Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Are you done yet?

One of my violin students was picked up yesterday afternoon by her father's fiancee, with whom I only have a nodding acquaintance at church. She congratulated me on my pregnancy and asked, "Is this it for you?" When I replied, "No, I hope not," she was genuinely surprised.

"Oh, so you want one more?"

Well, I said, I hoped to have several more. I explained that I had five siblings myself, and so it was hard to imagine having less. She laughed and said that she was an only child. When I told her that I was having a girl, it all made sense.

"Then you're going to try for a boy?"

I'd like a boy one day, but it wouldn't matter to me if the next baby was a boy or a girl. After all, my girls are very excited about having a sister with whom to play tea party and princesses.

These are socially awkward question -- not because I have a hard time answering, "No, I hope not,", but because they're not polite things to ask. I've heard them enough that I have a ready answer (see above), but they still jar each time.

The personal question is ubiquitous these days, and more often than not is asked by relative strangers. I'm not sure why reproductive questions should considered within the bounds of tasteful conversation. After all, medical questions about appearances are generally taboo.

"So, do you plan on having your stomach stapled?"

"You know, you should consider having your face waxed."

"Let me recommend my dentist. He can do wonders, even with teeth like yours."

Perhaps the reproductive question is a sign that reproduction and family still have some significance, culturally and ideologically. If you see a family with more than four children, you'd be pretty safe in betting the farm that they follow some strain of conservative religion. It's one of the most obvious ways to announce your personal beliefs without saying a word.

That's why the I found the idea of the remake of "Cheaper by the Dozen" so jarring. (No, I didn't see it; it sounded like a pale comparison to the original.) Nobody just HAS twelve children anymore. Outside of a religious lifestyle, nobody CHOOSES to have twelve children. It simply isn't done in Western culture these days. Perhaps someone can point me to an islolated example, but for one secular family with six kids, I can point you to ten or more Catholic families with seven. And it's a pretty safe assumption that those Catholic mothers were asked each time, "Are you done yet?"


Anonymous said...

So don't even waste your time with the new "Cheaper by the Dozen." Your analysis is spot on, and it doesn't even have that wonderful part of the family pulling a prank on the lady from Planned Parenthood.

The values presented between the two versions are almost polar opposite. It's because of this that I hesitate to see the new "Yours, Mine, & Ours."

mrsdarwin said...

I thought that new version of Yours, Mine, and Ours came out over the summer and was panned. Maybe they decided to re-release it for the holidays. It looks lousy as well. I enjoyed the original, though.

Anonymous said...

You should read the book "Who Gets the Drumstick?" by Helen North Beardsley which was the basis for "Yours, Mine and Ours"'s even better than the first movie...very Catholic!!
With the reproduction question, I was just having a conversation the other day about this problem. I have the opposite problem...when I meet new Catholic homeschooling families and they ask how many children I have and I answer 3, I get looks sometimes! It always makes me want to explain that our children were all adopted, but I figure that's not really everybody's business, so I've learned to say, "We wanted more, but this is what God decided." That usually ends that look! But it is difficult because we always did want a large family, but God had other plans...
Hope your family has a blessed Thanksgiving!!

mrsdarwin said...


Darwin actually had much the same problem at college when he would tell people that he only had two siblings. "What, are your parents Protestant?" he'd be asked. Hey, now!

God bless your adopted family! That's a wonderful witness as well, and much more realistic than the new Y,M,& O where Rene Russo seems to be raising seven or eight adopted kids on her own. :)

Anonymous said...

I like this one, on both my third and fourth pregnancy: "Oh wow, did you plan that or was it an accident?"

F. S. Poesy said...

There are seven years between our second child and our third and I always seem to get the politely phrased "Oh, was he a surprise (read mistake)?" question. I usually want to say something uncharitable but usually just get out, "No, we tried a long time for this guy and finally our prayers were answered". Funny thing is as many times as people have said it to me I'm surprised they have the gall to ask.

mrsdarwin said...

I get the "planning" question a lot, and it irks me no end. This baby was planned, as it happens, but it doesn't really matter, does it? We've had one that wasn't planned, but that doesn't make her any less valuable, or mean that we wanted her less.

Maybe the best answer is, "We're making plans for her right now!"

Julie D. said...

I also recommend the original book by Helen Beardsley though I actually thought it was called "Yours, Mine and Ours" ... but I read it a long time ago.

I do tend to get that book and Cheaper By the Dozen mixed up because both had such great stories of life with huge families.

One of my favorite parts (of ONE of these books) was when a woman campaigning to push Planned Parenthood (I think that's the organization) came to the house and was horrified to see that they had so many children. Turns out she had been referred to see that family by a woman who had 16 children. (great practical joke I thought)

mrsdarwin said...

That was in Cheaper by the Dozen, and it's an absolutely hysterical. At the end the Planned Parenthood woman spits, "And within 12 miles of national headquarters!"

Anonymous said...

I looked up Helen Beardsley's book just to make sure and it is called "Who Gets the Drumstick?", but I wouldn't be surprised if someone published an edition that was called "Yours, Mine and Ours" just so that people who liked the movie would be drawn to it...

Dorian Speed said...

I think that the best answer to these and any other rude questions of a personal nature is a puzzled expression, head cocked to one side, and the response, "Why do you ask?"