robot faces

Last night I hid in the kitchen to lick the brownie batter spatula. Not my most attractive moment but I didn't feel all that self conscious about it until I looked up through the window pane and locked eyes with a robin. The robin was standing in my yard, slurping up a worm like it was an overdone spaghetti noodle and not breaking eye contact with me. It made me feel embarrassed for the brownie batter situation. I froze there and thought of the story about the people who took care of the robots. I saw it on television (or maybe it was the internet) and it was like three years ago (or maybe six years ago)? The robots were set out onto the street with emotional messages and pleas for help tied around their necks with paper and string. The people who saw them read the messages and looked at their robot faces and treated them like people and tried to help them and had sympathy for them, and even though it didn't make sense, no one wanted to be the one telling the sad-paper-message robots no. This isn't even that related to me in the kitchen with the spatula, but it's still the first thing that I thought of when I projected the aggressive and judgmental thoughts onto that robin.

I know I already shared this on instagram and twitter and Facebook (ahem - sorry!) but our family was included in an article for USA Today (it ran yesterday, and the paper should be available through the weekend if you happen to see a copy and want to see for yourself) and our photo was used on the front page! The front page of USA Today! It was pretty exciting.  (See us there, right under the word Newsline?)

I knew when I spoke with the reporter that the issue at hand (family size and choosing how many children to have) can be touchy and send people-- particularly the type of people who like to leave comments on newspaper websites-- into a fit of judgment and ugly assumptions. I know there are those out there who have unkind things to say about young mothers with three or more children. It is highly likely that those ugly things have been said in the comments section of this particular piece, so I am choosing not to read the comments.  Okay, that's a lie.  I read a few and closed the window.  I am choosing not to read any more. I know that these people don't understand.

I am proud of Luke and proud of myself, doing what we are doing. We work really hard and we have made a nice cozy life. We make sure the car seats are installed correctly and we read the books and change the diapers and push the swings and kiss the ouchies.  We pay the bills and we pay attention.  Our children are smart and sweet and wonderful. We have a plan and we have a family and we are really happy. It can be done. You can be in your twenties and parent. It isn't, like, the right answer, but it is an answer.  It really can be done.

It's perplexing how many vicious online arguments over this personal decision or that all come down to the stubborn belief that there is a right answer.  There is no right answer! How many times do we forget this and have to relearn it?  We are not a bunch of robots with messages tied around our necks. even though it may seem it at times.  We can do lots of different things in lots of different ways, and it will all be okay.  We can be different.  Life isn't arithmatic, people.  It's chemistry.  It's biology.  It's experience and personality stirred up with blood and risk and regret.  It's an essay and a road trip and a glass of beer.  Or whatever beverage you like.  We'll toast anyway.  I am so glad we are not robots.  I am so glad we are all different.

Happy Mother's Day, moms.
You work really hard, finding your way and then doing things your way.
You are pretty amazing.

And happy Sunday, rest of you.  CALL YOUR MOM.


  1. Thank you for the awesome post Erin! How cool you guys are in the paper!

    We are the same exact age. We don't have any kids yet and have been married for five years. Yes, I am so glad we are all different, and it is so beautiful.

    I am proud of your family too. You have what I would have wanted had my circumstances been different. Had I married someone else. Had I made different choices. But nope, I didn't. It's the beauty of choice, and I am sure I would have still been thankful either way.

    Happy Mothers Day Erin!


  2. I can't WAIT to buy USA Today. Definitely on my to do list tomorrow. You guys are awesome!

    Young families are the best. Being 28, with four kids, is definitely not the usual, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

  3. First I just have to ask, is hiding in the kitchen to lick the brownie batter spoon not normal behavior? Are you suggesting that it is something I should have been ashamed of all these years? I have some serious reevaluating to do. :-)

    You got the right answer about there being no right answer. Anyone who posted comments on your USA Today article that DIDN'T say how adorable you all are is just really missing the point.

  4. I'm also 27 and have a big family for my age - we have four kids. But that doesn't seem as strange as the fact that we had our first 3 by the time I was 23! :) I love seeing others with 3 of 4 kids at my age. I love our family and wouldn't have it any other way (even on the hard days).

    Although, I don't think that my way is more "right" than anyone else's. Just right for me.

  5. This is a splendid post. You pulled it all together so well and I SO VERY MUCH agree with you.

    Just a thought: you could turn it into a piece for publication...

