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My Hands ARE Full, Can You Lend Yours?

by Valerie Frost

Being a twin mama, the standard line of public questioning and remarks usually includes the following: “Are they twins?” “Are they identical?” and the favorite for every caregiver of multiples, “Are they natural/Do twins run in your family?”

Outside of gestation-specific commentary, and including the general population of caregivers, the top go-to for ‘what compulsively must be said upon sight of a parent outside their home’ is probably “Looks like you have your hands full!”

And I get it. Children capture people’s attention. When you see them out and about it’s standard to want to engage somehow. You don’t just want to stand there admiring a child doing their typical kid thing and be caught staring. Maybe your children are grown so you’re reminiscing on the days when you had small children and looked like the parent you’re witnessing now. Or you don’t have any little ones of your own yet and you’re trying to imagine what your future could include. That or you just recognize the person in front of you really does have a heavy load to carry and is outnumbered by miniature humans who aren’t equipped to lighten it.

Here’s the thing though. It takes a village to raise a child, right? Well, unless they’re a celebrity with an ever-present bodyguard trailing in their shadow with a complimentary entourage in tow, chances are someone’s village isn’t mobile. So, while they’re braving running errands and doing their average-people thing alone with their kiddos, there’s a vacancy for all hands on deck. And as you may feel obligated to point out, theirs are already full.

Next time you see a walking coat rack for all things kids refuse to carry themselves complete with a fashionable purse replacement in the form of a diaper bag running on an unideal amount of sleep, here are some things you can do with your hands:

– Open a door. Except if it’s an exit door and my active child is ahead of me. Please don’t facilitate their swift escape. Otherwise, thanks in advance for one less maneuver on my part especially if I’m using the stroller.

– Put the shopping cart back in the parking lot. My overactive conscience does not allow me to be a buggy deserter in an open space. I also haven’t figured out the best way to get the shopping cart back to the return station without having to take all the kiddos with me or parking far away from the building but right next to a cart return. Freeing me of potential lingering guilt and/or saving me a conflicting decision will make my day.

– If appropriate, do something for the kids. By appropriate, I mean don’t dart out of a dark alley and start retying my child’s shoelaces. Definitely ask before approaching someone’s child if you don’t know that person. But little things like getting something off a shelf for them or zipping their jacket when I have more than one kid and they offload all their no longer wanted items onto me is a small task for you and huge help for me.

– Throw stuff away. If we’re having a family lunch at Chick-Fil-A I don’t plan for an uninterrupted sit-down meal, but it would be nice. If we’re hanging around after we finish eating so they can play with their kid’s meal toys it is one less trip or thought for me to not have to get everything to the trash bin myself.

On an average ongoing basis and for the big things, family, friends, neighbors, and professionals keep us going. I don’t do it all alone. But it’s also the small acts of support from passersby throughout our day-to-day that make a world of a difference.

While it’s human nature to feel compelled to say something, maybe next time consider following that statement up with an offer to roll up your sleeves and pitch in for a moment. I bet that parent won’t forget it.

And if you’re a parent who has half-smiled at the acknowledgement while simultaneously cringing on the inside from hearing the same old phrase not being backed up with action, you are not alone.