what did you just say? please tell me i heard you wrong...you did not just say what i think you said...

| | Comments (37)

okay, i got the most insulting "large family" comment hands down this week. what's even worse is the fact that i've known this man, in a working relationship -- he's our dogs' vet -- for ten years.
while bending over and checking chichi's ears, the vet mumbled, "so this makes how many kids?"
distracted by our wee gabby who was planning her escape from the exam room, i said, "um, this makes five and six."
he shot up and groaned, "six?"
i smiled, "that's right."
looking me straight in the eye, he shook his head and said, "i can't imagine why anyone would do that to themselves."
i was caught completely off guard. i wouldn't have expected his comment in a million years. i said, "what?" with enough shock in my voice that any halfwit would know i had just been insulted and he had about a nanosecond to make nice.
instead, he repeated himself verbatim.
"i guess we just love kids," i said -- still in a funk trying to decipher his rudeness.
thankfully, gabby had wondered down the hall so i just walked out of the room to go get her.
when i went back inside with gabby in tow, the doctor reported on chichi's condition and made small talk. i answered in monosyllables, making it clear i wasn't ready to chit-chat because i was still trying to wrap my brain around what had just taken place.
i was so afraid of what i might actaully say to the man, that i had to wait until i left his office before i called his office manager from my cellphone in the parking lot and asked that the doctor call me back before he left the office for the day.

by the time the vet finally called, i had already spoken with marc and simmered down. marc said that our vet was an unfortunate idiot and he suggested that i not get overly emotional when talking to him or it would defeat my argument. thanks, hon.
anyway, i had calmed down so i told the vet very calmly that after ten years of receiving really good service from him, i was considering finding a new veterinarian for our three dogs because his comment about my family size had been so disrespectful that he'd made it very uncomfortable for me to maintain a working relationship with him.
he apologized, saying he'd meant the comment as a joke. i stuck to my guns and said, "your demeanor said otherwise, but i want to give you the benefit of the doubt, dr. ___ ." he then started talking about how family size is a personal matter and he shouldn't have said anything, apologized again, and said he had no idea that his words could have been hurtful.

are people really this naive?


Ok, so good for you. Here's the thing: 1) I can't believe you've never heard this before and 2) I can't believe you've never heard this before.

At least it wasn't your OB is all I have to say. I hear this one particularly crappy comment so often you'd thing it had it's own jingle.

I have a old Life science teacher who is CONVINCED that my liver is going to tank any day now from all my pregnancies (by the by I don't get the connection, I've told her my uterus might fall out, but then we'd just adopt). Friends, family members who so gently say: I would NEVER do this to myself, look at how MISERABLE you must be.

People suck. Also though Christ triumphed over death, it is still a fallen world, so people still suck, but we suck with options now.

Now, look, as a frequent reader (and commenter) I demand we come up with some good deliverable zingers to these asses who think that they are the last line of "family planning".

Starting now, I suggest no politeness where none is given. Next time you hear such a remark purposely directed at you ( and I do me at you, not merely in your hearing), please say: "What can I say? My husband thinks I'm hot when I'm pregnant." And then smile. And don't say another damn word.

Don't say, Oh we're Catholic or I guess we love children . . . be bold say the worst thing you can think of and be done with it. No muttering or mumbling . . . say what you think. That means saying, "Sure we own a TV, but all we can think about is sex!" to the next moron that asks you.

Or We're outbreeding dissent 6 to 1.

Or God told us to be fruitful and multiply, maybe he likes us more than you.

Or something. Please. Something better than " I guess we like children" . . . because that is not the only reason and frankly we shouldn't be embarressed by the anemic fertility of the rest of the world.

Oh by the way, does your vet have like a million pets? Now there's something I would never do to myself.

Even: Haven't you heard: George Bush upped the child tax credit!

Or: "No, I'm sorry the answer we were looking for was What are Congratualtions on your pregnancy. Thanks for playing."