  6. Great post! Happy mothers day to you. I'm going out this morning to get the paper. Can't wait to read it! ;)

  7. Whenever I read comments on news websites I feel like I'm hanging out in the lounge of a psychiatric ward. The crazies are just magnetically drawn to that comment box.

    Anyway, thanks for another wonderful and thoughtful post, Erin. Happy Mother's Day!

  8. I think being young and having a family is more common here in the South than in other places. I don't see what the problem is - you went to college, you got married, you are married with three kids! It sounds awfully normal to me. The photos are wonderful and I'm glad you got to represent young families!

    Since we got married when we were 27, we're not quite in the same boat. I am thankful that Thomas came earlier than we planned (we were going to wait until we were 30, oh man, but he was born when I was 29) and that life is so sweet with our babies in it!

  9. It's so interesting now that my kids are older, I'm also older and it just seems so accepted. But how is this any different than when I was young twenties with 2+ kids? Perspective, you know? People react before they think.

    So excited about your article!


  10. You guys are so cool! I'm in that awkward place, not being so young anymore, but not old yet either. Having 3 kids already, but not sure if we're done yet either...


  11. Love this, Erin. And I love that you just told everybody to call their mom. :)

    Happy Mother's Day, friend. xoxo

  12. I had my girls young by choice. It was right for us and I loved every minute of being a younger parent. Now I don't want to ding the older parents here too much, but there is an epidemic of them in my area, and for some reason it makes me sad. You see late forty somethings with toddlers and then you do the math and cringe at the thought of the kid being in high school ,and having such old parents.
    I have had a lot of those parents in my area ask me who takes care of my "little ones." I start to laugh every time, because my littlest one is 21 years old.

    I keep thinking about those kids having kids, and their kids not having grandparents. Mark my word, there will be a book out titled "The lost generation of grandparents."
    I think biologically we were built to have them younger. I had a friend that had her second at baby at 38 and she said she wished she knew how hard it was going to be on her body. She was in good shape too.
    I'm sorry for rambling here, but I love your post, because it is how I think too. One more story before I shut up.
    I once was in line at IKEA and there was this OLD looking lady with an 18 month old, and I have learned now not to say "Hey is that your grandchild." instead I said, oh. is your baby about 18 months old? She said, why yes, how old is yours? My youngest was with me, and she was about 16 at the time. I laughed and said this is my baby. She gave me the once over and said, "WELL, I chose to go to college first." I looked her in the eye and said I did too, and graduated as well.
    I don't get why people think you can't be a good parent in your twenties???

  13. Elizabeth that was mean and I'm glad I don't know you.

  14. Sorry to Anonymous for stepping on your toes. I don't want to hash anything out on Erin's blog, but if you want to come over to mine. I will discuss my opinion.

    Perhaps it came off one sided, but I live in an area where I am the minority ( having been a younger parent) and constantly looked down upon. It is just good to see beautiful families like Erin's in their twenties making a good life for themselves. I do think both sides of the coin get hammered, and like Erin said, there is no right or wrong. Do what is right for you, but I do have an opinion based on my life experience.

  15. Happy Mother's Day (belated!) to you Erin. I hope you had a lovely day.

    And I just ADORE your message here. I'm SO very glad we are not robots too. That would suck. :)


  16. I was just coming to your blog to "pin" blogs that I love. Finding this particular post (which I had not yet read), confirmed for me that I definitely, without a doubt, must "pin" your blog, Erin. I always love your posts. I always feel like I wish we were neighbors when I read your posts. There's a comfortable, sit down on the couch and watch our kids play together, sort of feeling about it. I wish I had seen this in time so that I could have picked up the paper :O( Hugs to you. Susan

  17. How much fun is that! Awesome, Erin.

    I read the comments after I read the article. According to many, I must be very stupid. D'oh!

  18. ...and I don't know Elizabeth, but her thoughts made me smile. I have kids spanning a wide range of ages. 3 were born during my 20s, the other 5 during my 30s. My youngest is 8 months and I will be 40 in a few weeks.

    I am very aware that my older children got me in my youthful best, full of energy. I think about how my 2 youngest boys will be teenagers when my husband and I are in our 50s and that makes me feel very, very tired. But as an older mom to them, I bring something to the table I couldn't when I was a younger mom. I have a completely different perspective on life than I did 10 years ago and it's actually very conducive to raising small children.

