Dear Amy: I have five young sons. Everywhere I go, people ask me if I'm "done having kids" or if I'm "going to try for a girl." I get these questions from friends, acquaintances and complete strangers.

I feel that the topic of future reproductive plans is a personal one. But I am a friendly person, and I end up answering some pretty personal questions, so as not to hurt the feelings of the person asking. Honestly, I would rather steer clear of the matter entirely.

Sometimes I just say, "We love boys!" when people ask if I'm going to try for a girl, especially when my kids are listening. I know I've hurt feelings by trying the change the subject.

I understand that people are curious about our family, but I would rather not discuss whether or not I'm done having kids unless I choose to bring it up, myself. What is a friendly way I can steer the conversation?

Amy says: You sound quite patient and understanding — great qualities in a mom of five young boys. ("We love boys!" is a fantastic answer when this intrusive question is raised in front of your children.)

I'm trying to comprehend how a person asking about your reproductive plans — in front of your kids — could possibly have their feelings hurt when you deftly try to change the subject, but I take it as a given that sometimes people who are insensitive (or merely thoughtless) toward others are extra-sensitive about themselves.

One way to respond would be to say, "Aren't you sweet?" This is a catchall (Southern-born) phrase that you can plug into almost any awkward conversational gap. Think of it as conversational caulk.

You could put the inquisitor a little more on the spot by saying (with a smile), "Well, that's a pretty personal question, don't you think?"

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