When I'd take all four of my offspring out and about in Burkina Faso, quite often people would ask "Are they all yours? And are those two twins?"
When I'd answer in the affirmative, I'd generally hear something like "That's great! I didn't know white people had normal families!"
There would be laughter and I'd agree that, in general, white couples have just one or two kids and twins aren't as common.
In fact, I had a lot of fun conversations start that way, back in Africa.
Here in France, my family also draws attention, but for being larger than the norm. People look, and they sometimes ask "Are they all yours?", but they don't ever say "Wow! How normal!"
Even the French government considers three children to be a "large family" and anything over that is officially a "very large family".
This is all build-up to the fact that I went out yesterday 'disguised' as the mother of a very, very large family. And let me tell you, if you imagine that four kids get some attention around here, you should see how people act when they think you have six.
I had rushed off at noon (after a long morning of painting) to pick up the my older kids at their school. They'd ended up asking pals along, so I suddenly had a total of six kids in the car. Rather than try to magically whip up a lunch at home for them, I took them to a mall to eat at Macdonalds. We only do this a few times a year (we big families keep to a budget, you know!), so it was a special treat for everyone. Especially for Val's friend, who had no clue what to order. He stood in front of the menu completely hypnotised. It was only his second visit EVER to a fast food place because his parents detest MickeyD's with a particularly sneering and intense French kind of hatred .
As I fetched (with lots of help, of course) the three trays full of meals, the cashier asked The Question: "Ils sont tous a vous?"
I said "Oui" just to watch her eyes bug out further.
Afterwards, I had some errands, so we wandered the mall: me, eleven year old twins and four more kids, ages 12, 13, 14 and 15. (You can see them all in the photo. Yes, I am such a geek that I made them pose for a picture in the mall parking garage. It's for the blog!)
They were all good, but a bit...loud and giggly.
People looked, of course. And what looks they were- mostly a blend of "Get them OUT of here" and "Gee. Ever heard of BIRTH CONTROL, lady?"
The security guards seemed particularly interested, not in a nice way. And at one point, when the the four older ones got a couple of aisles ahead of me and the twins, I rushed us along to catch up with them.
"What's wrong, mom?" Mal asked.
"I don't want the older kids to get in trouble," I said
"Shopping while teenaged", I sighed
Mal looked at me, kind of puzzled, and I nearly said It's similar to 'driving while black', but I figured she didn't need any more confusion in her life.
"People often think teenagers steal stuff and I don't want any ... misunderstandings." I explained as we turned a corner and found the older kids inspecting the toys and laughing like...a bunch of crazy teenagers.
A security guard came round from the other end just then. He was quite obviously keeping them under surveillance, just in case one of them tried to stuff a Playmobil Pony Ranch down his pants and walk off with it. I gave the guy my best worst glare (which my kids call "The Eyes of Doom") and herded the kids towards the school supplies. We didn't see what we needed, so I asked the woman stocking the aisle for help.
While she didn't have the drawing paper we needed, she did have a question for me : "Are they all yours?"
After the cashier asked me that same question, I'd had about enough and was ready to go home.
"Are they all yours?" seems to be inevitable and international. It's often kindly meant, but can be wearing. There are even websites where parents of large families have collected the many possible (and often funny) answers to this question. So, I guess I'm not the only one to get a tad burned-out on the Q and A.
It was fun, though.