Smallest Tribe You’ve Ever Seen

“It’s a whole tribe!”

“You’re done, right? Done? You’re done.”

And, my favorite, “Go on with you and your bad self.”

I knew that there is a big difference between two kids and three kids in New York City. Two is accepted, even expected. But if you want to have more than that and not get any astonished looks or strange comments, you’d better space them out so that it doesn’t look like you have three kids. Maybe one is in school when you’re out and about. Maybe it looks like your nephew is helping out with the babies. Or maybe spacing is a moot point by now, so you dress the baby like a dog and let her sit in your oversize purse. (Just kidding.)

I imagine that if I lived in a different neighborhood, where I didn’t attract attention simply by being the white lady with children, things might be different. People might think I was watching someone else’s child(ren). People might not be so surprised to see kids in general. People might not be so taken by such a sight as to comment on it at all. But this is where I am and comments like those I’ve heard in the past few weeks are evidence of it.

I don’t mind it. In fact, it just makes me laugh. Three kids does not seem like a “whole tribe” to someone who has 11 siblings. Three kids does not seem like a reason for a stranger to demand commitment to contraception. Three kids does not seem worth commenting on at all. Especially when they are inhabiting their own space, minding their own business, and bothering no one at all – not even their mother.

I have no idea if I am “done,” but, to be honest, I don’t see why I should be. Three kids seems entirely manageable to me at this point. Even in our small apartment. Even using public transportation. Even when everyone is crying. I feel like I can handle this. I do not feel like my hands are so full that I’m dropping balls and losing patience. It is, as I said before, a stage I’m going through and I don’t mind passing through it, no matter how long it takes.

And so I will go on with me and my bad self. I’ll go on as much as I want. I’ll take my three, or four, or five kids along with me. And when we get through this stage and we’re all a little older and wiser and better able to wipe our own noses and pull up our own pants, we’ll joke about being a whole tribe: the smallest tribe you’ve ever seen.

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  1. Yes, just go on with your bad self 🙂 Seriously, it doesn’t matter where you live (although I’ve never lived in NYC so maybe it’s a LOT different there?) people give you a bit of a stare when they see you pushing two and wearing one. I got a lot of the kind of comments you do when we lived in Seattle (maybe it’s just living IN the city and suburbs are different?) but even here in family friendly Austin, I get comments. Usually, it’s “wow! you have your hands full!” “I don’t know how you do it!?!” but my favorite line came as I wash pushing our grocery cart out to the parking lot with two holding on to the metal cart and one in the Ergo “may the Lord bless you.” Same to you, dear! I’d seriously have a dozen if my husband would agree and I got an earlier start. As is, I got married 2 weeks before I turned 30 and feel pretty good about churning out 3 in under 4 years 🙂 Enjoy those darling babies!


  2. Hysterical! I’m not surprised by any of the comments you described; people don’t seem capable of keeping their thoughts to themselves. I like to think of it as Brooklyn Charm. I love your comments and I do hope you go on with your bad self!


  3. I LOVE “Go on with you and your bad self.”. Wear that as a badge of honor! I do think it’s a city versus suburb thing. There are quite a few 3+ families in my neighborhood, so I doubt anyone would blink.


  4. three is basically the minimum here, four five–fine, but once you hit six people’s eyes start to get big. isn’t it funny how families are smaller these days? we had five kids in my family and i thought we were a small family (in utah).

    that being said, i am definitely taking the spaced out approach. i never planned to, but it’s just what i need to do.


  5. I read an article recently about family life in the city. It basically said that 2 kids are fine, but 3 means you are just showing off that you can afford them. I couldn’t believe people would actually think that way, but I guess some do. So many articles look so much at the cost of raising kids and can’t see beyond that.


  6. Liz, I too, have found New Yorkers definitely have views (and express them loudly!) about family size. I think it’s humorous that hardly anyone speaks to me unless it is about what I’m doing wrong with my children – like that I should put a hat on one, or that three with a fourth obviously on the way is WAY too many and I am certainly encroaching on everyone else by overpopulating the world (which definitely seems a possibility as we squeeze on the metro). More than comments, I get the frequent double takes, the looks of disdain, or just the looks of curiosity. And I live in a very kid-friendly area, too! But one child or two children is very different than three or four in Manhattan! But for all the looks and comments I do also get the smiles and hellos as well, especially when the boys are all dressed on our way to church. I try and remember those smiles as I carrel and guide my little tribe around Manhattan.


  7. Cagesjamtoo (aka Sam)

    October 25th, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    It isn’t just a NYC thing. I still get looks and comments when out with my crew here in the suburbs. Now that 4 are in school, I only have the two babies on my errands and I still get comments about having my hands full.

    Some of my favorite moments are one, when I was walking down the streets of Brooklyn with four kids and someone asked, “Are they all yours?” “Yes,” I said proudly. “And we’re on the way to pick up their sister.” Cue jaw drop.

    The other day, I was out with three of them. A police officer was parking next to us and said, “You have your hands full.” My response, “You only know the half of it.” My oldest said, “yeah, we’re only half of them!”

    I sometime feel like I’m living a lie when I am only out with some of the kids and people make comments about my “handful” and I just grin and move on.

    Large families are fun.


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    I’m trying too determine if its a problem on my end or if it’s the
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