The Day I, Unknowingly, Became a Teenage Mother of Two.

book

A woman made a judgment call about me today, based on my appearance.  Because my son is so adorable {says every Mother alive}, he eventually sparked a conversation amongst the lady and myself.  What happened next gave me something to think about the entire 20 minute ride home.

The woman behind me appeared to be in her 50’s, was well dressed and had an approachable air about her.  We made eye contact once I noticed her looking at my son and doing the “Momma head tilt”, while saying “Awwwww, he is adorable” (I told you).  She asked me how old he is and I told her 18 mths.  She then accidently pushed him a little while reaching for something and apologized profusely.  I laughed and told her “No, big deal.  He has an older sister at home that beats on him way more than that!”.

Suddenly, her eyes widened and she looked at me as if to say, “What the hell did you just say?”.  What she actually said, was “You have an older child at home?  You barely look old enough to have him!  I thought you were in high school!”

I laughed it off and told her my birthday was coming up and actually I’ll be turning 33.  She did the whole, “No way! thing and then said, “Well you look great!”.  I thank her and we exchanged a few classic lines like, “Have a nice day” and “Enjoy your weekend” and that was that.

I didn’t really feel the affect of that encounter right away.  It wasn’t until after I loaded up the babe and groceries, threw in Adele’s first album (Yes, it was a CD and Yes, I still listen to them)  and started driving home that the conversation replayed in my head.

I suddenly wondered, what was that woman’s impression of me before I told her I was about to turn 33?  She told me she thought I was in high school.  Could she have been looking at me and saying to herself, “Well no wonder she has a cart full of groceries at the ghetto grocery store, she’s probably on food stamps!”?

That’s a bit much I suppose.  She didn’t have that demeanor about her and I didn’t take her for a Republican.  After all, she was in the same ghetto grocery store, even if it was only to buy milk. And yes, I totally understand I just passed judgment on Republicans, no need to call me out on it.

Maybe, she felt sorry for me.  Maybe she wondered how such a “young” girl could let herself get pregnant with all the education out there these days.  I wonder if in that moment, she questioned my own Mother’s parenting ability.

Can you imagine what sped through her head after I said my 18 month old had a four year old sister?  It makes me laugh just thinking about her brain calculating my hypothesized age four years prior.  Her reaction truly was worth 1,000 humorous words.

Perhaps, she felt a sad sense of generational failures for me.  Maybe, she couldn’t quite wrap her head around history repeating itself for so many lifetimes.  Either way, She seemed to be a woman that wanted to hug me rather than hate me.

I have to say though, the amount of relief that was evident all over her face when she learned I was not, in fact, another teenage Mom was evident.

Regardless, this isn’t a piece about teenage pregnancy.  It’s really about how we all make judgments about other people.  We all react emotionally to how we see other people.  Our judgments and observations aren’t always cruel, they’re not always nice and no two are alike.

My mind started to pin point my own turns at passing judgment.  Being that I just left the grocery store, I thought about how I always look in other people’s carts at what they are choosing to buy.  I realized that part of me does this because I’m one meal short of begging people to tell me what to make for dinner.  The other part does it because I am judging how people live and have lived by what they choose to buy.

I will admit I notice if someone has fresh fruits and vegetables or whether they have junk food for snacking on.  I notice if someone chooses to buy a 5lb bag of potatoes or two boxes of instant mashed potatoes.  I also notice if someone has stocked up on frozen chicken nuggets, hotdogs and other processed meat verses a beef roast or chicken cutlets.

What I am actually thinking about people when I see one item versus another started to occur to me .  My own questions/judgments/observations are, “Do they buy fake mashed potatoes because they don’t know how to make real ones or is it because they don’t have the time to prepare from scratch?”.  When I see three boxes of processed fried chicken in someone’s cart, I ask myself, “Don’t they know how bad that is for them?”.  “Isn’t it more cost effective to buy a big package of chicken and then break it down for several meals?”.

As I am processing all this, I realize that even though my own judgments are usually never hateful in nature (unless I’m just in a snarky mood and probably with my beautiful sister) they are based only skin deep, just like everyone else’s immediate opinions.  My natural curiosity about other people’s lives is coated in my own experiences and that causes prejudice for better or worse.

