Oh, the joys of family gatherings. There’s a reason why I tend to stand by myself in a corner and observe rather than take part in conversation. I know I’m different from a lot of people. I don’t fit in to most crowds, even family crowds. I’m OK with that. What I am not OK with is people who decide they should condemn another person’s decisions because they are different.
I overheard a conversation while having lunch after a funeral this weekend. I doubt my cousins read my blog and would even notice if I used their real names, but for the sake of keeping the peace we shall name them Susan, Mary, and Jill. Susan married into the family and has 2 children who were both born at home. It’s a decision I applaud and may have made myself if I had been more informed when my children were born. Mary and Jill are sisters. I was sitting next to them and the table we were at was close to the desert end of the buffet line that had been set up.
When Susan approached the deserts the conversation of Mary and Jill shifted to how skinny she was and how it was impossible that she could maintain that weight after having 2 kids without doing something that had to be unhealthy. From there it moved on to how she gave birth at home and, can you believe she would choose to do that, and why on earth would anyone even consider that, and then I heard this doozy from Mary, who is not married and has no children:
“I attended a birth once, and all I can say is, I would not want to clean up that mess.”
I didn’t even know what to think, let alone what to say. How do you even respond to someone who has no children, no personal frame of reference, and sees “that mess” as a turn-off for having a home birth? So, I was just glad that I was done eating and could walk away to find someone else to listen to for a while. Of course, what I wish I had done was asked, “What’s so unusual about a mom choosing the surroundings that are most comfortable for her to give birth in?” or “How has a woman’s body changed that makes it so unreasonable to assume we could continue to give birth without the aid of medicine or hospitals like we have for thousands of years?” or “If you’re that confused about why she would choose a home birth, why don’t you just go ask her?” Of course, there was also the opportunity to call her over and commend her decision in front of them and see how they responded then, but that would almost certainly have caused a scene.
In the past, Mary has also had seriously misinformed words to say about my choice to home school. She asked me once if I made my kids wear a uniform to do their school work. I thought she was kidding and told her that I did. She responded with, “That’s good. I don’t see how kids could learn if they are in their pajamas.” That was when I realized she wasn’t kidding and I responded with, “Well, their uniform is to match whatever I am wearing. If I’m in my pajamas, then they can wear theirs too. If I get dressed then they have to get dressed. But either way, we seem to accomplish our learning just fine, and sometimes the best learning happens while we are still in our pajamas.” I could tell that was not the response she was expecting and guess that she still disapproves of my choice to home school and will not shy away from letting anyone else know. I can only imagine how the conversation with Jill might have turned after I left the table.
So, now I’m a bit torn. I feel bad that I sat and listened to Mary and Jill talk about Susan that way without saying something. Part of me wants to send them both an email and ask them to please become informed before they start to ridicule the choices of someone else. Part of me says I should just let it go. I’m a non-confrontational type, so I’ll probably just let it go, but it still eats away at me. I wish I had said or done something in the moment.
So, now I’m curious, what would you have said or done? When you overhear a conversation, regardless of setting, that condemns another person’s decision, do you step in and defend them? If you did nothing in the moment, would you do or say anything after the fact?