Bitter Fruit

Saturday afternoon, Sean and AD took a break from deconstructing Christmas and walked to the park to enjoy the rare winter blessing of sunny and 74.

I finished up a few things and then walked over to join them. As I made my way across the street I could see Sean on the swing set with another boy, both trying to touch the clouds with their toes.

I walked up behind them and listened to them chattering little boy nonsense for a few seconds before the other boy noticed me standing there.

“Your grandma is here,” he said to Sean.

Sean turned his head and saw me standing behind the swing set and then quickly turned back without meeting my eyes.

“That’s my mom,” Sean said quietly in a way that pieced my heart.

No greeting or further acknowledgment was made of my presence.

I’ve been mistaken for Sean’s grandma a number of times in the past five years and honestly, it hasn’t really bothered me. In fact, I usually find it kind of funny.  This time I didn’t find it funny because it wasn’t about me. It was about Sean and his brand new awareness of how others see me.

I don’t really much care what other people think about me but to think that I might be an embarrassment to my child hurt my heart a little bit.   When I embarrass him in front of his friends, and I will, I want it to be on purpose.

Up to this point, in Sean’s eyes, I have been a vision of motherly perfection.  Like a clumsy affectionate puppy dog, he is happy just to be in my company.  He is oblivious to my wrinkles and graying hair and imperfections.  It has probably never occurred to him that his mom is “a little older” than the other kid’s moms.

But now, I could tell in his voice, in the softly defensive way he said “that’s my mom” that he had taken his first bite of the bitter fruit that falls from the tree of a social awareness.

And I wanted to whack him on the back of the head and make him spit it out.

61 thoughts on “Bitter Fruit

  1. Oh how that must have hurt.

    I’m not there quite yet … as Sam, Jay and Meg just turned four, but I know the day is coming that they will question my decision to have a child (had triplets) at almost 48 years old.

    Will they tell me that I was too old? Probably … someday. But for now, I’m going to relish in the joy and innocence they possess.

    In my moments I often think of how if I live to be 80 … they’ll only be 33 and I have fleeting moments of self pity, for I want live to be 110 so I never miss out on anything in their life.

    My kids ages are 28, 26, 25, 24, 4, 4 and 4. I also have grandkids thrown in the mix which make for having six 4 year olds. Fun days .. tired nights.


  2. Dear AM,

    I think it’s a great idea to make him spit that out! And I also love the tenacity you have to want to whack his little head.

    My 5 yr old grandson’s mother moved to the city 500 miles away from him to “get her life back”. The other day he made the comment that he doesn’t have a mommy. Both me and my 6 yr old granddaughter, in unison said “You have a mommy!”

    As an adult, a mother and grandmother, I know why he feels that, she’s not there. And I can’t help but wonder how in the world she can do this. I know that in time she will have a very hard time justifying this time in their lives. And I also know that no matter what he will always want her and no one will or can ever take her place. No matter what.

    In his heart and mind he is struggling with how label those feelings and where to put them. I imagine a file cabinet here and I see him trying to label and file that stuff away.

    I didn’t realize it but I wanted him to spit that bitter fruit out.

    I was 21 when my oldest was born and 25 when my twins were born and I was not as good a mother then that I am now. Youth is not all it’s cracked up to be.


  3. Well AM,

    You and I have had this conversation before. Apparently the women in your area must be done having kids by age 19 or something.
    I live in SF Bay Area & had my girls (by choice) at ages 34 & 37. I would venture that I’m average for here. I just turned 40 and get lots of questions about having another. Here, it’s the norm to be older. If you see a mom who is in her 20’s you assume she’s the babysitter or older sibling, not the mom. Cause she’s too young to be the mom.

    I think that other kid was an idiot, and you should’ve smacked him in the back of the head because it’s rude to comment on a women’s age at any point in time.
    That being said, the best way you can teach Sean that your age is NOT a big deal (cause it isn’t) is to treat it that way. Eventually, he’ll pick up your cue and his response will become, “That’s my mom. *eyeroll* because you are so lame for even thinking that was my g’ma.”

