I’ve never been one to follow the crowd. An Aquarius through and through, I fully embrace my quirkiness and distaste for the norm. Voted “weirdest” in my grammar school class, I have always known that I was different, and looking back, my life choices seem to fit. While most of my friends now have finally settled down and are raising young children, two of my children are in their 20s and my youngest is 15. But I’m not an over-the-hill mom; on the contrary, I feel about 28 on the inside.
I just had my kids young … incredibly young.
My husband and I began dating when I was 16, and by the time I was 24, we had two children already. My last baby was born when I was 29. Of course, it was difficult, and we faced many obstacles, one of them being shady people who said we were crazy and feigned concern over our ability to raise decent kids when we were barely adults ourselves. Yet despite it all, I have to say I am so incredibly glad that I had my babies when I was young. Here are just a few reasons why:
Stamina: With my second kid, I moved into a new house four days before I delivered. Up until the moment my water broke, I was packing and unpacking, decorating, and cleaning. I was a non-stop machine. With my third, I finished up a paper for college while in labor, and graduated a few weeks later. I had an incredible drive to finish my goal of a college degree, and I was going to do what it took to make it happen. My drive was intense, and so was my optimism.
Pre-Dr. Google: I knew so much less scary medical stuff! While I have always been a worrier to a certain extent, I was not the gold-star worrywart that I am now. And I was much better for it mentally. I did worry about normal things, like the pain of labor, but not the 5,000 ways we can all die at any given moment. I wish I could go back and unread much of the (often unfounded) information I have consumed via Facebook groups and message boards.
Patience: Hours upon hours, I spent many cold, rainy days waiting out the weather, an ear infection, or teething episode while watching mind-numbing kids’ shows. “Caillou” is one of the most irritating children’s series known to humankind, and, well, I even could stand that without batting an eye. My tolerance reigned supreme.
Concerts: Because there is not an immense generational difference, I like so much of the same music as my kids, and don’t really feel like an old, out-of-touch mom. They grew up listening to everything from System of a Down to Dave Matthews, and thank the Lord, they have never been part of the Justin Bieber or Kidz Bop crew! In return, they’ve introduced me to so many bands that I have grown to love: The Vaccines, Alt-J, Vampire Weekend, and I have enjoyed — not endured — countless shows with them.
Find Me On Instagram: I don’t need to be filled in on technology by my kids like many of my peers. I use it daily for work and recreation. I don’t need to read dated articles about how the kids are making fake Facebook accounts two years after they’ve already moved to Snapchat.
No sermons: I tell them like it is — straight up. I’m not so removed from being a young person that I don’t understand how their lives work or even more so, don’t work. I intensely remember how frustratingly difficult and sad the teen years can be, and I relate that to them instead of giving them examples from yesteryear about how I had to grow up (except when I do relate how I think my latchkey-kid status taught me to be self-sufficient — whoops!). I want to hear my kids’ problems and help them through it, not preach.
Freedom: Now if I’m not home, each of my kids can handle things themselves.
I can barely remember the days when I couldn’t shower, sleep at night, watch my favorite show, or even read a book whenever I wanted. At the time, I thought those long, busy days would never end, but here I am with a newfound freedom that excites me … and endless possibilities.
Satisfaction: Sorry to disappoint the naysayers, but our kids, raised by us wide-eyed youngins’, turned out absolutely great. They have all been in honors, received awards and scholarships, and all that superficial stuff that judgy Facebook friends deem to be criteria for success. But so much more than that, they are kind, compassionate, open-minded people who are an asset to this world. Their caring ways make me incredibly proud. Some of those very same doubters cannot say the same.
Mistakes: Of course, that’s not to say I didn’t make (many, many) mistakes. I did. But I learned along the way with my kids. I grew along with them, laughed along with them, and learned along with them. I became the person I was meant to be because of them, and it has been a glorious, beautiful journey … with many more destinations to visit.
Danielle Sullivan is a writer living in New York City. Follow her on Instagram @Deewrite.