“You look like you’ve got your hands full” the stranger observed, with a slight chuckle, as I shopped with my four children. I’ve had this said to me many times before, usually with me responding with “yeah” and a similar awkward chuckle. I’ve never really considered why I reply in this way; maybe it’s just politeness. A curse of being British I suppose.
I was in hospital recently when a close friend was rushed in. The staff nurse doing the tests was a guy from Nigeria. He had a thick scar running from his forehead, over his right eye, and down his cheek. I considered how he might have received the scar but, not wanting to intrude (that’s not very British), I decided against asking him. He was one of the friendliest people I have met and a credit to his profession, but he had some choice observations about the British way.
“Why do you lie all the time?” he asked bluntly in his thick Nigerian accent.
“What? Me personally?”
“No, not just you, all you British people. You lie all the time.”
“How do you mean?”
“I had an English girlfriend and she asked me if she thought the dress she was wearing was nice. I told her no. She’s not my girlfriend anymore”. This made me smile as I now understood what he meant.
“A British person would rather tell a girl she looks nice when she doesn’t”, he continued “so that he isn’t rude. He’s a liar, but at least he isn’t rude”. I couldn’t fault his logic.
Back to the stranger in the shop. Did I have my hands full? No. My children were behaving extremely well; Jay, Harry and Samuel were taking it in turns to fetch things from the aisles as I read the list to them, and Jessica was… being Jessica: sitting in the trolley, taking it all in with a smile on her face. The trip was taking much longer than if I’d have done it alone, but I work during the week so my time with them consists of half an hour in the morning whilst I’m trying to get ready, followed by an hour and a half, if I’m lucky, on the evening. Precious little time to split between four children, especially as Jessica, being only 10 months old, takes up the majority of that time. Weekends are my chance to spend as much time as I can with them, and if that means I have to take them shopping then so be it.
I understand kids can be trying at times, especially when they’re tired, hungry, thirsty, bored, hot, cold, etc., But we chose to have four children and we have to find ways to deal with those moments. Is looking after four difficult? Sometimes but it is also incredibly rewarding to spend time in the company of four independent, intelligent people who are learning new and wonderous things every day. It’s easy to forget the happiness children bring into the world, especially when we’re tired, hungry, thirsty, bored, hot, cold, etc.
I apologise in advance if you bump into me, engage in polite conversation and think I’m being rude, but in future I think I’ll follow the lead of the Nigerian nurse and be a little less “British” and a little more honest.
“You look like you’ve got your hands full”.
“No, actually. I count myself very lucky that these wonderful children want to spend their time with me”.