Tree Rings

“Gosh, you look too young to have a six-year-old!”

If I were given a pound for every time I heard this, I would have enough money to adhere to my stereotype and buy the town out of street drugs and mini skirts. My usual retort is simple: “I am.”

I am patronised often:
“Well, you wouldn’t know anything about being tired, you’re still young! You can still run after your child!”
“I’m twice your age and I understand how financially difficult it is when you’re in your twenties, I would never have dreamed of throwing a child into the mix!”
“Don’t you ever wish you’d waited a bit to have children? Gained a bit of life experience?”

I have grown accustomed to people’s quirked eyebrows and poorly hidden expressions of distaste when I tell them that I have a child. They are often surprised to lean that, actually, I don’t spend my free time drinking alco-pops at raves and that, on the contrary, I am well-educated and hard-working.

The stereotype that comes with having a child at a young age is very sad and difficult to shake. The vast majority of women who have children in their teenage years are excellent mothers. Unfortunately, television programmes such as Jeremy Kyle portray us in a terrible light; we are clueless, we don’t know who the father of our baby is, we spend the money for nappies on going out in town, we don’t use contraception because we’re stupid and we only have children to get more money off the government. I hate to break it to all of you judgy judgersons out there, but I fall under none of those categories; I am smart, my daughter’s father was my first partner and we maintain and excellent relationship for the sake of our daughter, I work very hard so that my child has everything she could ask for (in fact she is better dressed than I am), and if you think people have children to get more free money, you quite clearly have no idea how much it costs to raise a child. Yes, statistically, we are less likely to stay with our partners in our teens than when we are in our late twenties/early thirties, but if we are raising a child as a single unit we are working perhaps twice as hard as mothers who have the support of a spouse. We are solely responsible for bringing up our children, and we are doing the best that we damn well can.

I look at my (not so little) little girl and I am amazed with myself. I CREATED this thing! This half-pint human with four lost milk teeth and the same nose as me who can do her seven times tables and who can name 99% of already discovered dinosaurs. I am sometimes frightened about how much I love her. I have taught her to be kind and confident and caring. I have taught her about the planets and feminism and how bee pollen is one of the most important things in nature. I have loved her more than I love myself. She is the best life experience I could ever have asked for. To me, it’s far better to be someone who happens to be young and loving rather than someone who is perhaps middle-aged and distant . Age doesn’t really factor into it. Your capacity to love doesn’t grow larger with the amount of rings on your trunk. If you are loved, you are taken care of. Experience, money, education and age cannot correlate to the amount of love that you give. To me, that is much more important than anything else.

I have created my best friend in the entire world. My love for her is colossal. Neither of us need me to be any older to know that.


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