Nov 3, 2011

Dear Stranger

Dear Stranger,

You made a comment. 
What you said makes no sense. 

"You have your hands full." 
 I'd like to make a suggestion... This is a phrase that needs to be eliminated from your vocabulary, never to be used again.

Only exception to this rule ... if a person's hands are ACTUALLY full.  Then you are allowed to say it.  Then again, I am not sure why you'd want to say it then either.  Why would you want to point out such an obvious thing?  It's like saying, "You're a girl" or "You have on a dress." 

So maybe the real only exception to the rule should be that it needs to be a phrase that is completed such as,  "You have your hands full ... let me help you with that."   

But I find the phrase is never really used in that context. 

So what ARE you trying to say when you say that? 

I was at an appointment today.  The announcement came on, "Joan Smith to window 2".  Joan Smith immediately got up and started walking to window 2.  I heard the worker say (in incredulous tones), "You have your hands full."  Why?  Because the woman had a 3 year old, a 2 year old and was very pregnant. 

So exactly, what was the point of saying that?  *I* certainly don't know. 

I hear it all the time directed at me.  And I never know what they mean or why they say it or how I'm supposed to respond. 

To me it means:  You are in over your head.  You have too many children.  You look harried and overworked.  You look horrible.  You don't know what you're doing. Or perhaps it means You are doing something that I could never do.  I would never have that many kids. 

I can see people saying it if my kids were running around like wild children.  Or if they were loud and out of control.  Or if I was looking harried and overworked.  But no, even sitting nicely, everyone smiling, playing nicely together... they feel the need to say this inane phrase. 

I cringe when I hear it.  It's quite insulting. 

I'm sure you just meant it as an off-handed comment that means nothing to you and you just tossed out this phrase without thinking (which is my point).  What you don't understand is that I hear that phrase about 20 times a day.  And I don't like it. 

Since I don't know what you're trying to say, I find I have no rebuttal that works.  I am left to just sit there and give a half smile/half grimmace.  ::awkward pause:: 

To me, it's no different than me pointing out, "You sure have your mouth full" when you take a bite of food. 

I hereby request that you and everyone (all 7 billion people in the world) refrain from using that phrase. 


P.S.  Next phrase I will tackle?  "Are they all yours?" 


  1. On another blog I read, the mom said her reply to a comment like this is "My heart is full also!" I thought it was a great response.

  2. As the caregiver to two disabled young men and the mother to a severely disabled 11 year old, as well as to a typical 13 year old, I hear this a lot too. For some reason, I read it as "Wow, glad it's you and not me." I know that's pretty negative, but it's the vibe I usually feel. Please people, choose your words more carefully! I'd rather hear about how your toddler stuck a penny up his nose and had to go to the ER, or that your third grader was sent to the principal for saying a naughty word in class than, "Wow, you're very special for doing what you do." Just because the challenges in my life are more obvious doesn't mean they are worse than yours! And just because somebody chooses to care for the disabled or have more than the obligatory 1.5 children doesn't mean they are saints or out of control. They just have made different choices than the norm.

  3. My mom was known to say (and I've stolen it from her, I have 2 boys, and watch another 3 boys all of which are born in a span of 7 years; all 5 have blonde hair and blue eyes so people assume they are brothers: I get it a lot when I'm out with all of them), "Idle hands are the Devil's playthings". I've wished for something better, but it stops people in their tracks as well as lets them know I'm glad/choose to have the "situation" they perceive.