    I'd say I'm more wise now, but I'm wise enough to realize I am not wise enough to make that claim.

  19. Way to GO!!!!!!!!!! Everyone has a right to their own opinion and their own life, that's why we fought/fight for freedom. Anyone has the right to have as many or as few children as they want. There is no right answer. We are all different. It's not just children we have a right and a freedom to make our own choices and we should not be condemed or scolded for our choices as long as we are and those around us are safe, sound, and respectful! I had 4 children in 4 1/2 years and will never regret it. And we did that on purpose people! It's chaos but great! And our children are bright, respectful, have manners and in the end they are children and they have fun!

  20. Erin,
    I just love your blog and your beautiful voice. Of course, nobody should want to be a robot! Hooray for individual choices and the decisions we all make to parent the best way we know how. I had my baby when I was 29 and I would have loved (would love) to have several more. But that is not how life has worked out so far for me. I applaud anyone who loves their children and is devoted to raising them well - whether they have 6 or 1, whether they started at 18 or 40. I will be so happy when mothers celebrate each other more, and judge each other less. We're all on this beautiful journey. Happy Mother's Day!

  21. You know what? I am 50 years old and had a daughter when I was 22. I lived as a single mom and did what I could to do it all right. My daughter was loved and happy. People were rude. I chose to not focus on the rude people. I remarried and had babies when I was 37 and 38 and my daughter was able to witness the birth of her brothers. My daughter had grandparents. My sons just lost one set of grandparents but still have one set. They do have their big sister Erin, her husband Luke, and their nephews Clark and Hal, and their niece Alice in their lives. Is it okay? Yes. It is perfect. Even without 2 sets of grandparents. Is my daughter who was raised by a poor single mom okay? Of course she is. It's all about being nice and loving and not being a weirdo. I've done it both ways and neither way is better than the other.

  22. some people are just plain ridiculous. i read a lot of those comments and i've come to the conclusion that the majority of the people who comment on news stories with their weird little names have no lives. just sayin.
    and you're adorable.

  23. Erin, you are awesome. You're right--we are not robots. We are also not statistics or worst-case scenarios. We are unique individual people carving out the lives that work for us. You have such a beautiful family!

  24. That robin scene had me in hysterics. you painted that picture so well.

    Also, the cover of the USA Today? How amazing! Right there on the front page with Obama!

    I think mothering styles and choices are so interesting. They are unique to each individual situation, yet they fall into weird "clubs". The young mothers club, the post-corporate career club, the many children, the only child, the attachment parenty club, the Tiger Mom etc. And those choices do reflect something about ourselves as mothers. But loving our children is overarching to all, the expression of it is personal and cultural.

    How people handle the differences reminds me of how people handle political differences--do you hate those on the other side of the fence? do you think they're idiots? bad people? do you think that they just have a different perspective/background? For the most part I have friends with similar political leanings, but I wonder how that will pan out with mothering styles/friends. We shall see.

    I swear, if those who write in news article comment boxes are representative of the country, we are in serious trouble.

  25. They picked EXACTLY the right family to interview - and to photograph. You guys are GORGEOUS.

    This part of your post was sheer brilliance: "Life isn't arithmatic, people. It's chemistry. It's biology. It's experience and personality stirred up with blood and risk and regret. It's an essay and a road trip and a glass of beer. Or whatever beverage you like. We'll toast anyway. I am so glad we are not robots. I am so glad we are all different."


  26. awesome. especially the usa today part. and the emotional robot part.

  27. Wow, a cover on USA Today! Awesome!

    I love, love, love this post! Personally, I did everything the very, very, very traditional way....graduated high school, went to college, married my college sweetheart, got my MBA, THEN had a child at 28 and stepped off the corporate career track. But I still feel judged because now my son is two, and people wonder why he doesn't have a brother or sister yet!

    I sometimes wonder if/how these judgmental people really feel so secure about themselves....like they somehow discovered the very best way to raise children. I feel like I am constantly questioning myself and wondering if I'm doing the right thing, so I could never judge someone else's decisions.

    Sometimes I think these people are really insecure with their decision, so they need to bash people who made different decisions to build themselves up.

    Thanks for such a great post!

  28. Kathryn ReynoldsMay 18, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    Can I just say that I love you for this?

  29. I read the article, and I am glad you did it.
    I am pretty sure that last paragraph is one of my favorites that you've ever written.