Older Dads Look at Life, Fatherhood Differently

Eli SunsetWhile I struggle daily with diaper changes and sippy cups, my high school classmates are filling out college applications for their kids.

I never planned on being an older dad. It just took longer than I thought to meet the girl of my dreams, and it didn’t seem right to jump directly into fatherhood after the wedding ceremony wrapped. Patience may be a virtue, but for me it also means I’ll be pushing 60 when my kids start visiting colleges.

Only Rodney Dangerfield could pull off the cool geezer on campus shtick.

For now, my age isn’t a factor in fatherhood. I don’t look much different than my fellow dads at my son Elijah’s pre-pre-school, and a 40-something can still throw a football to his son without pulling something vital.

Being older still gives me pause. Will I see my sons get married? Can I live long enough to hug my grandkids? And, my biggest fear – will I ever get the dreaded, “boy, your grandkids are adorable” line from a well-intentioned stranger?

Every time I tire at the end of some ol’ fashioned horseplay I wonder if I’d feel the same way if I were younger? Why does the classic Danny Glover line from “Lethal Weapon,” “I’m too old for this s—,” echo in my head when I walk onto a playground swamped with toddlers?

The benefits of being an older dad are less obvious, but they exist all the same. Financially, my family is on more solid ground now, allowing us to splurge on the kids and provide a more comfortable home for them. My son Elijah has been to Hawaii twice already, and he just turned four.

My marriage is battle tested and, fingers crossed, ready to meet that ’til death do you part pledge. I’ve learned how to properly fight with my wife – apologize when needed, pick your battles wisely and don’t let small problems marinate with neglect.

I’m wiser, too, able to understand human behavior a bit better than my 20-something self. I’m better able to sort out the conflicting emotional signals given off by friends, family members and bosses alike. I credit my daily exposure to radio’s “Loveline” show for part of this skill set, but just getting to know people is an education unto itself.

The best tonic for my age-related worries comes from, where else, my kids. Watching Eli wordlessly take in a sunset or Ben’s big smile when his behavior earns him a Peanut Butter Cup reminds me of being a kid again myself, and the years suddenly float away.

It’s not the Fountain of Youth, but it hits the spot all the same.

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