    Once you start embarrassing him on purpose there will be no mistaking that you’re his mom.


  4. Well, I don’t know you or what you look like, but I am sure it is just some ignorance on the part of the speakee. I had my daughter at 36, ten years after her brother and 7 years after her second brother. She is the joy of my life and I am so glad I have her in my life. I have 3 more years with her at home and maybe by the time I am 54, I will be ready to let her fly? I doubt it will be easy no matter the age, but we need to enjoy our children while they are home and just don’t worry about what anybody thinks. You are blessed! Carol

    * * *

    I care not one whit about what anyone thinks about me or my appearance. I am fine with me. I am not ready for Sean to be aware of social differences – more/less, rich/poor, young/old, pretty/ugly. Right now he thinks everyone is the same and everyone is fabulous! I want that to last a little longer — that is the bitter fruit, not my age or appearance. ~ AM


  5. You enjoy and love Sean so much and are teaching him God’s ways, I think, and that is more important than your age, as you know. Have you read the book A Woman After God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George (the study guide makes it even better because of the required reflection, etc.)? I wish I had read it while my children were young. I was 32 and 34 when mine were born. I definitely appreciated them after a 5-yr. wait, and I was wiser than I would have been in my 20’s. However, as they got older, I put too much time into my job, not for the money because I was paid no more for staying late in education, but because I thought it was necessary to do a good job. I now wish I could redo that part. Since I can’t, I can do better now by praying more for them.
    I advise anyone putting too much emphasis on work to stop it now! To any woman reading this– Read the book– your husband and children will be so blessed because you did.


  6. I had my first baby when I was 28 and my second one at 32, so I was not necessarily “old” when I had them (they are both teenagers now.) But in recent years, I have developed some painful physical problems that sometimes make me “walk like an old person” and this condition also causes mental cloudiness, so I have become very forgetful. So I embarrass my kids because they say that I “act older than I should.” Believe me, it is not by choice.


  7. There is ALWAYS going to be something. ALWAYS. My husband’s mom, for example, was 16 when he was born and he got a fair amount of flack over that. It didn’t scar him any, and Sean will be okay, too.


  8. My husband was born to older parents (she was 35, he was 42, married older in life). He reminds you that people in their 30s and 40s are usually more stable in life and know which end is up and thusly can do a better job parenting than the 20 something kids we were when we had all of our babies! Now, as a 35 year old man, he wears the fact that his father is 77 as a badge of honor. The fact that Grandpa takes care of our 8 year old after school is just icing on the cake!


  9. *sigh*

    Of course, in my eyes you are beautiful and in no way do you look like anyone’s grandmother. But I hear what you’re saying and I know how it must feel. I’m sending you hugs right now.


  10. Just wanted to say how my heart hurt for you when I read this post. But God is good and He is working through all of these times… good and bad!


  11. My own heart just sighed for you, for him, for all those moments.

    As the daughter of older parents, I can assure you that at some point, like Shawn, I did become aware that my parents were older than most; but I could also see that every family was different in some way–that every family had strengths and weaknesses, and in fact, I don’t think I saw their relative “olderness” as a weakness. Just one of the differences. And I also met people with parents the same ages as mine. It was never a big issue in my life.

    I appreciate how honest and open you are with these deep and personal moments, however, and I don’t take it lightly.


  12. I,too, have experienced this situation. My children were born when I was 40 and 42 and it bothered my daughter more than my son. However, they are both grown now and do not seem to have been psychologically impaired on a permanent basis! Such comments just shored up my efforts to not let myself “go” and to be conscious of looking my best so in that way they proved beneficial to me.


  13. AM; there is the biological, and the chronological age, and then there is the attitude that goes with each. I personlly
    do not think you are “old” in any of the catagories, nor do I think Sean thinks so.
    Perhaps you ought to just ask him about that incident at the park; and I betcha he will give you an answer that will make your heart “sing”. It’s in the heart.

