Sorry, But I Don’t Owe You an Explanation

10 comments
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Brotherly love, June 2018. Photo credit, L.B.

I have two children. They are ten and a half years apart in age. It used to surprise me how often people commented on my sons’ age gap, but now I am used to it. When I wait for my younger son at a birthday party, karate practice, after school pick-up, or some other school-related function, another parent might ask if I have other children. I’m sure the parent is trying to be nice by making small talk. I affirm I have an older son and, inevitably, I am asked his age. When I answer, judgmental facial expressions usually follow. “Oh wow, I guess he was a surprise!” or “He must have been your OOPS baby!” are frequently the comments people make about my youngest son. Frequently. By people I barely know.

When this first started happening, I was caught off guard. Didn’t people realize they were delving into sensitive, personal, intimate territory? What if I had one or more miscarriages between my two children? What if I had struggled with infertility? I have friends that dealt with both. They were devastating, painful experiences that my friends don’t talk about easily. Does some random parent shoving a piece of cake in his mouth with blue frosting on his lips at a kiddie birthday party realize what he could be asking when he questions me about my children’s age difference? Is he really prepared for the emotional response his words could elicit?

I am tremendously grateful that I never struggled with miscarriages or infertility. Having watched my friends go through the leveling pain they cause, I know how fortunate I am. There is over a decade age gap between my children because I am divorced and remarried. I had my older son during my first marriage. When I got remarried, my husband and I chose to have another child on the timeline that was best for our family.  It was a choice, not an “oops.” Even if it had been an “oops,” it really wouldn’t be anyone else’s business.

Sorry, but I don’t owe you an explanation. That’s what I’d like to say to people who comment on my sons’ rather large age gap, but I don’t. I suppose I don’t want to be rude and make someone else feel uncomfortable, so I bite my tongue. Most often I choose to be kind, smile, and comment on the beautiful relationship my sons have. With so many years between them, there is no sibling rivalry. They are close and they love each other dearly. Talking about that usually changes the direction of the conversation.  

Donning a beard last year, my older son attended his little brother’s Veteran’s Day school performance. I introduced him to the mother of another first grader I was talking to after the show. When my oldest wandered off to find his little brother, the mother commented on the age difference between my boys and asked me if my youngest son was an accident. Yes, she actually used the word accident! At that point I decide to have a little fun. I smiled and humorously questioned “Are you asking me if in the throes of passion one night my husband and I couldn’t be bothered to use birth control?” The mother turned bright red, stuttered some incomplete response, and quickly changed the subject. Maybe it was a bit mean, but I wanted the woman to understand just how inappropriate she was being. Something tells me she also asks dating couples when they are getting married, married couples when they are having children, the parents of twins if they did in vitro fertilization…you get the picture. Sorry, but they don’t owe her an explanation either. None of us do. We are all living our lives the best way we know how. We face challenges. We work to overcome them. We learn. We grow. We don’t have to explain ourselves to unaffected acquaintances along the way.

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My oldest son beaming while holding his baby brother for the first time, August 2011. Photo credit, L.B.
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My youngest son is DEFINITELY his big brother’s #1 fan, February 2019. Photo credit, L.B.

10 comments on “Sorry, But I Don’t Owe You an Explanation”

  1. Mine are 16 months apart. After 7 years of infertility… So many people made/make comments about having them so close and ask if my younger son was an “oops” baby?!?! Seven years of infertility! It still upsets me when people make inappropriate comments. I get that it might just be “making conversation” but it is so inappropriate. I love your perspective, LeeAnn. Thanks for writing!!

  2. AMEN to all of this. Ours are 7 years apart, older one has always looked (much to my dismay) very grown-up for her age. I’m also pretty old for a first-time mom, in case anyone wants to judge me for my gray-hair-don’t-care… I have one biological child and one stepchild, but feel it demeans my older kiddo to say that, and just as you said: I don’t owe anyone an explanation for their age gap.

    My own siblings are all 2.5 years apart – except the youngest 2 who are a decade apart. And not by accident. My mom realized her kids were starting not to need her much anymore, even the “baby,” panicked, and had herself another baby :). As a mom who cries every time my kids outgrow another clothing size, I totally get it.

    People still comment on the age difference between my kids, and ask nosy questions. Maybe most are well-meaning and unintentional, but I admit being super irritated when I feel like boundaries are overstepped, especially by someone I do not know. The only way I’ve figured out to deal with it (and shut it down on the spot) is to say something competely outrageous with a straight face. At a recent kids’ event, a young, perfectly-coiffed mom asked if they were both my kids. I said yes. She looked shocked, asked if they were my only kids. I said yes, unless you count our dogs. She still looked shocked and said that “most people” prefer a smaller age gap between their children. Which pushed all my buttons, so I said “well, I had two others in between but they got taken away by the state.” She went dead pale and stammered an apology. Of course this is not true! But you know what, maybe she’ll think twice before making some shitty judgy comment to someone else.

  3. My kids are 8 years apart. I get asked all the time if they have the same father. It is surprising to me that people feel entitled to ask such a personal question. I usually laugh out loud. So intrusive!

  4. Such a gift you gave each of your boys. A relationship like theirs is a beautiful thing!

    I remember when I had my first appointment with my third pregnancy I had to see a midwife in the practice that did not know me and my husband was off that day so he came along with the promise of lunch after. When she asked me the age of my other children she asked us if this was our second marriage. I was so put off by that. I have an age gap because we had health and financial issues to manage in between. None. Of. Your. Business. 😉

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