"Why yes we ARE independently wealthy, our kingdom is in Heaven."

You get the picture.

"What can I say? My husband thinks I'm hot when I'm pregnant."

hahahahaha!!! best line ever ... Smock, you have GOT to start using that one. :-)

i think you wonderful commenters are missing my point. i have a crapload of zingers at my disposal and "we finally found something we're great at" is one of them, but i KNOW this man. that's my point. i was caught so off guard i wasn't prepared to be snarky. but, is it right to be pissy to someone who honestly doesn't know they're being mean and nasty? my question is: are people really this naive? are they so desensitized after being indoctrinated by our secular culture that they do not even realize how hurtful they are being?

yes, they are that naive. yes, they have all been inculturated to believe that only idiots intentionally have more than two children. people who wouldn't dream of making comments about the size of your hips will make 'jokes' about the size of your family.
I think you did the right thing to calmly confront him about it after the fact.

whoops, that last comment was me, not john. that's what i get for using his computer while he's in Las Vegas.


Hence the belief that they are the last line of family planning. They think that they are telling you something that no one has dared to tell you. So zing away and say Oh! your one of the people that suck! How disappointing.

"OH, you spend your day poking around dogs!?! Don't you find it all rather demeaning? Couldn't you get into real medical school?"

I'm with Smock, it can't be right to be pissy when someone doesn't really know they're being nasty. It's just sad that people can be that naive and hurtful about something so wonderful.

When I have been confronted with comments about our family size (7 so far), and I am stunned and hurt, there just isn't words at the time. I have never had the guts to call someone later and address their actions, so bravo!!When I come home in tears from some terribly rude statement (the winner so far is "That disgusts me), my dh reminds me we are getting slowly martyred by the culture of death, and to se this latest assault as a step closer to heaven. Of course my impulse is to hurl back an insult or cause bodily harm, but usually I just let it ride. Personally, I am trying to get the presence of mind to say, "That was a very hurtful thing for you to say!!" and dump it back on their lap. I am sorry you had this encounter. You are a soldier on the front in the culture war!! Keep up the good work!

"People suck. Also though Christ triumphed over death, it is still a fallen world, so people still suck, but we suck with options now."

Oh, Lauren, that's hilarious! And exactly so.

I wouldn't call it "naive" as much as, oh, I don't know, arrogant? Naive implies some kind of benign innocence; this is a result of an Oprah-fied, I can say any intrusive thing I want mentality. On some level, he knew it was wrong to say but he's "smarter" than you and so wants to "educate" you. And I love both Lauren's lines and Erik's - nice one! Those are ways of demanding respect from someone who is too arrogant to give it to you. Sometimes, if you don't make it clear that you demand respect, some will walk all over you.

I am shocked by the ugly comments about one of the kindest and most giving men that I personally KNOW. "Unfortunate idiot" is not only completely false, but rude and disrespectful. The comment on him "poking around on dogs all day and couldn't you get into real medical school?" is absolutley ridiculous considering that this man graduated summa cum laude from one of the finest schools in the nation!!!!!!! He is very intelligent and kind to people and animals alike and I do KNOW him well enough to know that the comment was meant as a joke and never meant to be hurtful. I am a Mommy who has "more than two children" and I sometimes get comments and they make me laugh, not angry. Sometimes, if I feel like doing more than laughing, I tell them to look at how beautiful and precious that they are and who wouldn't want a house full of love. They ALWAYS agree with me that we are blessed and proves the point that you win people over by being kind to them. The bible teaches us to go and make disciples of all nations and to love one another.
Something to consider?!

I also want your readers to know that Dr. _____ loves the Lord and is a devout Christian and a very devoted and loving father.

Smock: Yes, people are really that unclear about what they are saying being hurtful. Even many good, ordinarily kind, God-lovin' people have internalized the picture of "perfect family" = "two kids at the most." They have also bought in, in some ways, to a scenario of "kids are almost too much trouble. We'll sacrifice for 2 (or 3 or whatever) but not for a BUNCH of them."