    * * *
    I did. He didn’t want to talk about it. Totally clammed up. ~ AM


  14. Oh, I felt the pain reading this one. I was going on 42 when I had our youngest. That didn’t bother me in the least. But, for our childrens’ sake, it sometimes did. Sigh. I wish emotional pain didn’t have to be part of the fertilizer God uses to help our kids grow in character.

    Our kids grew up just fine. I can nearly guarantee Sean will grow past this, too. You look both young and beautiful in the photo you used to have on your blog.

    Yes Grace, you get what I’m saying. I am not troubled at all by my age (Thank you God for taking me thus far) or appearance or how that is to be judged by others. I’m okay with how I look. I am what I am.

    It was a little painful to see that for the first time, my advanced maternal age seemed to bother Sean a little bit. If I am bothered by anything it is that I know he is at that age where he will begin to comparatively judge the world as we all do — rich/poor, young/old, fat/skinny, short/tall, pretty/ugly, cool/uncool — whereas up to this point his standard has been nice/not nice. Oh that we might all just judge others simply by the content of their character, nice or not nice.



  15. I think you use to have a photo on your blog and I don’t think you look old. If your hair is gray…color it sweetheart. That could make all the difference. Have a talk with your guy. Tell him your not as young as some mommies, but what a gift it is to both of you. Your creative, come up with a fun discussion about it. I think you are a wonderful mom and you know how to grasp every moment instead of putting him in day care here and there so you can have LOTS of time to yourself. Sorry, I know some young moms that do that and I just wish they knew how fast time flies with your little ones. (o:


  16. Oh, I am so sorry that you and Sean had to deal with this!

    Thanks for ending with you trademark humor!

    I was 36 when I had my now 2yo son. My husband is now 40.My husband could also easily pass for 16! I was changing the baby’s
    diaper when he was 9 months old, and another helper in the room asked my husband if I was his (not the baby’s) mother!!!! My husband had WAY too much fun with that one.

    Perspective: I got married at 22. My mom was 44. Needless to say, we did things a little differently!

    This is the first time I have commented since you came back, but I am so glad you are back!!!


  17. Mom. Grandma. What does it matter? The important thing is that you were there, at the park, with Sean. As long as that little boy has you there to love him, it doesn’t matter how old you are.


  18. I was a child of an older mom, and like others have said, it was much more unusual back then. People made comments but I didn’t really care: she was just my mom and that was how she was.

    My kids are embarrassed by my thick American accent when I talk to their French teachers. According to Ilsa, I don’t even speak French! (I do, just not perfectly) As others have wisely said, it’s always something.


  19. If it helps, I feel your pain. I am 43 & my husband 55. Our son is 3. At Sam’s club we get,”look at your darlin’ grandson” from the little white haired ladies handing out samples. I bloged about a yard sale instance back in the spring. A teenage girl said” you sure must love your grandma”. He of course does not understand now. But like Sean, it won’t be long. I hope it breaks my heart more than his.
    (and I hope I can hold my tongue & not tell a 6 yr old that his parents are young & stupid, and The Boy will never know parents like that. 😉 )


  20. I had my youngest at 43. He is 6 now and hasn’t caught on yet, but oh boy my teenagers have. I was helping at a play rehearsal in middle school and the kids were getting really out of line. I took a plastic spoon one of the kids had been throwing at people and threw it away. The girl says to my daughter, “that lady is mean.” My daughter laughs and says, yeah. Then the girl says, “and she’s really old.” My daughter laughs and then says, “yeah, that’s my mom!” Once I was at a kindergarten program and all the other moms looked so young. Then I saw a lady my age come in and sit down and I was so glad to see her. Then the teacher says, “Sally, I am so glad you could bring your grandma!” Yikes. But there are lots of us out here! We should do lunch and commiserate.


  21. I see it in my daughter over a different difference – the slightly defensive edge to her answers. Its heartbreaking. But, we can only give what we have – and, hopefully, that includes some differences in all of us.


