Saturday, February 12, 2011

"How old are they?"

“How old are they?”
If you have a baby — or in my case, two, — this is the question that people will ask you over and over and over. Friends, family, perfect strangers.

How old are they, how old are they, how old are they?
There is nothing wrong with this question. It’s about as benign and innocuous a question as you can get. It’s even less political than “Boy or girl?” and not nearly as inane as the surprisingly ubiquitous, “Are they twins?”
How old are they? How much time has passed since they were born? This is a completely value-less question.
Unless… unless…
Unless your babies were born two and a half months early. Unless your day-to-day life is a constant struggle because of that prematurity, because of the damage it caused in the brain of one of your sons and the delays it caused in both. Then, then it is an awkward reminder of the failure of your uterus to do its goddamn job, the fear of preterm labor and the endless days in the NICU.
How old are they? How old are they?
Do you tell these innocuous interlocutors their real age and have them wonder why they are so small and unable to do things babies their age ought to do? Or do you lie and tell them the age they ought to be if your body could have kept it together? Or do you launch into a slightly embarrassing explanation of both ages that could open the door to more questions or leave the person feeling insensitive for asking what really ought to be a harmless question?
How old are they?
As old as they possibly can be and much, much too young.

9 comments:

  1. Shasta, I love your blog.

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  2. Hey, thanks so much, Geoff! It'll take me a while to polish it up and go through all the weird posts from back when this was a school project. :)

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  3. Beautifully said. This is the question that used to drive me nuts: "Are they twins?" Max and his sister are two years apart, but because of the delays when he was little, people always used to think they were twins.

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  4. This broke my heart, but I think in a good way. It was touching and lovely. Thank you for sharing it, and your sweet babies.

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  5. PS, I came from TRDC. I always forget that part!

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  6. I'm surprised that this keeps ending up in my top four posts, and I just realized it's because people probably want to actually know how old they are!
    They were born in June 2010.

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  7. I used to hate that question too...I always lied and used their adjusted age...because I hated the huge "question mark" that would come over their face when I told people their real age.

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  8. Anonymous7:03 AM

    I think people read it because of that precious little thumbnail picture. I know that's how I got here!

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