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Thick Skin

In our area, public schools began last week and private schools start this week. I am reviewing some of my notes from last year as I prepare this year's personal development exercises...for myself.

That's right. I need to personally exercise skin-thickening as I prepare for a ton of unwanted, unnecessary comments from the rest of the world.

Any mom could use these exercises. At some point in our existence, all of us have been given advice or have been reprimanded by some stranger — like the day I brought my daughter home from the hospital.

It was a cold November day in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I was exhausted after a 14-hour labor just the day before. Being in the hospital was fun because of the great care that I received, but I was so anxious to have my first child home with me that I begged my midwife to let me go early. As I got on the elevator, I realized that I had put the baby's blanket in the diaper bag, which my husband took to the car. My newborn, uncovered in the winter, prompted the elderly lady in the elevator to "have at it."

Lady: Oh, she is so pretty. Is she your first?
Me: Yes, ma'am.
Lady: Are you on your way home?
Me: Yes, ma'am.
Lady: Well, I know you're going to cover her up in this weather.
Me: Yes ma'am. My husband is bringing the car around the circular drive. I have the blanket in the car.
Lady: I'm sure they could have given you a blanket. I guess you didn't know to ask, this being your first baby and all.
Me: Thanks for letting me know that. You have a good day.

I rushed out of that elevator and felt the burning under the bottom of my eyes right before the tears start pouring down. I told my midwife, and her response was: "Welcome to motherhood. Get used to it and try not to cry every time."

Get used to it? Get used to people telling me how to live my life, how to raise my children? Yeah. That's exactly what she meant, and my goal this year is to thicken my skin and better deal with people who offer their two-cents.

Since I've been a SAHM for over 10 years, I've had a lot of practice addressing the two-cents-givers. Usually I smile, nod, and grumble under my breath. Sometimes if they are close friends or relatives, I just make a sarcastic comment and smile a nasty smile. I thought my methods would work in every situation until I started homeschooling. Wherever we go during the week, during school hours, we draw attention to ourselves. The challenge is when the disrespect or the ignorant comments come our way.

Man at store: Oh, school is out today.
Me: No. We're on a field trip.
Man at store: Oh, so you're picking up some snacks before the field trip.
Me (wanting to just drop it and say OK but choosing to continue): No, this is actually our field trip. We're planning family meals based on the USDA recommendations for healthy food choices, as well as, learning about home economics since we have a large family and eating healthy is costly, so we have to be creative.

I know, I know. TMI. (Too Much Information, for those of you who don't know.) My children taught me that acronym when I would explain to them how much I could tell about the baby's health based on the look and the consistency of his bowel movements.

Anyway, the man at the grocery store looked puzzled, probably wanted to tell me to get a life, but instead he just smiled and said, "Seems to me that you would want all of those kids in school. You must be a saint or have a real good health plan because they would sure drive me crazy."

Yeah, that's me. Ol' Saint Shawn. The same saint who wanted to tell him that he needs the better health plan because if looks could kill...well, you know the rest. The same saint who plans to set up a booth at the hospital handing out piggy banks to all of the new moms urging them to start collecting the two cents from everyone who has an opinion about them, their children, their educational choices, their discipline practices.

Hey, college is expensive and if I collected my two cents, I'd be rich enough to not have to worry about being sensitive or about not having thick enough skin.