How many children are too many for one family? Six, according to strangers at my local shopping centre.
At first I thought it was because we had taken a chair from another table. My three children, two nephews and one niece were sitting down at my favourite coffee shop for some afternoon tea.
Yes, I had braved taking all six of the kids to the shops because after looking after them for most days during the school holidays, I really needed to get out of the house. And now that they are older – with the youngest aged five and the oldest aged 11 – I knew it would be okay.
So we’d borrowed a chair from another table and added it to two others we had just pushed together. Perfect.
I was taking drink and snack orders from them when I noticed three people on a table next to us glaring at me. I shushed the kids, thinking that maybe they were being too loud. I went to the counter to put in our massive order then rejoined them. They were all busy playing UNO, iPods and Connect Four which we had brought with us to keep ourselves occupied.
I sat down chatting to the kids as they played when I felt eyes boring into me from behind. I tried to ignore it, as well as the grumpy people on the table next to us but when I got up to get our drinks and food, I was given such a dirty look by a middle-aged man sitting on a table behind me that I stopped in my tracks.
Did I step on his foot or bang him with my chair?
I looked away as he and his companions started talking in what they thought were low voices but as I collected sugar packets, napkins and spoons I shamelessly eavesdropped. I couldn’t hear full sentences but did hear the words, “ridiculous” and “I feel sorry for them”.
That’s when it hit me. They thought all the kids were mine.
My first reaction was amusement. How funny. How cute! They think all the kids are mine. I must tell my sister. She'll think it's so funny too.
Then, I felt outraged.
How dare they judge me and my family? How dare they judge anyone who chooses to have a large family?