  22. Yes! Heimlich maneuver! It’s the beginning of them carrying their “own stuff”. We want them to be strong enough to take what the Lord has for them but somehow the world wants them to carry even more. Others’ perceptions and a opinions too. You are sooooo sweet! I hope that the sting was short lived though I know the memory won’t be.


  23. I’ve experienced a variation on this, too. I have two children, 12 years apart. I was 38 when my son was born, and I had been graying since my mid-twenties.

    So, here I am, out and about with a fairly mature-looking 12 year old and a baby. OF COURSE everyone assumed I was the grandma and my daughter was the mommy. Which was simply lovely for my daughter to have to live through, as you can imagine. 🙂


  24. Oh poor you, poor you. Yes, how we want them to be able to blend in with the crowd and not suffer those horrible feelings of being a bit different to everyone else.

    Not to belittle your situation in any way, but your post made me reflect on what it must be like for children with an alcoholic parent, or parent in a wheelchair, or an absent parent, or an obese parent. Some kids must learn to grow up very thick-skinned.


  25. I had my son when I was 43 and I’m still not sure if I’m mature enough to be a mother. My outsides are fraying around the edges but, my insides are chipper and young about 10 or 12 years old.

    Anyway, I can’t recall this old mommy thing happening yet and my boy has just turned 8! It most likely hasn’t happened because we homeschool and in the homeschool community there are a lot of older moms. My husband is a bit younger than I am and we have two other kids who are 12 and 13.

    Mostly I wanted to commiserate with you. My son still calls me “beautiful mommy princess” and I’m wondering when he is going to clue in that I’m neither beautiful or a princess. I’m not looking forward to that hurt either. Hugs for you AM!


  26. I feel your pain.

    My Mom was 35 when she had me, which was unheard of when I was born in 1959. I remember yelling at her in my lovely teen years, telling her she was way too old when she had me. Then she proceeded to tell me for the first time about the 3 miscarriages she had between my sister (6 years older) and me, and how much I was wanted and loved.

    What goes around comes around, and I didn’t get married until I was 35. My youngest daughter was born when I was 39. My age really bothers her, and she asks me to tell her again why I am so much older than her friends parents, like it is a bedtime story.

    I think my mom rather enjoyed asking me after Sarah was born if I still thought she was too old to have me at 35. I told her she was just a kid!

    I hope as she gets older she also knows how wanted and loved she is, and that age doesn’t really matter. It took me a long time to come to that realization.

    I worked in a bank when I was about 20 and a lady there was pregnant and she was 39 and I remember thinking that was so awful and disgusting and WEIRD and what is wrong with her!

    Oh the irony.



  27. I’m in the club, too. Only I really am the grandmother – raising the children. I am 53 and parenting two small boys for the past six years.

    One could care less how I look – the other seems to feel better about me when I wear a dress – or velvet….go figure…

    There is a lot to be said for velvet. I think you should wear it everyday. 🙂



  28. Ooh, I winced there . . my child will have to deal with the double-whammy of me being old AND fat as well. It’s so sweet that she’s still oblivious now, and says she wants to grow up to be just like me and be my twin! It almost brings a tear to my eye, because it will only be a year or two before she gets that social-awareness moment like Sean.

    And, Teri from Indiana – wow! I can only shake my head and admire you from afar.


  29. Yes, I had that experience with my “Antique Mommy” too. I could tell it really upset her and I can still hear her voice telling the story, but what can you do? He’ll get used to explaining it in time and as he gets older, the questions will be a bit more tactful, but for now, it’s a hurt that no one can fix.

    I dunno, I guess that’s what America is all about any more – adoptive parents, older parents, step parents, bi-racial parents, even gay parents. I think kids of this generation will be more used to non-traditional families than they have in the past.


  30. It’s all been said, but I’m sighing and laughing, so thanx for helping me put it in perspective. Mine have the double-whammy of old and fat, so we’re hoping to shore them up before sending them out into the bigger world 😉 Happy New Year, AM!


