On more than one occasion, I have had (well-intentioned) people "help" me corral my children. If they had needed corralling, I suppose I would have been appreciative, but instead I told them
So, to all well-meaning do-gooders out there, may I make a few suggestions?
If I'm crying in the middle of the grocery store, I could use your help.
If my child is crying in the middle of the grocery store and I am eye-level with her addressing the problem, I don't need your help.
If I have a crazy look in my eyes and am playing in traffic, I need your help.
If my two year-old has a crazy look in her eyes and is jumping along the sidewalk in front of Target, she is being a two year-old and doesn't need to be "pulled to safety".
If my nine year-old momentarily needs my attention, and the other three have disappeared, they've been kidnapped and I need your help.
If I am facing my nine year-old while my other children are a foot away, I do not need you to keep an eye on them until I am facing them again.
If my newborn is crying and I'm about to join her, a compassionate gesture is nice.
If my newborn is crying and I'm about to join her, a lecture on birth control is not nice.
If one of my children has gone to the (highly visible) playground a couple minutes ahead of the others, and a masked man grabs her on the run, please call the police while her daddy rescues her.
If one of my children has gone to the playground ahead of the others, and you aren't sure she's ours, before calling the police, feel free to ask us if she is ours instead of walking right past us to quiz our child on "where is mommy?". Also, feel free to believe her when she is clearly pointing to me, as we are the only other people at the park.*
If you see my oldest offering my youngest a pacifier or rocking her, an encouraging word about her being a great big sister, is sweet.
If you see my oldest helping her siblings, it is not so sweet to assume that my oldest has it rough and is required to help raise her sisters. Over-the-top sympathetic comments about "Mama needing your help" suggest I'm in over my head and need to quit before I end up costing tax payers millions in food stamps.**
Whether my children are standing calmly at my side or acting like monkeys, there is no need to tell me my hands are full. I don't tell you that your hands look sadly empty. It's annoying and I don't know a single large family that appreciates this comment.
Whether my children are standing calmly by my side or acting like monkeys, know that I am blessed beyond measure and wouldn't trade my monkeys for the world's greatest fortunes.
P.S. No, she did not actually call the police, because I confronted her on the playground and worked waaaay too hard convincing her that all the children on the playground were, in fact, mine. With phone still in hand, she warily returned to her car and kept a close eye on us for several more minutes before driving away. SWAT didn't show up, so I assume she was eventually satisfied that I was telling the truth.
*I know skin color played into this particular event. Chocolate children can belong to vanilla mamas. I know it's confusing.
**Do I ask Mikayla to help? Yes. Am I sucking her childhood right out of her? No. She is receiving on-the-job training in motherhood, and I believe her character is the better for it.