused by what grown folks do after dark.’  I want to crawl in a hole from embarrassment every time, but it also fun to see people’s faces when they hear his crude answer to their crude question.

‘YOU’VE GOT YOUR HANDS FULL!’

This one is not really rude, but more of a…DUH! What gave it away, Captain Obvious? My daughter throwing her shoe at the sales associate, or the fact my son is screaming at the top of his lungs that he has to pee? Yes, I have my hands full! Thank you for the reminder. Unless that line is followed immediately by, ‘let me help you,’ just don’t let the words out of your mouth.

But, because Jesus lives in my heart, and I know they mean no harm, I say in my most precious southern accent, ‘Full Hands, Full Hearts’ while simultaneously pinching my son for calling his sister a poop monster.

‘ARE THEY ALL YOURS?’

My husband loves to get wide eyes, lean in close and  whisper to them, ‘Not all of them are mine. My wife went through a wild phase. Going out every night. Conceiving children in bar restrooms with strange men. But I just loved her through it…’ He really loves an excuse to say inappropriate things. We are working on it, but since he still laughs like a child when he passes gas, I’m not holding my breath for him to mature anytime soon.

‘ARE THEY REAL BROTHERS AND SISTERS?’

This one stings the most. Mostly because I want to protect my children from the notion that our family is somehow less of a family just because we are different. I used to nod politely and carry on, but lately I feel like I have evolved and found my voice.

I have started giving the same speech my 9-year-old daughter gives children at the playground who ask innocent questions about our family. I deliver her words verbatim to the lady at Publix, but because I have yet to evolve from being petty, I speak extra slow and use the most sanctimonious voice I can muster. ‘I understand you are curious, but you need to understand that all families don’t look alike. God made families aaaalllllll different ways, and they are all special. Some families are different colors, and different sizes. Some families live far away from each other. These are all still families, and it is important to treat them with kindness. Does that make sense?’ My daughter is so sweet when she answers questions from her peers. She never gets annoyed, and is unnaturally patient.

I’m sure I shouldn’t use her precious and pure words as ammunition, but it’s just where I am right now in my journey.

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We love our life, and we aren’t ashamed of it. Please remember how your questions come off to impressionable children who are still learning about the world and their place in it.

If you want to say something, how about ‘What a lovely family!’ or, ‘Let me help you clean up that popcorn your son is tossing out like beads in a Mardi Gras parade!’?

When in doubt follow the golden rule my Granny taught me, ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, say it behind their back!’

I kid, I kid! Just be cool!”

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This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stephanie Hollifield of Momstrosity. It originally appeared on their blogSubmit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

Read more from Stephanie:

‘I vividly remember the crazy looks I got with my huge pregnant belly and a newborn baby draped across my chest. I would stare too. It’s an odd sight, and honestly something I never imagined for myself.’

‘A stranger helped me with my black daughter’s hair. I desperately want to do the right thing. Our world needs more people like this.’

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