Hello New Neighbors

Here’s something you should probably know about us right off the bat: We’ve got five kids (and they sure do eat a lot).

I sure hope you aren’t gluten-free because here is a loaf of homemade whole wheat bread to welcome you and it is chock-full of gluten.

But if you are . . . could I have that back? Because here’s something you should probably know about us right off the bat: We’ve got five kids (and they sure do eat a lot).

I know you might be having a lot of different reactions to that statement so let me just try to ease some of your worries right now. Here are some things you should know about living next door to our family:

Not only do we have five kids of our own—or maybe it’s because we have five kids—there are frequently more than five kids here. We have the lawn other kids come to play in. They can get loud but it’s mainly happy shouts and laughter. My husband and I are pretty old school in some regards though so don’t worry, they come inside and go to bed at a decent time almost every single night. (Incidentally, our township does not have a noise ordinance. Ask me how I know.)

You will never be lacking for a baby or pet sitter. And when one is busy, there are four more available!

Likewise in a few years you’ll have some lawn mowers and driveway shovelers very conveniently located.

You might think with this many kids they’ll always be knocking on your door trying to sell you something, but you’d be wrong. We’re the type of family that would rather just buy the teacher a new classroom rug or dedicate our time than selling overpriced wrapping papers. (I’ll totally take those box tops off your hands though.)

In a township where most of the kids do “trunk or treat” thereby denying you the pleasure of seeing cute kids in costumes, have no fear. We totally still trick or treat door-to-door and we usually bring friends.

We also participate in good-natured ridiculous holidays like “Sneak a Zucchini On Your Neighbor’s Porch Night” (heads’ up: It’s August 8th) but never anything mean-spirited like flaming bags of poop on Mischief Night.

You have to have a good sense of humor to have this many kids and we do. You may notice a lot of other days besides Halloween in which the kids and grown ups seem to be in some sort of costume. However, we won’t knock on your door and ask for candy on those other days. (Fine, we did that once but it was only November, they still had some leftover Halloween candy anyway.)

Some days I’m spread pretty thin, some days I have some free time. But I almost always find time to help a neighbor. As a matter of fact, just this morning I stopped what I was doing to answer a call and ended up agreeing to break into one of the other neighbor’s homes to get something her child forgot and then drive it to the school.

As I was walking into the school I realized some things:

a) If my own kid had forgotten this, I would have told him to suck it up
b) I think this makes me an en-neighbor-lar
c) And, yes, I do think I’m pretty witty for coming up with b.

The point is I’m glad to help out, especially because I rely on the people in this neighborhood a bunch myself. If you’re not fond of getting last minute texts begging you to get my kids off the bus . . . you’d better not give me your number.

About the breaking in? I promise you I am not a common criminal. She gave me permission and taught me how to do it. I solemnly swear I will only break into your home if you want me to.

Last, I hope you’re expecting a family this big next door. Hopefully you’ve noticed the basketball net and bikes in the driveway, the many toys and balls in the grass and the swing set and playhouse on the side of the yard very near your new home.

Please, please don’t be like those people who move next to a farm and then complain about the smells from the barn. While my children can often be as noisy and smelly as farm animals, they will (probably) never knock over your garbage or crap in your driveway.

But if they do we promise to take care of the mess and make it up to you with a nice warm loaf of gluten-free bread.

Things You Notice When You Have a Large Transracial Family

Sometimes I see a picture of us and think, “Shit, that’s a lot of kids. No wonder people do double takes when they see us.” Yes, I notice the double takes.

We “only” have five kids. That’s how I feel most of the time because this is our normal. I’m used to the noise and energy level. I’m accustomed to the exorbitant grocery bills. I multitask in my sleep.

But then sometimes I see a picture of us and I think, “Shit, that’s a lot of kids. No wonder people do double takes when they see us.” Yes, I notice the double takes; you’re not as stealthy as you think you are, Public.

There are a lot of other things I notice when I’m out with my large, transracial family, too, like:

The ease with strangers feel free to ask us personal questions. “Are they all yours?” “Do they have the same mother?” “Is she a drug addict?” “Why doesn’t someone tie her tubes already?” Would you ask me these questions if all of our skin tones matched?

The fact that the old man that smiled at my little Black girl was wearing a shiny new TRUMP cap. Hard not to notice a bit of irony there.

When people are looking around at the playground trying to figure out whose kids these are because they don’t see an adult of the same race . . . or when they assume the adult of the same race is the person in charge of my kids.

How infrequently restaurants actually mean it when they advertise KIDS EAT FREE. (So far, never.)

When someone in your town gets a sweet 10-passenger van and you finally understand your husband’s bouts of vehicle envy. (To be fair I also stare longingly at tiny little Fiats and Vespas but on a totally unpractical level.)

How rarely transracial families and/or families with more than three kids are depicted in any sort of media or advertising . . . and how when we do see families like ours in public how we gravitate towards one another.

We notice when you attempt to say our daughter’s “ethnic” name the right way and when you just don’t even bother to try. We understand when you can’t keep track of which kid is which—we’ve been trying to come up with a jingle to make it easier for you.

How eager some people are to compare us to people they know (my neighbor’s cousin adopted two sisters from China!) or celebrities. Sometimes it’s borderline racist (She looks just like Lupita! No she doesn’t, they’re just both Black) and sometimes it’s just silly (not that I mind this one as much but, no, we are really not like Brad and Angelina.)

When people inquire about your kids’ birth parents with empathy . . . because the opposite is the norm, the times that people show compassion really stand out.

When strangers refer to our son that doesn’t look like us as our son—without any pause, no hesitation—we notice. And we thank you.