“Are they all yours?” She waves her hand at us getting out of the minivan. I’m clipping the second carseat into the double stroller, helping the two year old get his Crocs back on, begging the four year olds for one more minute.
“They are,” I say. If I’m going to survive this outing, I need my things, so I turn my back to the other mom, grab the three bags (diaper, purse, snacks), slip a binky into someone’s mouth, and slide on their sun hats before I turn to look at her.
I don’t recognize her from playgroup. She’s holding her daughter’s hand, or trying to. The daughter is yanking her, dragging her toward the rocket-shaped climber, and the fake rock walls of suitable height for safety. I tell my older kids they can run to the play structure.
The girl implores her mom, and I notice she’s taller than all my kids. Kindergarten, maybe. Her mom nods.
I pivot the stroller on the path.
“Are they twins?” She waves to the double stroller - a engineering marvel that saves me from wearing a bucket carseat on each elbow like a 30 pound purse.
“They are,” I say, thinking of every meme I’ve ever seen about the dumb questions people ask the parents of twins. Here we go, I think, bracing myself.
“Are the other ones twins?”
“They are,” I say. I take a deep breath and get ready to deliver the kind of news that always gets a reaction. “The older twins are four, the middle one is two, and these are my four month olds. Five under five.”
Five under five
“Wow. Wow.” She pauses, and we stand at the fork in the path, scanning for the kids and trying to decide which spot of shade is likely to last longest. July is hot in Massachusetts.
I take a sip from my water bottle, proud I remembered to bring mine, not just the kids. I steel myself for the onslaught I expect. Do twins run in your family? Did you want that many kids? Did you have c-sections?
She goes right for the most personal - and the most common - question.
“Did you use IVF?”
I've been asked this so many times, I'm prepared with a whole range of answers - from a polite demure that I reserve for the grandmothers to a snarky retort I reserve for the most obnoxious strangers.
But today I pause.
Today I don’t answer. I ask her a question, and not a sassy one.
“Why do you ask?” I look her in the eyes.
She pauses, too. There’s definitely a tear there. “I want another baby - she’s six - and it just isn’t happening.”
“I’m so sorry,” I say.
“We have to make some decisions, and soon,” she says. She apologizes, for asking, and for over sharing. “I didn’t mean to overstep. I’m just aching.”
“Let’s talk for while they play.” I point to the bench under the tree. And we talk.
So now I answer every one of those intrusive questions, with a question instead of an answer.
Why do you ask?
The heart of story catching is asking questions.
So instead of seeking answers, I remind you of the power of questions.
May you find some interesting questions today. Write 25 questions that would require more than a one word answer, or that have no answer at all. Time set, seven minutes. Now go...