October 4th, 2013
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4600250860_f4f0b9a1ee_mThe thought of being eligible for AARP never freaked me out.  I’ve always enjoyed my age whatever it was.  Then, the day that my notice for eligibility arrived coincided with my daughter’s kindergarten graduation.  Okay, maybe I didn’t feel that great about it.

Yes, I’m 50.  Yes, she’s graduated from kindergarten shortly after the big day.  And no she’s not my granddaughter.

I was 43 when my daughter was born.  Growing up and living in rural Texas, I know many women who married young and had their first child before their 20th birthday.  Some of my best friends.  Young mothers – not older mothers – are the norm.  I am often asked if I’m her grandmother.

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When she was an infant, I liked to tell myself it was because we don’t look alike.  My blonde hair and blue eyes contrast with my daughter’s dark eyes and skin. When asked if I’m her grandmother, I would smile and say “No, she’s my daughter.”  I would tell myself that they assumed I was her grandmother because we don’t look alike.  I must have been a young mother who young daughter had a child, the storyline in my head went.  We don’t look anything alike. How could they know she was adopted?

Then one day, alone at the grocery story buying diapers, the cashier asked, “Do you have grandchildren at home?”  ”What?” I thought.  My daughter’s not even here.  How could she know that we don’t look alike.  Again, I said smiling, this time through teeth more gritted than usual, “No, it’s for my daughter.”

Not too long ago, my then five-year-old daughter and I were at the local drugstore.  While checking out, the college-age clerk, just politely, she thought, making conversation, said, “Is this your granddaughter?”  ”No,” I said.  ”She’s my daughter.”  We left now long use to the question.  I didn’t think anything about it.

Three weeks later, we returned to the same store checking out with the same clerk.  The young clerk said, “I’m so glad you came back.  I’ve felt so bad about asking if you were her grandmother.”

I laughed.  She was so sincere.  I told her not to feel bad, it happens all the time.  ”I’m not her grandmother but I could be,” I said.  As a matter of fact, I told her, just that day a friend from high school posted on her Facebook page that she was now a grandmother for the fifth time.  The clerk looked shocked.  That made me happy.  Clearly, she thought I was old to have a grandchild but not old enough to have five grandchildren.

“I’m not but I could be” has become my new mantra.  Being an older mother is a lot like puberty.  It’s that awkward in-between stage.  Instead of being between child and woman, I’m between mother and grandmother.  I could be her mother or, truth be told, I could be her grandmother.  I’ll just let them guess.

Photo Credit: Steven Depolo

3 Responses to “When AARP and Kindergarten Collided”

  1. 50mom says:

    You are an inspiration to me. I will be turning 50 next year and I am in the middle of finishing my second degree in order to be ready for my second career after I retire from my first career in the next seven years. What’s my point? I want to adopt two children within the next six years. I always knew that some day I would adopt. Now that I have started researching, I am shocked to see the older age limits of different countries. I feel like I am still in my 30s. I’m fit, I eat healthy and fortunately, I have been blessed with excellent health. The reason I have waited this “late” in life to adopt is because by retiring from my first career and gaining another, I’ll be able to add another zero to my annual income; therefore, I can afford to raise my children properly and send them to college.

    I hope that I will be able to achieve my “late life dream,” sounds hilarious to me! I’m not worried about comments from people, but I am worried about age discrimination. Perhaps I would have been better off getting knocked up at sixteen with absolutely no money. Not to make fun of these situations, but I am also amused at the formulas for married couples wishing to adopt. The age difference of a female spouse must fit the exact age formula if she is married to a much older man. Older age formulas….really?

  2. Cindy Hailey says:

    Hi, 50mom…Although you deny making fun of these “knocked up” situations, your vocabulary strongly implies differently.
    Remember, many of the children available for adoption have come from a birth mother who was “knocked up at sixteen” as you so kindly put it. Such an attitude of superiority can actually filter down to an adopted child when things go differently than we hope for or expect…and most children/teens do have ‘gone badly’ moments whether or not they are adopted.
    In such times, without checking yourself, you may find yourself placing blame on genetics rather than assuming the responsibility for your own parental failings. (And you will have failings.) It’s so much easier to place blame for our parental gaps on a birth parent’s gene pool. Please understand that it would be more than a little detrimental to the emotional health of that child. At the very least, it would be demeaning and would certainly tamper negatively with self-esteem.
    Unfortunately, I’ve seen and heard such excuses/accusations from guardians/foster and adoptive parents towards children they were raising. The child you adopt may be the child of a pregnant teen, a convict, an alcoholic, a pimp, a drug pusher, or someone dependent on drugs. Do you think you can handle that knowledge about your child without ever blaming your child’s behavior problems on the birth parent? Going into adoption with a negative mindset towards the child’s birth parent is a bright red warning flag. The practice of compassion towards the parent now will help when the same is needed for the child in the future. If you can so easily write with such condescension, it leaves one to wonder how sharp your tongue might be towards the growing child who errs?
    Adding an extra zero to the paycheck may simplify life in the arena of having things and opportunities, but it is definitely not what is most needed to raise children ‘properly’and certainly should not be a prerequisite in anyone’s mind.
    In case you are wondering, no, I am not a birth parent. I am the bastard child of a teenage pregnancy. My mother was “knocked up” at 15. Against all odds, I was able to meet her several years ago, just a few short years before she died. She was a beautiful, strong woman with a lovely soul. She could have aborted me. She chose instead, the agony of adoption. She should be given honor and respect for her decision at such a young age if for nothing else.
    As an adoptee raised from infancy in a wealthy home, and having had that opportunity you speak of to be ‘raised properly’ as well as a college education, I can attest absolutely to a child’s need for much, much more than money or degree. They are good. But there is nothing to compare to the greatness of unconditional love.

  3. Cindy Hailey says:

    Dear Rhonda, Sorry about that…I scrolled down to leave a positive reply about your post and got side-swiped by the first comment I saw here. Anyway, I’m giving this post 5 stars. Thank you. :)

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