I began drafting this post a few weeks ago after a reader politely noted concern for how we handle ourselves in public, possibly shunning people who ask questions. Yes, some parents of multiples completely avoid answering questions about their multiples. This is generally because they feel it invades their privacy and also there is harsh judgment from the public regarding infertility treatments. No one wants to feel judged. I understand and respect some families’ tendency to avoid answering questions in public. However, I hated finding that someone gleaned that impression from reading our blog. I suspect it came from comments I’ve made about wanting to be clandestine at times or encouraging people to “walk and talk”. I’ve mentioned things such as putting the babies in twin strollers or separating them somehow to avoid inquiries.
The babies are still very young and we rigidly adhere to our schedule to keep things running smoothly. While we know it is inevitable, George and I go to great lengths to avoid four babies melting down in a highly populated place such as Walmart. The day it happens, I assure you that George and I will crawl out of wherever we are on hands and knees with our tails between our legs.
Even with our best efforts, people often realize we in fact have quadruplets in tow and we are asked many questions. For the most part, we have received nothing but earnest questions and genuine compliments. George and I feel that the energy you put out is often what you get in return so we try our best to kindly answer all questions from passersby. We even entertain questions that could be construed as rude or off putting the best way possible because we feel those questions are asked out of lack of knowledge regarding multiples. Sometimes, the asker is a person dealing with infertility and they are seeking reassurance or hope. Our answers are often attempts at educating people in diplomatic ways. We are fully aware that quadruplets are a novelty. Prior to expecting quadruplets, we had not seen any out in public and would probably have questions or comments if we were onlookers. In fact to date, we’ve only met three other sets of quadruplets! There are only about 300 quadruplet births in the United States annually so most people will never lay eyes on a set.
All that being said, George and I appreciate manners from people we encounter. A good rule of thumb if you see us strolling about in our Runabout or cruising with two double strollers is to consider, “Would I ask that of someone with one baby?” and “Is it okay for children to hear what I am asking?” It is not customary to ask parents of singletons exactly how they conceived their babies so it’s not polite to ask parents of multiples either. Do you want a complete stranger asking you about bedroom behavior or medical conditions???? I highly doubt it. There are perhaps a few exceptions of things that are not offensive and apply only to multiples (e.g. How may boys? Girls? Do they share a room? Are they fraternal? Identical?).
Here are some examples of polite things that have been said to us or asked in public:
- How old are they?
- What are their names?
- What a blessing!
- They are adorable/ precious/ beautiful/ cute (any complimentary word is perfect)
- Wow! Amazing! Cool! Neat (again, any single word noting amazement is appreciated)
- Are they sleeping through the night?
- You are so lucky.
- They must bring you so much JOY!
- Can I put you on our prayer list?
Not everyone is impressed with multiples, and that is okay! If you don’t have something polite to say, it’s best just to keep unkind commentary to yourself. In our experience, most people have keep unsavory comments to themselves or at least had the courtesy to be discreet; we appreciate that.
In addition to asking polite questions, also be mindful of the amount of time you are commanding. George and I happily entertain a few pertinent questions, but our babies are young and we don’t have 15 or 20 minutes to chat with each person who eyes us. At times we may well be totally preoccupied handling four babies in public too and may not even notice someone trying to ask a question. This type of courtesy is not only appreciated by families with multiples, but anyone who is different for any reason (e.g. Medical condition, disability, religious attire, ect.) I brought only Mason with me to Walmart once and let me tell you, he garnered nearly as much attention with his “helmet” as all four babies do. People love to gawk and make comments when they see something out of the ordinary. Bottom line is that sort of behavior hurts feelings. No one wants to feel like a circus freak show or exhibit. Everyone wants to fit in and enjoy a bit of leisure time.
Amber over at Texas Tales recently wrote about this very topic. Clearly it is something that is common place for both of us these days as we are increasing our family outings.