I’m a 45-year-old mum of nine but I’ll marry my toyboy lover, 24 – even though strangers think he’s my SON

And 45-year-old Tina Dickson's children approve of her relationship with 24-year-old Brandon Dickson, despite their despite their 21 year age gap making him younger than three of her children.

Nurse Tina, from Perth, Australia – who is older than her mother-in-law-to-be – said both their families had been hugely supportive, adding: “I count Brandon’s mum as a great friend,  even though she’s younger than me.

"My mum thinks Brandon’s the best thing since sliced bread. She tells all her friends about my younger man.”

Tina – whose three children by her first marriage, Samantha, 28, Brie, 27 and Christopher, 25, are older than her partner – usually prefers older men, but was hoping to find a partner her own age when she fell for chemical plant worker Brandon.

Admitting to feeling awkward when they first got together, she continued: “At the start, I was almost embarrassed for Brandon. I didn’t want to hold his hand in public, in case we saw anyone he knew and they gave him a hard time.”

She continued: “Now, though, we just laugh it off. People’s negative opinions are their problem, not ours, and our families are both very happy for us.

“It’s that old saying – those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”

They met in 2013 when Brandon asked Tina, also mum to Steven, 23, Khan, 17, Serene, 15 and Holden, eight, from a previous relationship, as well as to her fiancé’s children Elijah, four and Toni, two, if he could rent her spare room.

She said: “I was happy to have the extra cash, so I agreed to let out my spare room to him. He seemed friendly enough, but I didn’t even think about a relationship.

“For one, he wasn’t my usual type – but there was also this huge age gap. Back then, I was actually looking to meet a man my own age.

“I assumed romance was totally out of the question, but then he’d make the odd comment here and there that got me thinking."

Once we were in the supermarket. The cashier kept saying how cute he is, then said, ‘Your mum must be so proud,’ meaning me. He chuckled, smacked my bottom and went, ‘She’s not my mum.’

“Eventually, about three months after we met, he asked me out on a date. I was excited, but also really nervous, as this was so new to me.

“We got on really well, but wanted to be sure before we were introduced to our respective families. I had my children to think about and didn’t want them getting attached to somebody who wasn’t going to commit to us. We were also a little worried about what people would say.”

After six months of secret dating – during which they abstained from having sex – they finally came out to their families, at first provoking mixed reactions.

Tina recalled: “My son, Steven, was really angry at first, I think because he’s such a similar age to Brandon.

“He’s come round now, though. They get on absolutely brilliantly, all the kids do. My 27-year-old even bought Brandon a jokey Father’s Day gift.”

She added: “Everyone else was incredibly supportive. Of course, they were a little dubious, but then they saw how happy Brandon makes me, and that’s all they want for their mum.”

After going public, the couple started planning a life together – having Elijah in 2014, followed by Toni in 2016, soon after which Brandon proposed.

Tina, who is yet to set a wedding date, continued: “It was a total surprise, but lovely. It was very simple. He came home one day, all grubby from work, and asked me to marry him there in our bedroom.”

But not everyone has been as positive as their families about their age-gap love, according to Tina, who said Brandon is often mistaken for either her son, or her daughter’s boyfriend.

Confident about their relationship, she now laughs off snide comments, which she would once have found hurtful, saying: “We don’t concern ourselves with what people think of us anymore. We try to be positive and stay laughing.”

Tina continued: “Once we were in the supermarket buying some food and alcohol, and Brandon got asked for ID, because he does look very young."

She continued: “The cashier kept saying how cute he is, then said, ‘Your mum must be so proud,’ meaning me. He chuckled, smacked my bottom and went, ‘She’s not my mum.’ The cashier looked shocked, but this group of big, burly guys in the queue behind us burst out laughing.

“Other times, when he’s with Elijah or Toni, people will see him cuddling them and say to me, ‘Your son will make a wonderful dad one day.’ Little do they know!”

Caring and mature for his age, according to Tina, the only time when their age gap becomes obvious is when it comes to Brandon’s taste in films and music.

She continued: “His music drives me insane. I can’t stand listening to it. I’ll talk to him about movies too, forgetting most of my favourites came out before he was even born.

“He’s a real old soul, though. He’s not interested in going out partying all the time. He’s kept me grounded and brought out the best in me. Since I met him, I finished my nursing degree and started a midwifery one – and I truly believe that’s down to his encouragement.”

Now, by sharing her story, Tina hopes to dispel some of the stereotypes around age gap couples and to encourage other people to be more open-minded.

“Of course, I think about what will happen when I’m older,” she said. “I hate the thought of leaving Brandon and the children alone, but you can’t live like that. Anything can happen at any time, so we take each day as it comes.

“I never would’ve considered dating a younger man before Brandon, as I thought they were all immature. Now, though, I see that stereotypes do no good. I want to teach my kids that, too, and show them that love can come in all forms, at any time.”

Tina is also keen to share her philosophy with the wider world that there should be no age limit to love.

She added: “Don’t be too rigid, and close too many doors, as you may just overlook the love of your life.

“I never dreamed I’d be spending the rest of my days with someone younger than three of my children but when you click, you click. Five years on, we still say ‘I love you’ every single day, and we never argue.

“Our situation and our family may seem crazy, but as long as we have each other, we’re happy.”

Previously a couple with 29-year age gap forced to move after strangers brand husband a PAEDO.

And a student, 19, insists that ‘love has no age limit’ after falling for lover, 52… but her family have disowned her over the 33-year age gap.

And Courtney is a granny-of-three at 25 – after marrying a man 34 years older than her (and their sex life is amazing).

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