What do I have in common with Mick Jagger, Elton John, Luciano Pavarotti, Bryan Adams, and Rupert Murdoch? We’ve all recently entered fatherhood after 40.
My twin daughters were born over two years ago now. It’s overwhelming at times, and yet it has been one of the most spectacular, breathtaking periods in my life. I didn’t really plan for things to work out like this, but you see—I am one of those “older” new dads you see at the playground. And yes, I do get tired of people asking me how old my “grandchildren” are, but as one of my favorite authors, Hunter S. Thompson once said, you “buy the ticket, take the ride.” So what’s it like being an “old new dad”?
First, “old new dads” are not just rich music stars and media moguls. My brother-in-law had his first child just north of 40 and is thinking of another child as he approaches the midway mark to 50. A good friend of mine had his first child at 45 as well, so some pretty great role models have been just a phone call away when the “old-guy doubts” settle in.
I’ve had some pretty great conversations with both of them about this “new old dad” thing, and I think there are some definite advantages to older parenting that are worth mentioning.
Before Gabby and Grace were born, I had a pretty long run of life experiences; I’ve seen success, failure, bright beginnings, tragic endings, and the death of loved ones. My mother passed away seven years ago, even though it feels like just yesterday at times. So, unlike younger fathers, I am old enough now to know that I don’t know everything; I am not bullet proof; and that each moment shared with my daughters is precious. Sometimes I feel sorry for those 20-something parents—what do they really have to teach their children, anyway?
When I first learned I was to become a father, I began recording my thoughts on a blog. Each day I would record my thoughts, trepidations, and musings usually between dosages of morning caffeine. Once the girls were born, I zipped all of the blog posts together on a thumb drive and stowed it away in a fire-proof safe for them to read when they are older. I think my choice to do this is driven by my age; I wanted the girls to have a sense of what I was thinking about during the time they joined us.
I am also more patient at this stage of my life. Frankly, I am not sure how suave and debonair I could have been in my twenties managing a screaming baby and a dripping, dirty diaper at 3:00AM. Yet today the middle-of-the-night diaper disasters are just another chance to interact with my daughters; I awaken with a smile on my face and look forward to my turn on the changing table.
Another advantage of being an older dad is that I have already done a lot of things in my life, and don’t necessarily feel a need to do them again. Traveling, sports, professional accomplishments—it’s not that my life is over, but these things are not nearly as important to me now as spending time with my family.
One final thought. The path to our destination is not always a straight and narrow one. We go down the wrong path, we get lost, we turn back, one more trip around the sun. In the end, maybe it doesn’t matter which path we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.
—Photo Ashley Campbell Photography/Flickr