Friday, 23 October 2015

What Shall We Do With the Opinionated Stranger?

The other day, I was chatting with Patapon's godmother (hi Laurène!) when she suddenly challenged me on the homeschooling bombshell I had kind of slipped in a previous post.
I stopped her mid-way through the diatribe and asked her how long she had been thinking about it. Now, Laurène is a very honest and straightforward person, so she just said "About 2 seconds, why?" Then I asked her how long she thought we had been thinking about it, and she admitted that she should probably just hear our case first.

Of course, she is my friend, and she cares about Patapon, so she was both truly interested in how the little man would be educated, but also knew me and respected me enough to be open-minded about our choices.

The conversation was a very interesting and profitable one as a result.

On the other hand, a week ago, Jude got his first proper haircut (although it was technically haircut number 5 if you add all the times Maman and Mamounette have done it before. Yup, pretty epic hair-growth rate.)

As I had Jude on my lap, the bump was somewhat obscured, but when the hairdresser eventually saw it, she exclaimed "Oh, are you expecting another one?" To which I agreed (no, I did not answer that I was smuggling a watermelon, because I am mature and respectful now. Maybe. Anyway, moving on.) Then she immediately quipped: "Yeah, good call, get it over and done with!"

Now I am somewhat perplexed as to how this appeared to her to be the appropriate thing to say, and, as usual, it made me quite sad to think that "having children" - you know, participating in the creation of immortal souls, of unique and precious individuals - is something people think is to get over and done with as quickly as possible.

It's the usual sad case of our culture of death and blah-di-blah. 

And yet, all I did was nod and smile.

I see very often on Moms' blogs, especially the ones written by mothers of large families, the understandable frustration over strangers feeling the need (and the right!) to comment on family size, child spacing, gender, names, you name it, strangers have commented on it. And they often have a quick retort, or more likely, a good vent on their blog about it, because, hey, it's rude, none of your business, and sad that everybody assumes a contraceptive mentality in everybody else.

So I couldn't help but wonder: Have I let my own side down by not challenging the hairdresser? Looking at the conversation with Laurène, it is tempting to assume that actual meaningful conversations simply don't happen with strangers, they happen between people who know at least a little bit about each other.

The likelihood of any stranger having given more than two-second thought to their remark is nil. The likelihood of their being open to whatever we may have to say about it, when they don't know, like or respect us particularly, is nil. The likelihood of their forgetting the retort, or shrugging it away and return to their previous worries and personal problems, extremely high. 

And yet, I know many people, who are a lot more intelligent than me, and would advocate for trying to evangelise at any given opportunity anyway. Maybe I am not giving strangers the benefit of the doubt. Worse still, maybe I am not giving Grace the benefit of the doubt. But I don't feel like, coming from me, it would ever work. For one thing, I would probably get too passionate and angry about, wind up at confession over it, having gain exactly zero ground. So I will nod and smile. And keep thinking that children are a gift, not a project to get over with.

But am I rationalising my own cowardice? 

Then again, you can come and challenge a few children from now (if we are blessed with more) and ask me how philosophically I take it, now?! ;-)


  1. I'm surprised the lengthy conversation about how the Eiffel tower was the quintessence and high-point of la culture parisienne didn't ruffle your feathers more ma cherie! Good thoughts in general though. Please change Mom to Mum though - we're British, my dear :D

    1. I'm not quite as personally attached to the Eiffel Tower as to our children. And I'm French, I do what I want :-)

  2. Well, I can understand your hesitation, and I think you are right in non engaging in discussions when you can not do it "without raising your voice". I tend to feel the same in similar situations. Keep thinking about it, and not forcing yourself and maybe the holy spirit will help, when really needed. :-)