Please Don’t Call My Son a Mistake


It happens more often than you imagine.  People don’t think.  They see my kids and their eyebrows knit together as they try to make sense of what they see.  As they realize that not only is the young child with me mine, but the older teens are as well. Then I see it: the knowing smile, the nod of their heads, and the glint in their eye. Then it comes: the remark I’ve heard so many times. They think they have it figured out. And without really thinking about what it means, what it implies, and what it means to the person hearing it, they utter the words “…ahhhh, an oops baby!”


It’s such a simple statement. We make jokes about it and laugh about it. But from a very young age we learn that “oops” means mistake. A mistake. Something you didn’t intend to do. It further implies something that you don’t want. And he hears it. Every time. Which, while it may not have that big of an impact that one time in the Target check-out line, it’s added to the many other times it’s been said. It starts to become a weight carried, one that grows in size and mass through the years.

It’s a weight that no child and no person, should carry. It leads to self-doubt; and wondering if you were ever even wanted. Then it’s not so funny anymore. It’s something that reverberates around in the mind of someone struggling with belonging and trying to fit in. You know, the tweens and teens.
There comes a time in every person’s life when they self-doubt, when they struggle with fitting in and with belonging. And if you’re a child that already sticks out at home, different because you are so much younger than the rest- those words can haunt and add to the struggle and pain of finding yourself.

I do my best to make sure he knows he’s wanted and loved. For every person that suggests he was an “oops,” I smile and correct them gently. “He’s my bonus.” I call him my bonus child. The one I “get to” have because I did so well with the others. The one we had to wait for, so we could appreciate him more. Because he is my gift.

I’ve seen the damage this “oops” moniker can do to a person. My dad carried that title. The child that came along so much later than his siblings. He was number five and his parents were older and (I think) not prepared for the hellion that was brought in to their midst. As a young man, he married young and quickly had a child. I was his second-born, and I can vividly remember my teenage self trying to make sense of the idea that someone could choose to have a child at nineteen. I brashly asked if he had to get married because of my sister. I can remember the look on his face and the feeling that I was lucky to still be standing- his reaction was so forceful. There are no unwanted children in my family. Not one. I’ve seen the look on his face, when he thinks back on his childhood and the idea that maybe he wasn’t a planned addition to the family. It’s a weight. And I’m fairly certain it’s colored more than a few things in his life.

So, I am asking you-all of you out there-to think before you comment. This is a person you’re talking about. A real person with real feelings, and while he might not fully understand what you’re saying when you ask, or just comment, about him being “an oops baby,” you have no idea what happened in those eight years between him and his brother. You don’t know about the cancer diagnosis, waiting for the all-clear, the deployment to Iraq that would come before the all-clear was given, the near divorce, the second deployment to Iraq, and so many other things in between. You just see the age gap and insert your foot there. But, as you walk away and move on with your life you leave a mark on my child that may come back to bite him in a big way.

So just please don’t comment. Please don’t.

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Once Upon A Time, in another life, Kristin graduated from the University of Michigan with a plan to teach high school math. But then, life happened when she wasn’t looking…. She married an Army guy and 23 years, 3 kids, a few dogs, 7 homes, and 2 continents later she’s now a single mom living here in Colorado Springs. Along the way she volunteered for the Army, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and several schools; managed volunteer organizations, coached judo, trained to be a whitewater rafting guide, biked down Pike’s Peak and even managed to teach some high schoolers a little math before forging new trails writing, teaching and financial planning. She never knows what’s coming around the bend, but she’s learned to handle whatever life (and the Army!), throws at her with a smile and a laugh. She’s pretty sure you can get through anything with those, even if you have to fake it occasionally!!