Telling Me How Young I Am Isn't A Compliment

by Jessica Keeth
Originally Published: 
A young mother smiling and looking at her son while hugging him

It happens all the time when people find out how old my kids are.

An encounter with a complete stranger trying to make small-talk; my son’s friend’s mom, whom I am trying to get to know better; chatting with parents at my work and finding comradery; the mom across the way struggling with her toddler, probably thinking I have no idea what she’s dealing with when I give a sympathetic look.

“Wait. How old are you?”

I know that people don’t mean anything by it, but it gets old.

Yes, I am younger than most people with tweens. When people find out I’m “only” 29, I tend to quickly interject that my 12-year-old is technically my stepson so they don’t mutter things under their breath when they do the math.

I wasn’t 16 when I had my first kid (I was 19…sheesh!). But even if I was 16, is it really anyone’s business? I’m at my kids’ basketball games and orchestra concerts and parent-teacher conferences and dentist appointments just like you are. I worry about grades and the internet and dating and college and paying bills just like you.

I am parenting. Just like you.

I know you mean well. And I’m sure most people intend the “Oh my goodness you’re so young” comment as a compliment (Yeah, yeah, yeah….I’ll appreciate it in 10 years).

But, here are a few reasons why you — the person I don’t really know — shouldn’t gasp when you find out how old young I am:

1. When you say I’m too young to have kids, I want to face-palm you. Clearly, you’re wrong, because I have kids. And they’re older than yours. Trust me— you’re not the first to notice.

2. Would you ask a woman who appears to be in her forties wrangling a couple preschoolers how old she is (or if she’s their grandma)? No? That’s rude, you say?

3. “When I was your age…” Well, guess what? When I’m your age, both my kids will be in their twenties. It’s not looking like such a bad idea now, is it?

4. It discredits me as a parent, and I don’t like that. Just because I got pregnant at a young age doesn’t mean I’m putting in any less effort than you. It’s as if you find out my age and imply that someone my age is in over her head or too immature to know how to handle this.

5. A generation or two ago, girls were married at 16 and popping out kids faster than my boys scarf down a pizza. I’m not saying that’s how things should be, but let’s have some perspective.

6. Though tempted, I would never respond to your “You’re so young” comment with “No, you’re just old.”

Respect the journey; We’re all on it. It doesn’t matter how old we were when we started—19, 27, 42 — we’re all parents.

Besides, you may even learn something from me.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was a kid, right?

Related post: 10 Benefits to Being The Older Mom

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