Normally my grocery cart is completely representative: three gallons of milk, five loaves of bread, two big blocks of cheese, four pounds of ground turkey, two dozen eggs, a bag of apples, peanut butter and pizza sauce and bananas and baby carrots and apple juice. You could make a pretty good guess about my life, seeing me in my jeans and ponytail at the grocery store at 9:00 in the morning with that cart.
But the other day, when I was running in to get just a couple of odd things and then doing a little impulse-buying, my cart looked totally different: diet Coke, bottle of wine, bag of baby spinach, two small individually-wrapped pieces of salmon, box of Dove ice cream bars, large bag of cat food, small potted plant. It was odd thinking about what kind of different guess someone would make about my life with THAT cart.
I know people sometimes assume certain things about me because of how many children I have. It's not common in our culture or in my area of the country to have so many, and sometimes I don't get a haircut for a long time and I have my hair twisted up in a clip, and no make-up on, and people are thinking, "Hm, religious sect? But she's not wearing a skirt. Catholic, maybe?" People are more likely to think (true or not) that I bake, that I homeschool, that I breastfed, that I'm good with other people's kids, that I believe in God, that I'm opposed to birth control and swearing, that I'm a Republican, that I'm possessed of cow-like patience.
This doesn't make me feel prickly: I know the signals I send out can be misleading, and I make assumptions all the time, too. For example, when I see a woman out with children, I almost inevitably make the mistake of unthinkingly assuming that the children she's with are (1) all hers and (2) all the children she has. If she has an infant, there's no reason she couldn't have several other kids in school or whatever, but I look at her and think, "Awww, I remember those days, just me and my infant firstborn!" She could be looking back at me and thinking, "Awww, I remember those days when it was just me and my 4-year-old, before I had the other eight kids!" Or, if it's when Henry is in preschool, she could be thinking, "She's not a mom, so she's probably feeling critical about the way my kids are acting up."
One reason it's fun that Henry is going to the kind of preschool where the parents have to wait outside to be let in at pick-up time is that over the course of the year I get to find out many of my misassumptions. I see a woman waiting with her little boy to pick up her daughter each day, and then one day when she's telling me about her pregnancy, I find out she has a third-grader, and this will be her second baby, and the boy and girl are a nephew and niece she's taking care of because her sister is on bedrest. Another woman is picking up her own son, but the baby girl in her arms is a child she babysits. One woman has what I think is late-in-life only child, and it turns out he's a caboose: her other children are in high school. A woman my own age turns out to be a preschooler's grandmother: she was a high-school-aged parent, and so was her son. The one guy in the group isn't a stay-at-home dad: he works second shift.
Do you ever feel like people are assuming something about you that's different than what the situation is? Have you learned a real story behind one of your own misassumptions? I love stories like that.
Life-improving products, part 4 - (Continued from part 1, part 2, and part 3.) Stearns Youth Life Vest (photo from Amazon.com). I’d been too scared to take the kids to any body of water oth...