I became a mother at age 37. Is that so old? I thought not then, and I still don’t now, but others apparently do.
I didn’t think anything about the age factor when my husband and I decided to start our family. I mean, I knew my biological clock was ticking and all that, but it wasn’t ticking so loud as to be deafening. The old-mom thing became an issue early on, though, when I first told co-workers that I was pregnant. An older woman pulled me aside. “Oh, thank goodness,” she enthused. “I was wondering.” Huh? Wait! “I haven’t gained that much weight yet!” I exclaimed. “Oh, no dear,” the concerned woman assured me in a hushed voice. “I was just worried you were having trouble, you know, conceiving.” I told her that for the record I had no infertility issues, and brushed her comment off as coming from an old busybody (because she was one).
After my son was born, I got together regularly with a group of other first-time moms. I was older than all of them, but we had a lot in common. The old-mom thing didn’t come up for a while, not until the women started getting pregnant again. At one gathering someone asked me, “Are you ready for another?” Before I could reply, a well-meaning 20-something reprimanded the inquisitor. “That’s so mean! You know how old she is!” Implying, of course, that my ripe age would physically, or at least morally, prevent me from having a second child and that I must feel terrible about that. I told the red-faced woman who asked me that my desire from the get-go was to have one child and one child only. I forgave the interrupting woman because she really was sweet, albeit misguided.
It wasn’t until I started being mistaken for my son’s grandmother, though, that I started to get a chip on my shoulder about being an old mom. An older-mom friend had warned me it was coming. She’d been at the checkout at the supermarket when it first happened to her. As she opened her wallet to pay, the cashier noticed the photo she carried of her toddler. “Your granddaughter is so cute!” the girl gushed.
My friend, who had been having a particularly bad day anyway, burst into tears, left her groceries at the register and fled the store. (Honestly, I don’t think she’s ever shopped there since and her daughter’s now a junior in high school.)
When she told me that story, I scoffed. That will never happen to me because, frankly, there’s no way I look like a grandmother, I assured myself. I am not matronly! I do not wear Alfred Dunner outfits! I have a tattoo! I’ve still got it going on! Right?
Wrong, apparently. At the mall one day my 3-year-old was being a handful at the food court. A woman at the next table took note. “Isn’t that the nice thing about being a grandparent? You get to bring them home and drop them off!”
I wanted to punch her in her matronly looking face.
Volunteering in my son’s kindergarten class added fuel to the fire. (It probably didn’t help that his teacher looked 18.) I’d go at the same time each week and one adorable girl would watch for me and gleefully and loudly announce my arrival to my son, “Your nana is here!” I tried not to let it bother me, she was only 5 years old, after all, but once I’d explained to the little cherub a number of times that I was, in fact, a mommy and she kept marking my arrival in the classroom with “Nana’s here!”
I took offense. It took all I had not to pull her aside by her ponytail and hiss, “Listen you little brat, just because your mother had you when she was 17 does not make me a grandmother!” That little girl moved away and I was glad.
It kept happening. When I took my son and three of his pals, all about 11 at the time, to 7-Eleven for a Slurpee fix, the man behind the counter made a comment about me giving my grandkids a nice treat on a hot day. He was old, ancient really, and I wanted to cut him some slack, but even though I told myself that he probably just had cataracts, I still seethed for the rest of the day.
No one’s called me a nana lately. That’s a good thing, because that chip on my shoulder is getting pretty heavy and I’m afraid I might chuck it at the next person who mistakes me for my kid’s grandma, even if he does have cataracts.
And I still don’t think I’m an old mom and I never will, not even when I actually do become a grandmother.
A non-matronly Amy Canfield enjoys a trip to New York City with son Eli.Amy Canfield is senior editor at Islandport Press (www.islandportpress.com) and a freelance book reviewer. She lives in South Portland. Her books blog is http://islandportpress.typepad.com/pagingamy/ E-mail her at email@example.com