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My son was born when both me and my wife were 24. We thought we were about the right age to have kids, as it was roughly around the same age that our parents had kids. It never really occurred to us that we were "young parents." And then we came to New York, and realized that in certain quarters of the world, we weren't merely young parents, we were actually teen parents.


I experienced this as as older people (but not that much older) giving random and unsolicited instructions on the street, or black men who I did not know asserting that they were "proud" of me because every time they saw me I was with my son. These comments ultimately had very little to do with me as a parent and everything to do with the black community's self-image. And then there was pre-school wherein I realized that the age of child-bearing, and child-rearing, was significantly older than I'd ever imagined. It seemed that in certain quarters of New York, the agreed-upon age to have kids is about 35.

I often wished we'd waited for a time when were more fixed, and knew ourselves better, to say nothing of each other. The boy's life has been nomadic and random. Everything is constantly changing. There's a kind of wild intimacy about us because of the close quarters we've always enjoyed, and everything just feels like it's in flux.  The problem is that when he was born, his parents were still maturing, still mutating.

As when the boy was two and my friend Ricardo handed me a copy of London Calling and told me I had to listen. This was early in the moment when I realized I had exhausted the limits of hip-hop's aesthetics and I wanted something new, which of course to all of you, is something very, very old. At any rate I know I am growing old because I have memories of the boy bobbing his head to "Guns of Brixton" or running around our Brooklyn basement apartment raising his fist yelling, "Ruuuu--deeee Ca Fale!!!" 

My God, we were so broke then. I remember when we first got to New York and I had this sinking feeling that I had really gotten in too deep, that I had involved myself in some business (a family!) that I was not ready for. What I learned was that it's best not to think about it. No one is ready. Not even the people I often took to be more secure.

Anyway this is a great song--and it reminds me of my man.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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