Among the hundreds of decisions taken by our parents before we had the maturity to really gasp and say stop, birth certificate tampering is one that really puts people on the spot sometimes. Be it in your teens or your late fifties, hesitating when asked about your age elicits frowns, questioning glances and in most unfortunate circumstances – suspicion in important legal proceedings.
Obviously, being among the oldest in your classes throughout school is awkward, having to elaborate on why you’re 18 – or even 19 – and STILL in school with dozens of 17 year olds gets embarrassing, tiring and is really just a general nuisance. But that’s what would be classed as a minor inconvenience in relation to the many other problems that arise as you age and handle legal forms, academic applications and a boatload of other things.
“So far I’ve received none of the benefits my parents thought I’d get for appearing a year younger,” said Anika Aslam*, a college student. With most people with tampered birth dates claiming to have not yet received any of the potential “perks”, it’s important to really understand why this was even possible and thought of as a good idea.
Most commonly, for younger people that have to live with this problem, it all started when they got into school. Birth certificates weren’t yet made at the time of birth in a lot of smaller local hospitals, and with seemingly no need for it in their earlier years, they were simply never brought up. That is, until school admissions. This was when most of these children had their birth certificates required and made.
Besides just that, many older people found the need to use their own birth certificates a lot later in their lives, a point in which a birth certificate was made for the very first time with a year that suited them. With years altered to be multiple years off. For most, a tampered birth date means they can work longer and retire later, be eligible for certain things or be allowed to opt out of other things – all of which may build a good reasoning behind it, but in the end also increase risk of complications in the future that most don’t account for. Take for example a woman with a legal age below retirement who faces health complications later in life but with a tampered birth date that isn’t yet approved for retirement.
Medical complications are also another major issue that may arise from birth date tampering. With many serious health concerns, age plays a big role in diagnosis of the patient and with them having tampered birth dates, misdiagnosis could be a dangerous possibility. And even if the medical practitioner is dutifully informed of the age alteration, when these people have considerable health conditions requiring foreign treatment, passport dates could potentially begin to conflict with medical reports.
Apart from the more serious issues, children growing up with altered birth dates live with the constant need to be wary of the consequences of messing up their birth dates to the wrong person. The perpetual fear of getting into trouble with something as simple as their birth date, children face social situations with angst and an unnecessary need to lie about their age in casual conversations. For a nine year old, having to explain why they just turned nine instead of eight puts them in a spot where they’ve been taught to say the legal truth.
Having friends younger than them, some of these children tend to grow more and more wary of their flaws as they go into their teens, with having to cope with what to them feels like a distinct confirmation of their shortcomings each time they are made aware of their age. “I feel stupid for being in a grade with everyone younger than me and still doing average,” said Ramisa Alam*, a student appearing for her first board examinations. Stemming from the deep-rooted belief that the older they are the wiser, these children see their younger peers’ successes as evidence of them being older yet, still just average in comparison.
On top of growing up with these insecurities, a majority of teens with tampered birth dates will and do inevitably graduate later than the average student, leading them to not only feel but also – in numerous ways – be “behind” in their lives, in terms of where they are supposed to be at their actual age. This adds to the frustration of feeling “below average”, and creates an unnecessary pressure on students that end up going to college in their twenties instead of the more traditional age of 18.
From driving licences to complications with national identification cards, whether they’re in their teens or mid-fifties, birth certificate tampering causes a myriad of problems at different stages of their lives. Consoled by the sole excuse that this was done “for their own good”, it starts to lose its value as repeated obstacles surface because of it. Especially considering that this is a choice, which they never got the chance to agree to, and now simply have to live with.
And while if you’re one of them, there’s no concrete way to resolve a tampered birth certificate, your age does not undervalue the progress you make academically. No matter how much older you are in school, it’s important to remember that you’re learning the same things and age does not factor into your academic capabilities. Stressing over something that you cannot possibly change only serves to deter you further. And if it’s any consolation, tampering with birth certificates occurs significantly less now.
*Names have been changed for privacy
Faiza enjoys the lazy company of her overweight cat and million deadlines, reach her at email@example.com