  31. I really feel for you. (Although, as others have said, if you look anything in real life like you look in your photos, it is hard to imagine anyone mistaking you for a grandma!) Here’s my “grandma” story:

    I had my Peanut (now 4) when I was 35, which for the area where I live (metro Boston), is perfectly average. NOBODY around here gives birth before 30, or so it seems anyway. When the Peanut was about 2 and a half — I would have been 38 at the time — we visited my parents for Easter and went to their church. I brought the Peanut downstairs for the children’s service. An older woman with a heavy Italian accent took charge of keeping order among the assembled kids while the priest spoke. After the service I chatted with this woman briefly as the Peanut hung on my leg.

    “You’re her grandmother?” she suddenly asked. I blinked a few times, thinking I hadn’t heard her clearly due to the accent. “What?” I said. It took a few minutes to make it clear that she didn’t see any way I could possibly have been this kid’s mother. I didn’t have a gray hair on my head, and I truly don’t think I was that wrinkled! “No,” I finally said, “I’m her mother.”

    “Oh, change of life baby for you then? What a blessing! God has blessed you!” she said. It took a ton of restraint to resist pointing out that I wasn’t anywhere near menopause.

    I tried not to be bothered by it, but I found the whole conversation immensely depressing. What right does anybody have to make comments like this?? I really think it’s just rude.


  32. That fruit of social awareness is bitter, isn’t it? And sometimes it’s downright rotten.

    You’re so much better at being Sean’s mom than you would have been in your 20’s. I’m just guessing, since I know that about myself.


  33. My mom was nearly 45 when I was born, completely grey, overweight, and VERY grandmotherly-looking. She was attractive, but she looked at least 10 years older than she was (as long as I was alive, at least). She was not blonde and skinny and beautiful, the way you are.

    And, back in the 1970’s, it was not in “vogue” to have children at that age, so there weren’t other 50-something mothers around when I was in elementary school.

    I always, always got the “grandmother” comment about my mom, and although it stung a small bit, I didn’t really care… because, deep down, I knew I had a better mom than anyone else’s, so what did it matter?

    Same holds true for Sean.


  34. Been there.

    Today when I took my girls to get their ears pierced I was asked if I could prove that I was their mother.

    We went somewhere else……..


  35. I’m sure more people have thought I was the grandmother than have actually verbalized it. The only one – so far – who actually has was a quite elderly gentleman. I decided he was from the generation that had babies much younger and tried not to let it wound my ego too much. But I thought about whacking him on the back of the head just for good measure. : )


  36. Ouch, I felt that one for you. All mommies have embarrassed their children at some point, but that doesn’t make it sting any less when it happens for the first time.

    Consider it a right of passage…and love on your little guy a little extra tomorrow.



  37. I’ve been there. I even had the opposite happen years ago. we adopted an 8 & 6 year old when I was 24. Our oldest was constantly asked if I was his older sister. Even to this day people don’t believe him when he introduces me as his mom. And if I have our baby with us (I’m 47, Timothy is 6 months) and he tells them that he’s the little brother he always wanted, we just finally got it One of his friends told him that we’re pretty whacked. Yep. Our oldest will be 33 when our youngest turns 1. But hey! I filled in the gap in between them. 32,30,23,23,21,19,6,4,and the baby. And yes, I am tired! And I totally understand wanting to embarrass them on purpose. Try dancing in the grocery sometime……they hate that.


  38. I’m waiting for that day to come for us. I have seriously been thinking about plastic surgery (I know, awful, but the only thing stopping me is that I can’t afford it). But, I remember being embarrassed because my mom was an “older” mom for her time (she had me at the ripe old age of 32!).

    You know, I think that no matter who your mom or dad is, you will always find something to be embarrassed about.


  39. Oh sad bittersweet. Protecting our children and ourselves from the hurt of the outside world…no smart comeback, no sense in passing it on. I think Sean will come to know his story and appreciate knowing how much he was prayed for and how much he is loved and be proud of his AM for not snapping back at another child.


