Two women were sitting on a Little League field. Both were mothers of large families. The first had only one daughter and many sons. The daughter was second in line. The second was expecting her fifth, and the first four were all girls.
Both were complaining about the negative messages their children were receiving from friends and acquaintances. The children were hearing the messages loudly and clearly, but the adults sending those messages had no idea of the negativity they were transmitting.
The messages were also couched as questions.
In the first mother’s case, the message transmission sounded like this:
Mother: I have 6 children, 5 boys and a girl.
Message (usually said with a smile, and in the hearing of the children): I bet the girl was the youngest.
In the second case, the message sounded a bit different:
Message, Part One: Congratulations! How many will this make?
Mother: This will be number five.
Message, Part Two (said while looking at the four little girls): I bet you are hoping for a boy this time.
The mothers compared notes, and wondered if the messengers knew what they were telling the listening children.
In both cases, the little ones who were not the oldest had asked their mothers if they were “mistakes”.
Because this is what the children heard.
“When my mother had me, she was really trying to have someone of the other sex, so I was a mistake.”
In the case of the first mother, the error and hurt in the message were easy to fix. Obviously, the 4 younger sons weren’t attempts to have a daughter since the daughter already existed. So she began to answer the messengers by re-affirming the value that each of her children had. When asked if the daughter was the youngest, she smiled back and said that she had not had a son, 4 mistakes and a daughter. She had a son, a daughter, and 4 more precious sons.
For the second mother, the message’s hurt was more direct, since there were no sons. So she began to answer that she was hoping for another daughter, since the ones she had had brought her so much joy and happiness. And she confided to her closest friends that if she were to have a son, she intended to have at least one more child so her middle daughters did not think they were errors in an attempt by their mother to have a boy.
The messengers were not evil people. They did not intend to hurt a child. But, intention or not, they did.
Our society no longer looks at children as gifts from a loving God. They are now commodities. Parents are entitled to one of each, and if one of each does not arrive in the correct order, societal permission is given to “try again” for a matched set.
But no one has stopped to listen to the message that this mentality sends to the children — children who hear that they were nothing more than failed attempts to reach that “matched set” goal. No one, except the mothers who see the hurt in the eyes of their little ones as the message, “You are a mistake”, hits home in their minds and hearts, has stopped to think of the children at all.
It’s time that we did.