Why I’m Glad I Started Having Children in My 20s

Family Matters on 11.15.12
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Image: Sarah Fernandez

Growing up, I was very close to my extended family. We traveled to Boston for almost every holiday to visit my grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins. In the summer, we shared a home at the beach with two of my aunts and paternal grandmother, and my maternal grandmother came every weekend and shared a room with me. My dad’s cousins had a summer home down the street where the three generations in their branch of the family gathered, and we all spent countless hours together. The multi-generational relationship with my family was so important in teaching me so many things, and I hope that my children will have a similar relationship with their grandparents and other elder members of the family, but as a society as we begin to marry and have children older in life the chances of that happening are decreased.

While my paternal grandfather passed away before I born, I was fortunate to have my paternal grandmother live into her 90s and both of my maternal grandparents live into their mid-80s. I was 27 when the first one passed away and 32 when the last one passed. This week, my great-aunt, the last of the generation, passed away at 101 years old. I feel so fortunate that I got to know her for nearly 36 years of my life, and feel truly blessed that my children were able to know her. As we age, we get to know these members of our family in a whole new light and on a more in depth level beyond the homemade cookies and birthday presents we remember them by as little kids. As we enter the “real world” and become parents, we have new respect for them and what they went through in their lives, and we turn to them for guidance.

I married someone 14 years older than me. My children are 17 and 20 years younger than their next oldest cousins and at six and three years old, they lost their only grandparent on my husband’s side this summer. Their grandmother was 88 so they were really lucky to get to know her at all. If I were the same age as my husband (42) when we married, there’s a good chance that we could be in the same situation with my parents and that my children wouldn’t have any grandparents growing up. Luckily, my parents are relatively young being in their 60s, but their relationship with my kids has never been more important. My kids spend an enormous amount of time with them, and honestly I’m not sure they could possibly spend too much time with them (although like me they certainly do need a break from the kids every now and then) because I want my children to have that important connection to the older generation of our families.

While I certainly wouldn’t suggest that anyone get married and have kids just because of this, I think there is something to be said for not pushing off having kids for the “right time” (it doesn’t exist) because there could be some pretty amazing family relationships they will miss out on as a result.

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