  40. Ow. That really does hurt. I’m with you on the whacking on the back of the head thing… but it is a season, AM, and not a permanent thing. Anyway… I’m sorry.


  41. I’m sorry–so sorry for the pain that one seemingly insignificant moment wrought. But from what we’ve read about your Sean, I think the day will come swiftly when he will come up with his own way to manage those who malign his Mom.


  42. You could have said, “Yea, well, YOUR Mama wears combat boots!’ jk

    Oh, yes, ma’am. Been there, done that. The first time was a nurse in the hospital ER when I took Game Boy in for a little allergic reaction to something.

    Wish I’d had a snappy comeback, but I just looked at her.

    My kids are teens now, and I’ve had opportunities to embarrass them on purpose, so I feel better.

    Hands down, it’s the most difficult aspect of parenting — watching them navigate the barbs and bullets of social integration. I know it’s necessary; I know it makes them stronger, better people to experience the pain; but, Lawsie I hate it.


  43. I totally understand how you feel. I was 38 when my little guy, now 5, was born, so I get that look sometimes….especially when we are with his older brother who is 18….and looks like he’s about 23 or 24. We have had brother mistaken for dad many times over the past year. It is a weird feeling, especially for me!


  44. Jeesh, you sure don’t look like a grandma in your photos. That young boy must have a super young mom to think that you look like a grandma!

    I was 42 when I had my son. And my husband was 52. I haven’t had the experience of being mistaken for grandma because most of the moms and dads in our area are older than the average. Grandmas around here are reealllyy old. Most people in this area seem to have had a career first and then gotten married and had kids in their late 30s, early 40s.

    I think I’m a better mom now than I would have been in my 20s/30s. I was able to see how far I could get careerwise first and to realize how ultimately unrewarding my career was. I also had seen how fast my nephews had grown up, and because of that I’ve tried to enjoy every minute with my son.

    Anyway, you’re son knows you’re the greatest mom ever. You’ll just have to think of some snappy comeback for the ‘grandma’ sayers.


  45. Poor little guy. I remember once that my mother told me that my kindergarten teacher told her that she was worried that I would be hurt, emotionally, often, because I wore my heart on my sleeve, and just let people in.

    I think, in general, it is better than being cynical and hard, but it is hard when you don’t understand why things hurt. And five is such a tough age…they know so much, and yet so little.


  46. I’m visibly disabled AND my children are ethnically different than me, so I have certainly felt that hurt on their behalf. They have been remarkably blase about it for the most part, though, and they are 10 and 13.


  47. There ya go again… just about the time I’m ready to reach for a kleenex you go and make me laugh right out loud…
    I love the way you look at life and in many ways envy the way you truly appreciate and enjoy your relationship with your son.


  48. I experience this same thing, albeit for different reasons. The Tongginator and Sean are about the same age… as her world expands, so too do the questions because I am Caucasian and she is not. Sometimes it’s difficult to live outside of the box.

    * * *

    You know as I wrote this post I thought about how interchangeable age was with any number of “differences”. ~ AM


  49. oh, my heart hurts for you. I was the daughter of an older mom and yes, there were times I wished she wasn’t so old, but mostly because I just wanted to know she’d be around for longer. She was miles above the other moms in so many area. After all, she was mine!


  50. It would be so nice to put a box around their little hearts wouldn’t it? To shelter them from any and all awareness of differences. Apparently this is not realistic, but still, it would be nice.


  51. Oh how i remember those times. I was 42 when our son was born . I think i had already told you about that am. OH HOW IT HURTS. The funny thing was it happened so many times at church. I dyed my hair when he was younger thinking that would help, but it didn’t . It still happened. My heart hurt for our son. But he seemed to handle it fine.He has grown to be a wonderful young man .I know your son will continue to grow in Christ .You are doing such a great jobe with him. Just keep praying .


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