In general, I am a fan of the old "Dear Abby" response to a comment of question that is out of bounds: "Why on EARTH would you say (ask) a thing like THAT?" said in as kind a voice as you can muster. And then wait for their reply. It's not something they expect. I think that puts the question/comment back to them, and perhaps lets them see how inappropriate you think their comment/question was.


Thank you for your side to the issue. But the comments that you take such big offense to are no worse than the "joke" that Dr._______ made to the Smock. Because you know him, like him and respect him, you feel called to rise to his defense: he's smart, it was just a joke (though Smock gave him the opportunity to step away from it and he didn't), he's a good Daddy, and he loves the Lord. I'm sure all those things are true. He proved many of those things when he called the Smock back and ended up apologizing.

But two things: #1, can you not see that many of our commenters love the Smock, and rise to her defense over her hurt feelings, in much the same way you rise to the defense of the wonderful Dr. _____? If they do so in a way that seems over the top to you, can you see that we think his comment, repeated TWICE, was over the top to HER?

#2, some things, even said as a joke, are not right and shouldn't be countenanced, even when said by a good man. Partly that's why Smock was taken aback, because it came from someone she considers to BE a good guy. And what IS the correct response to a good guy who has stepped out of line?

Wow. I don't know what I would have said to that. I'm not a quick comebackker, and i'm soo non-confrontational. (gotta write down some of these responses just in case I need them). I am suprised I don't get too many comments, I get looks from strangers though. And my MIL won't even talk about the baby/pregnancy this time. Maybe if it's a girl she'll come around quickly.

I always use these 2, they're not too polite but they make the point:

"We're breeding out the idiots" or "Somebody's gotta wipe your a$$ when you're old".

A few zpg'ers (zero pop growth) might engage in a conversation. For the feminists, I say that nfp is far more pro-woman than the pill (feminists rant about freedom from sex consequences, drug makers laugh all the way to the bank because of free PR). For the greens, I say it's better than flushing pills down the toilet, and "how can you teach an only child to share, re-use and reduce when everything they have is new?"

We plan on making the world a better place one child at a time.

Late to the rest of this conversation but the answer is: YES, people are totally indoctrinated into the idea that a big family is bad. I used to think just the same thing (although hopefully I never would have had the bad manners to say it to someone's face).

Whether they are "indoctrinated" or not, it is just plain bad manners to make a comment like that but you have to believe in that case they are totally ignorant of what they are saying. I agree with the person who said they just point out how hurt they are by that comment AND why if necessary. Then it's up to them ...

Hi Ladies,

I just have to chime in here to add that I think Smock's response was a perfectly good one. Saying something like "Oh, we really LIKE children" forces your inquisitioner to face the fact that his/her comments are anti-life and anti-child. Most people are not comfortable with that label. Besides, it's a civil and polite response. We aren't likely to resolve a problem of incivility with more of the same.

Also, kudos to you for having the guts to confront this man later on with a phone call- not many people would. He might now think twice before making a similarly ugly "joke" to some other unfortunate soul.

And finally, WE love those little babies you are carrying smock and WE think you and your dh are doing a fabulous job living up to God's call in an often contrary world. May God abundantly bless your generosity (but then, he already has) :)

I wonder if he would have made that crack if he found out you had six dogs.

He is very intelligent and kind to people and animals alike and I do KNOW him well enough to know that the comment was meant as a joke and never meant to be hurtful.

That may be. However, I doubt all of his clients are privy to that kind of intimate knowledge of the good doctor. And in that sense, it was hurtful. Very good of him to apologize though.

Perhaps its a "guy thing" in that he is oblivious or unaware of how hurtful those kinds of comments could be to a woman in pregnancy. If so perhaps Michelle could kindly clue him in on that before it turns into a "business thing" where he loses this customer and others because of this unfortunate unprofessional incident.

