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For about a year after my daughter came home, whenever a stranger asked me how old she was, I tended to quote her adjusted age. Since DC was still rather small, using her adjusted age made visual sense to most people. Using her actual age, on the other hand, tended to invite more questions, which pretty much led me to mom-splain our back-story all over these polite, but not really interested, old ladies and passerbys.

There were a few times when the old lady or passerby would say, “yes, but what’s her real age?” One was a former NICU nurse, the others were grandparents of preemies.

At four months, my daughter may have been smaller than a typical newborn, but her eyes were wide open and she had this worldly-wise look about her. At one year, she had closed the developmental gap for cognitive and motor skills, but her height and weight were still tacking more closely to her adjusted age (she was still fitting comfortably into 6 month clothing). In other words, she was an impossibly small, physical dynamo…and I worried that she’d one day be conscripted into her middle school’s cheer-leading squad as a flier.

At any rate, a week or so after her first birthday, we met our friends at the mall for a Bounce Basics play-date. We sang, we clapped, we did stuff (the mommies drank a bucket of coffee). After it was over, an older woman approached me, her eyes large and incredulous.

“She’s amazing! I can’t stop looking at her! How old is she?” she asked, pointing at my daughter.

“10 months,” I beamed, reflexively using her adjusted age.

A look of despair passed over her face. “Oh, my God. And she’s crawling and clapping and sitting up and paying attention? My grandson is 8 months old but twice as big as she is, and all he does is sit there!”

Oh my.

My heart melted for her grandson, whoever he was. So I tried to quickly explain, “Oh, he’s just fine, he’s a strong, handsome guy. My daughter’s a preemie, so her real age is–”

And she’s a preemie, too!? Of course she is!”

Before I could further get into the blah-blah-blah of adjusted age and actual age and developmental blah-blah-blah, she spun on her heels and disappeared with her stroller into the dispersing crowd of parents and nannies.

I felt horrible for the little guy. In my mind’s eye, I saw the woman checking out baby calisthenics videos from the public library. But one of my mommy friends started cracking up. “She thinks her grandson’s a lump! Serves her right! She has no idea!”

I couldn’t really argue her point. But I decided that maybe it was time to start quoting DC’s actual age whenever we were politely queried by strangers at the mall. And at Bounce Time.