Before, you go further, let’s get the basics right. I come from a long line of females who generally gave birth quite early, usually because they got married early…myself included. I got married when I was just 22 years old. So, what I’m about to write about has been happening to at least three generations of women that I know.
There are still people who mistake my Mom for my older sister…and you know what, we look more like sisters than mother and daughter. That same trend has been replicated several times in my own life over the years, when I’m asked why I did not allow the mother of the children (my own kids) to attend to one of them, while I helped her with the other.
The first time it happened, I had gone to visit my parents with the kids, and we were preparing to go home when a lady asked if she could help me with my “brother”At first, I looked at her, and back at my son, and repeated “Brother…?” like I was in a dream. I was surprised that she would think that my son was my brother.
I wondered if I looked that small…too small to have given birth to an almost two year old boy. She had offered to help me carry him, as I had strapped his sister on my back, but I quietly told her not to bother. And it was not because I was angry that she had mistaken me for my son’s sister. It was because her words stirred some sad memories of my mother dealing with the same situation when I was younger.
She was young when she had us, and really had to grow up fast to cope with the new responsibilities of motherhood. It felt so de ja vu……like I was repeating the same cycle. But I consoled myself with the fact that I would do it better, and had the benefit of her experience as a necessary back up.
But when my kids started school, it took on a whole new level. I had gone to their nursery school, when they had just started there, to pick my kids one day, and the second teacher in their class had told me that only parents were allowed to come pick up their kids, otherwise, they had to call the school to inform them someone else would be doing the school pickup.
Wonderful! When I told her that I was their mother, she just rambled on, and still insisted their mother must come. It was not until their class teacher who knew me, returned and was able to identify me, that my kids were released to me. Today, that teacher and I are friends and have lots in common, as we are around the same age, but that first meeting is still a sore point with me.
In as much as I have gotten several innocent reactions to the likelihood of me being a mother to 4 strapping children, I have also had the negative and pain-inflicting ones. I remember one day, when there had been an issue involving my kids playing rough. Before I knew it, someone had said, “It really won’t matter to her (talking about me), if something were to happen to her son, as she’ll quickly have another one…especially as she seems to be an expert in producing twins!”.” It was a deliberately malicious and wicked statement, intended to get a reaction from me.
Fortunately, the immediate task of attending to my son, who had a scratch on the side of his head, prevented me from putting his head between the iron bars of our gate. So, lucky for that person, he never got a response from me that day, when I could have said some things better left unsaid.
But really, would I have gladly let my son get hurt, just because I have more child bearing years ahead of me? Of course not!!! Whether a young mother or an older one, a mother is a mother is a mother!!! The instincts are the same, the challenges might not be the same but the routes are definitely similar.
There were times when these questions and comments made me feel small, like I shouldn’t have become a mother so soon, until I had the permission of these people, who seemed to think they were some sort of authority over how my life should be lived.
Truthfully, the questions these people asked was also how I once felt…that I did not fit into the societal mould of a woman with child, how much more, one with twins. This realization in a way, amplified every awkward stare or statements of people around me that I felt they were mostly judgemental, even when it had not been their intention.
But nowadays, such comments or questions have the opposite impact. I now see such questions as a compliment. That I was able to mother children, while I was almost a “baby” myself and still look young. And added to that is the major benefit of all the kids being alive, healthy and mentally okay. C’mon, I deserve to tune out the negative vibe.
Suddenly, it did not even matter what the opinions were; it did not matter who said it, or in what spirit. It simply ceased to matter. I saw it as a compliment. My kids were old enough to speak up for themselves and they do so emphatically, when someone asks them who their mommy is.
I look back now, and think. While my mates pulled all nighters in University, I was combining school with changing diapers, fixing meals, and all the whatnots that come with motherhood. But it was my choice, my life, and I had now come to the realisation that I did not need all the judgement that came with not matching up to the conventional age of a woman with children.
But all that has ceased to matter. I feel more confident in my role as a mother, and know that Iâm still growing in the motherhood turf. In the end, my age does not matter, and I have now realised that taking these comments as as compliments disarms a lot of people, and stops them in their tracks.
Tell me truthfully, if someone were to come up to you and say, “You look so beautiful for your age, after four kids.”Wouldn’t you thank them and take note of the fact that they have eyes for the finer things of life? 😉
So, instead of wanting to disappear, I now mentally pat myself on the back and beam, “Thank you!”. Thinking I’m my children’s sister is the best compliment you can pay me. So thank you 🙂