I was a child whose mouth was fed by food stamps.  I’ve been an adult who doesn’t even consider how much money she is spending on food on any one given trip to the grocery store.

Today, I was a woman who lost track of her budget because her beautiful baby boy kept stealing my attention with his love of singing and smiling at strangers.  Today, I am a stay at home Mom who had to pull things out of her cart because she went over her limit and her debit card declined.  Twice.

Today, I was embarrassed as hell even though there were no apparent eye rolling, sighs of aggravation behind me.  I was so embarrassed that I completely avoided making eye contact with anyone in line behind me.  I can’t tell you how many times I apologized for inconveniencing everyone during the process of eliminating my overages.  It bothers me how ashamed I was actually.

Now, I’m considering what my lasting impression was on those shoppers.  In all honesty, and perhaps in their defense, they have no way of knowing I am a (almost) 33 year old woman who chooses to sacrifice financial security so that I can raise my children while they’re young.

By the time I got home, made lunches, put the kids down for their naps, warmed up my Dunkin’ coffee and sat down to write this all out, I realized, how many challenging levels there are to not judging a book by its cover.  I’m not sure that is possible at all.  What I have been reminded of by this experience is that there is always a story lying underneath the cover of any given book.  That should never be disregarded or forgotten.

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36 thoughts on “The Day I, Unknowingly, Became a Teenage Mother of Two.

  1. That happened to me once. I was mortified. I had to take the kids out of the trolley and they started to cry that we had to leave our food behind. I shopped at another store for a while!
    Hey, you might not be feeling flush right now, but at least you look good! ;o)

    • Oh thank you so much. I have to be honest though. I’m terrible ah participating in awards. I write in my free time and never have time to follow through with them. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it though. Thank you!

  2. Interesting perspectives. I was a teenage mom who looked even younger, so I remember the comments about my “little brother” and all. Of course, they didn’t know I was raising the kid by myself, had a full time job and didn’t get any help but the assumptions were made very loud and very clearly.

    The grocery store thing is a whole other issue for me, but that is all on me whether someone sees what I am buying or not.

    • Hats off to you Momma. I cannot imagine raising a child as a teenager. But I also watched my best friend choose to be and thrive on starting her family at 19. People are generally assholes and don’t know how to talk to each other appropriately.

  3. Grocery stores can be traumatic in so many ways. The other day I spent some time watching a scattered old man spending several minutes getting enough money out of his wallet to pay for his purchases. It was irritating, but how much more irritating it must be to be so scattered.

    And when people don’t have enough money to pay for all their stuff, my primary reaction is to want to pay for it for them, which, alas, I can’t afford to do.

    Just getting in and out without some kind of awkward encounter is an accomplishment. Why make things difficult for someone else?

    • I completely relate to seeing something frustrating but stepping back and trying to see it from the other side. I don’t always get that one right but it try.

      I hated being “that person” today but it was a lesson in humility though. I suppose a strengthening of my empathy muscle.

      Grocery stores are the last place I’d rather be…other than Walmart.

      • I have a girlfriend who lives near a store that let’s you order groceries online and they will bag them an you pick them up! Brilliant. The ONLY way to grocery shop with kids!

  4. You’ve made a lot of observations about making judgments (yes, some of them were judgmental…lol…says this Republican follower who would have thought the same thing even in her Democratic days)…. but it’s true…we all make them though we are unaware of the time. I catch myself looking in people’s carts too thinking….ugh…why? but I know most of it is ignorance and a lot of it is money factors… Another related story. I was 41 when I had my last child. My oldest was 16. Guess how many times I heard the “Oh what a darling grandchild you have””….. oh yeah… and my daughter refused to be anywhere within 15 feet of him in any public place…why? People make judgments and what 16 year old wants that kind of judgment.. it was hard enough on the NOT grandmother 🙂 I TRY not to judge…. I at least say a prayer of repentance when I catch myself.
    Good post.

    • My own observations/judgments were included to make a point. I know I am guilty of doing exactly what the woman behind me in line did today. We all are. I suppose that is the over all message of this post.