We've talked before about what you can say to people who are rude but I understand why Smock was so shocked. I get comments from strangers all the time and I just blow them off. What really knocks you off your feet is comments from "good christian people" who you thought would at least have the common sense not to make a comment like that even if they thought it.

One of my evangelical friends got married and then a few months leter got pregnant and was thrilled. SHe got a couple "well that didn't take too long" comments but what really bothered her were the comments when she got pregnant with her second child. I think her kids are a year and a half apart and she got comments asking was this an accident and questions about why she would do this on purpose. These were from all of her church friends. She was really hurt by this.

It's more shocking when it's people you know.

Mr. Luse already asked my question - would he have said that if you had six dogs? That this man is a Christian only points out the glaring fault in American Protestantism, that even most committed Christians DO NOT GET IT about artificial contraception. People who confidently entrust to divine providence all the other big decisions of life - whom they'll marry, what profession they'll follow, where they'll live - have this huge blind spot about contraception, and think that's the one thing they've got to manage entirely on their own judgment.

This is getting to be rather long for a comment. I'll finish it on my blog.

Somebody's got to keep up with the Mormons. May your tribe ever increase.

Dear Smock,

In my anecdotal experience, many vets are vets because they haven't a clue about how to relate to people. I have yet to have one who can look me in the eye and talk to me. They're always talking tot he dog's eye, or butt, or ear, or whatever they happen to be looking at. My last vet tried to sell my dog the fleaguard pills.

So, I don't think its so much naivite; rather it sheer lack of the ability to deal with humanity. I'm sorry it happened, but there is at least one hopeful sign--upon reconsideration, for whatever reason, he realized that what he had done was foolish and perhaps brutal. If he's a good vet, he wasn't actually afraid of losing you as a client, and so I would guess his apology was genuine. Or so I hope.

The needful thing is to pray for this lost soul. He can't relate to people, and that must be a very, very sad existence.



Couldn't you say

"We are thrilled with the beautiful family that God is giving us!"

I've said that in defense of others with big families and I find it stops commentators dead in their tracks. They have to ramp up from accidental or snickery rudeness to full-throttle rudeness and most don't have the jewels to do it.

And keep going back to him, with good cheer and kindness. It's one heck of a witness and will heap lots of coal on his head. But happy, happy, happy, no furtive head-hanging.

I think your family is beautiful; I saw the pictures. The happiest families I know tend to be the bigger ones. The one and two-ers that didn't occur by God's Will often seem pinched and droopy, just children hanging around the edges of an empty middle. (I stress again that I see happy small families, but their parents had open hearts for more and just couldn't.)

Why is it that the "Pregnancy Police" feel the need to make these comments????---my first 2 were "Irish twins" and I thought I had heard it all---but the biting remarks really came at the third pregnancy.......by people we knew and like and by total strangers---for the record we are good parents and our children are nicely behaved.

Can't a person be a nice guy, good father, and a "good Christian and still say crappy stuff . . . on purpose? Put it another way, if the lovely coiffed Smock had gone in with a mohawk instead of her stylish ponytail or what have you, do you honestly believe he would have joked: What happened you get in a fight with a hedge trimmer?! No. Matter of fact, I doubt seriously, SERIOUSLY, that he would say much of anything. I honestly believe that self-reproach actually is the source of some of this. She has four children with two on the way, we only have two . . . well that must mean either we're selfish or she is out of control. of course the reality is that it doesn't mean anything. It means that Smockmama's family is getting better and it has as much to do with her vet as it does with Communist China. I do not believe that jokes of this nature are naive, but full of spite and malice.

Who hasn't learned: if have nothing nice to say . . . say NOTHING at all.

