I started my family when I was 21, but I looked younger.
People marveled at how young I looked when I had my 3rd child at 26.
When I was 31, being spotted in public with my 5 children was like being spotted by the paparazzi.
Or so I told myself.
“Are these all yours?”
”You don’t look old enough to have five kids!”
”You look wonderful for having 5 kids!”
”You look like one of the kids.”
It was some kind of amazing for a little while.
When I had my 6th child at 38, there were no more comments about my age.
There were looks.
You know the looks.
People are wondering about your life, wanting the story, but are too polite to ask, so they just stare.
I could hear the little gerbil wheels in their minds. Was she mine? Was she one of the teenage daughters’? Why would I want so many kids? Didn’t I know what caused it?
When hubby and I would go out in public and take all the kids, people would stand in the parking lot and watch kids pour out of the Suburban.
You could see their heads nod and their lips move.
I actually was impressed so many people could count to six.
People let me know how thankful it was ME and not THEM. I was thankful it was not them, either. I wanted this child.
The hands that held her were just a bit more wrinkly, but my touch had so much love.
The legs that shuffled to her crib in the middle of the night were a bit more creaky, but eagerly went to the precious child we’d prayed into our lives.
It seems my age confused more than just strangers, it even confused little Rebekah.
She was very observant of all the people around her and in her three-year-old frankness would stare until caught. We quietly told her not to stare, or would gently turn her gaze away with our fingertips. One day she was enthralled with a beautiful toddler girl and an equally beautiful young mother strolling by us in the grocery store.
She pointed. “Look Mommy, she’s with her big sister.”
“No, honey, that’s her Mommy,” I replied.
Rebekah looked from the other mom’s face to my own several times before protesting again.
“No, it’s her sister,” she insisted.
Rebekah comprehended her 18-year-old sister was closer in age to the young mom than I was. Rebekah had been taken on many exciting excursions with her older sister, but always came home to an older mommy. She didn’t understand that some children have young mommies and some have young sisters.
I explained I used to be a young mommy and looked like that other Mommy when her older siblings were little. But, I kept having kids and kept getting older. Now, I was her Mommy, but was an older Mommy. I finished loading the rest of my groceries onto the conveyor belt, while I enjoyed the sensation of being able to fill a toddler’s precious mind with my words of wisdom and unravel life’s great mysteries for her.
That other mommy might be prettier. She might be younger. But I was aged to the perfection granted to wine, cheese, and older mommies. I was wise. I was experienced. I could answer any question a toddler could throw at me.
Or so I told myself.
Light chuckles from a man proved I had an amused audience ahead of me. His laughter punctuated Rebekah’s final I’m-gunna-win-this-conversation-statement.
“OK, Mommy, but I know it’s her sister.”