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Small Family

Though I’m usually a pick-whatever-is-there person, this year I decided to call ahead to the kosher butcher and put in my order for the seder so Josh could run in and pick it up for me.  “Small order,” he commented after he wrote it all down.  What was he talking about?  I bought meat for 12 people despite the fact that some of us are vegetarians and won’t be eating it.  It was certainly more meat that I purchase on an average day.

“I’m only hosting one seder,” I explained.  “My cousin is hosting the other one.”

“Oh,” is all he said in response.

Later that week, Josh went to pick up the order, and when he dropped it off at home, he said that when he started to say my name, the butcher said, “Oh, yeah, the small order.”  He went back into their refrigerators to get it.

“What is he talking about?  It’s a totally normal order for 12 people.  And we’re having vegetarian dishes and a bunch of side dishes…”

“Mel, he’s used to big orders from big families.”

It didn’t occur to me until that moment that he was making a comment on our family size.  That it wasn’t the amount of meat or the fact that some of us are vegetarians.  He was commenting on the fact that in a community where a couple brings 10 people to the seder table before they start adding in their extended family and friends, we have two children.  Small family.  Small order.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that the entire time I cooked.  That tiny comment wiggled under my skin.

How we look to others from the outside.  How we know a different story from the inside.

[Aside: I clearly took his comment as a negative remark, but maybe it was the opposite.  Maybe he is jealous that we have two kids instead of 10.  I guess no one knows how it looks on the inside.]


1 torthuil { 04.24.16 at 10:19 am }

Oh. That stings. Those moments can be hard.

I’m touchy about this subject. I know all the reasons to be grateful for our (so far) one child. All the things we tried and everything that is not and never was in our control. And still. When I think my grandmother had seven children, my parents had three, and I have one (my brothers have none) I can’t help wondering WTF happened.

It’s not a judgment on others, and not even on myself, because I know better. But it leaves me with a feeling of ……frailty?

Maybe I need to write a post about infertility and demographic anxiety….

2 chickenpig { 04.24.16 at 1:15 pm }

Ouch. And to think that in many circles, 2 kids is the norm. My feeling of getting under the skin is about my age. Almost all families where I live start sprouting kids in their 20’s. Both of my younger brother’s kids are already grown. Infertility is the gift that keeps on giving.

3 Beth { 04.24.16 at 1:51 pm }

Yes. This. We are catholic. So many big families. “So you’re good with two? You’re thinking about more? Pregnant yet?'” I know these are well intentioned comments. But all the one…

And my truth is that my small family is the biggest it will ever be and I’m ok with that. But they have no idea. Two was not a choice. It was and is my miracle. So I get it – I take it as negative, too, because it’s minimizing what to us is a VERY BIG DEAL. I have two kids. And there was a time (a long time) when I never thought I’d be able to say that. So others acting like it’s not enough…. Well it stings.

4 Cristy { 04.24.16 at 6:06 pm }

Ouch is right! I get that with events like this there are gatherings that are much bigger, but to make a point out that this is a smaller order implying a small family? Like the people who point out people’s height or weight.

This is one of those situations where taking the approach “it’s not you, it’s me” to heart is important. Because this is a reflection of his attitude.

Course this is an individual who spends his days cutting animals into pieces. . . .

5 Catwoman73 { 04.24.16 at 8:35 pm }

I would have had a negative reaction to that comment as well. Does the sting of infertility EVER go away?

I had a similar experience on Friday. It was a day off for my daughter’s school, so I took her to the grocery store with me. An elderly gentleman started chatting with my daughter in the produce aisle (not in a creepy way- he was just clearly enjoying conversing with her), and then he looked at me and asked where my other kids were. Ouch. I really wasn’t sure how to respond, and almost told him that my younger four were in heaven, but obviously, I came to my senses and bit my tongue. He meant no harm, but it certainly became obvious to me that day just how much our experiences shape our perception of the world.

6 Mali { 04.24.16 at 9:27 pm }

Hugs. I can understand that that stings. Not that I’d want to be in a ten-person family. Two kids sounds about perfect to me.

7 sharah { 04.24.16 at 9:56 pm }

We are actually opposite. In our social circle, we are the only family with 3 kids. Most families have 2, some have 1, and there are a few with none (by choice or not). People look at us like we have 2 heads when we admit to considering trying for a 4th.

8 Conceptionally Challenged { 04.25.16 at 5:26 am }

Ouch. It seems especially odd [to me] that he keeps commenting on this again and again. I hope it doesn’t destroy your holiday.

9 Journeywoman { 04.25.16 at 11:09 am }


I get it a lot. “She’s so good with other children, when are you going to have a second?”


Hugs again. And you are one day closer to a bowl of pasta.

10 Lori Lavender Luz { 04.26.16 at 11:43 am }

I think I can understand how his probably nonjudgmental comment struck a sore spot. Wish I could give you just a little hug. Heck, a big one.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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