Of course I am a hypocrit, I wouldn't respond nicely, if it had been said to me AND I WOULD have something to say about it.

tell him it beats infertility

As inappropriate and hurtful as his comments were, at least no one ever implied you were a baby-murderer because you only had two children. That's happened to me on more than one occasion. Apparently, I'm obviously on the Pill and selfishly aborting dozens of unborn children because we've only been blessed with two.

I've always felt God really messed up when He didn't make "Thou shalt mind thine own business" the first commandment.

jennifer, thank you so much for sharing. you are right -- we can be ugly and hurtful on both sides of the issue. while i can't agree that we "shalt mind our own business" because it goes against the fact that we ARE our brothers' keepers and we ARE responsible stewards of every member of the mystical Body of Christ, i most certainly agree that perhaps "thou shalt not jump to conclusions" might have been useful for some...including me.


I'd just like to share some advice that serves me well in these situations, although I don't have your particular situation of lots of kids but wish I did. Please forgive any preachy tone as I don't write very well and I don't intend it:

Take these remarks you get from stranges as opportunities to witness, this is part of your cross (or a cross), and in witnessing always ask yourself, "if I were in the other person's shoes, how will I feel after encountering me?". Like here, any zinger that would create animosity in the vet would be poor witness.

I once made a thoughtless comment, just because to make conversation and I'd heard it from others, for me akin to saying "how about those Mets?". The other person took great offense and snubbed me publically. Needless to say, I didn't have a strong opinion before this incident but after that I had a negative association on that topic that persists to this day. If it had been about religion it would have turned me off for perhaps for good.


OK, I know I'm late commenting on this, but I'm so sorry that your vet made that comment! I am struggling with infertility and I've had countless friends and family members say to me "You've been married for over two years - when are you going to have a baby?"
Yeah, thanks. I'd love to have at least four children, but at this point, I'd feel truly blessed with one.
I think a lot of times people don't think before they speak - that's the only reason I can come up with as to why people say the things they do.

God bless you!

What I wouldn't give to be in your shoes!!! God bless you. People don't realize how much fun (or work or courage) it is to have children running around. I'm not married yet, but there is a big enough age difference between me and my half sisters that they could be my daughters. When I'm with them and I watch their cute little idiosyncracies, I can't help but hope that someday I will find someone who loves me and will give me ten of my own. Thats the ultimate mark of love, and some people just can't recognize it because they don't know what love is.

"I hope that someday I will find someone who loves me and will give me ten of my own. That's the ultimate mark of love, and some people just can't recognize it because they don't know what love is."

Here we have a perfect example of the kind of thoughtless comment, though well-meant (I'll give her the benefit of the doubt, anyway), which ends up being horribly hurtful to other people.

What if you meet a wonderful, orthodox Catholic somone with whom you fall in love, marry in a Catholic ceremony, and then find out he has fertility issues? Does the fact that he is unable to give you the ten children you want and have requested as proof of his love mean that he doesn't really love you or is no longer good enough for you?

Does the fact we were unable to have ten or eight or twelve or any other magic number a perfect stranger decides is "the ultimate mark of love" mean we don't love each other or that our love is somehow inferior to someone who has managed to pull off the magic number?

Producing a certain number of children is most certainly not "the ultimate mark of love". A commitment to another before the eyes of God and one's family and community, and the humility, charity and sacrifice required to maintain that commitment in spite of the fact that one may not be able to have everything one wants is the ultimate mark of love. And maturity, I might add.

As a father of 11, my standard response has become "We're Catholics, and we'd rather please God than please the world." (or sometimes I'll say "than please you" if they're really smarmy)

I confess to having used the, "What are you, the Pregnancy Police?" response once or twice. Now I think better of it---this may be the only opportunity to witness the love of God to this poor benighted soul. Of course I just figured that out reading this thread and two years into menopause, but that's what 20-20 hindsight is for.



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by smockmomma published on April 15, 2005 2:07 PM.

That Smart Elisabeth Elliot! was the previous entry in this blog.

Interesting tidbit from Agape Press: is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.