      I can imagine you endured quite a bit of judgment being a woman that chose to have a baby at 41. I think people in general really aren’t trying to offend others but are only calling things out the only way they know how. Some people just lack class though.

      • Haha. I didn’t choose. God did. He was truly a miracle… not so much like Jesus or anything, but really defied ‘science’… yes. I know that was your point. Mine too 🙂

  5. I had my own children 11 years apart (at 24 and 35), so had no experience with juggling two small ones and all of their “stuff” until my second granddaughter was born. I was so overwhelmed by caring for two at a time that I didn’t take the younger one anywhere unless my daughter was going with us until she was a two year old who could (when she wanted to) walk on her own.

    Now I haul the girls everywhere with me (they are now 7 and 3), and I know many times onlookers assume I am one of those “poor grandmothers who ended up raising their grandchildren because their children were losers/druggies/in jail.” On the contrary, I am the stay-at-home-grandmother to them so that their mama can enjoy her fast-paced career without putting her precious children in daycare. It is so easy to make assumptions, and they are so often incorrect! – Fawn

    • What a special thing for you, your daughter and those kids!

      I don’t take my children anywhere that’s not “kid friendly” unless I have to. It just never seems to end well.

      Yes…I would agree that most assumptions are wrong! Which I suppose could be a good thing since most people always tend to think the worse.

  6. Thank you for confirming my worst fear at the grocery store. I always wonder if people look in my cart and at my weight if they think ” no wonder she’s fat”. In all honesty though, my groceries look pretty healthy, espeically lately as we budget harder and I work on weight but I still wonder if people wonder.

    • I kind of feel like an ass right now. My intention in writing this was based on my own observations and I’m afraid I may have hurt your feelings.? I apologize. But just remember opinions are like assholes and everybody’s got one. And some people just plain ARE assholes. Even me sometimes.

      • LOL, no you didn’t hurt my feelings AT ALL! I’m sorry if it came across that way! Apparently my sense of humor is not as funny at 2am as I think it is!

        My comment is true, I do wonder if people are looking in my cart sometimes and thinking mean things, but it’s mostly because of how easily we ALL judge each other these days.

        For example, I saw a woman fat shame- or I should say yoga pant cellulite shamed a person one day on Facebook, yet, a week later she praised this video (which I love and I am totally jealous she can dance like that):

        Honestly, it was refreshing to read your post and find someone who did confirm my thoughts. I actually wondered if I was the only grocery snooper. 😀

      • Grocery snooper!!!!! I love that. Finally I have a diagnosis!

        I have definitely written something at 2am thinking I was brilliant only to read it at 8am and realize I was just over tired and maybe drank a little too much Mom juice. Thanks for clarifying…I felt quite bad.

    • Thank you! I was a bit afraid my message that we all, including myself, are guilty of making invalidated judgments about others” wouldn’t be apparent. Thanks for such a nice compliment. 🙂

  7. I loved your post. You admit that your impressions of what the 50ish woman was thinking might have been off, while most of us think we’re right most, if not all, of the time. You have used food stamps, as have I, and you admit to passing judgement just as you perceive that other people are doing the same. You write honestly of living in our world and making choices and just doing the best you can with what you can scrape together or have been given by God, depending on how one wants to view the matter. I appreciate that. Not only that, you still listen to CD’s, which warms the heart of a geezer like me!

  8. I can be bad about judging people… Or, I go through phases. It seems as though I will decide that there are certain “types” of people who are fair game. That’s really pretty awful and I want to punch myself now that I’ve admitted that.

    • “I can be bad about judging people… Or, I go through phases. It seems as though I will decide that there are certain “types” of people who are fair game. That’s really pretty awful and I want to punch myself now that I’ve admitted that.”

      Some humans are dangerous. Others are pathetic. Some are both.

      You’re wise beyond your years. You are going to be stunningly wise by about 2020.

      We’ll need that.

    • Well then we both deserve a sucker punch to the gut because I completely agree with you. If someone doesn’t agree, they’ve never seen “the people of Walmart” or been to a wedding with an open bar.

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