I’ve actually been accused of being my young daughters’ grandpa less frequently than I expected, but every time it happens, it does sting. My white hair is probably the tell. All over the interwebs are articles about how my situation is part of a trend of older fathers—especially adopters. Late-blooming baby boomers like me.
I was 51 when we adopted FD. (Everybody out of the gene pool!) From a selfish point of view, it was easily the best decision I ever made, and just thinking about my girls makes me feel genuinely happy. It’s a complex calculus, though, and I wonder how other old dads feel about their experiences. And, of course, I wonder how the girls will feel about it when they’re grown up.
The Down Side of Being an Older Dad
On the down side—let’s get it out of the way—are a few things. First, and most obviously, how long will they have me? Thinking about a me-less future for them completely tears me up, especially for FD, for some reason; I guess I think SD is tougher. This is when I wonder if adopting late is despicably selfish and if I’m an irresponsible, even bad, man. I’m hoping that I can just fill their hearts with so much love now that they won’t ever feel like I’m really gone. And I’ve recorded songs explicitly for future them: I wrote “My Love Is the Armor” for FD and “Always” for SD.
The other two problems as I see it:
- Most children have young parents who understandably have little interest in hanging out with people old enough to be their own parents like us. This inevitably makes my girls’ community pretty tiny, with fewer other children to play with‚ and our family without much in the way of backup, especially because we have no family nearby. It sucks, and it’s something we’re continually trying to remedy, with little success so far.
- Second, at my age I have to be a little more thoughtful about keeping up physically. It’s mostly about remembering not to favor one side over the other when I pick up FD and now SD, but to trade sides—a nasty case of sciatica with FD from always carrying her on the right was a very effective teacher. Slowing little ones down is not a bad thing, though: SD is a dynamo who needs some brakes.
The Up Side of Being an Older Dad
The most obvious thing is that we very deliberately became parents as a conscious choice—it didn’t just happen, especially given all the hoops you have to jump through to adopt. This means that I’m actively thrilled to be a dad every time I think about it. Every day something hilarious happens, and I often find myself stuck just staring at them in wonder as they sleep. I know my kids never have to wonder if they’re loved; my enthusiasm and devotion is obvious, maybe even a little annoying. People often tell us what great kids they are because they’re secure in our love. It’s certainly not because we don’t make any mistakes—I think we just got lucky with these two.
A couple of other songs I’ve written and recorded about my girls:
- “When I Talk to You“—There’s nothing more fun than a serious, respectful conversation with a little kid.
- “In The World and Its Ways“—FD is 13. ‘Nuff said.
The second biggie is that, speaking for myself at least, in my 20s I was a dumbass; presumably less so now. With age comes less judging, less impatience and an ability to stand back and let some things work themselves out, less obsessing over things our long life experience tells us are ultimately unimportant. A broader, deeper view.
My hope—my excuse for adopting so late?—is that though I may not be around as long, the benefits to my girls of having an older, wiser dad will be more important to FD and SD, and lead them to happier lives in the end. It’s all I got.
I’d love to know how other old dads feel about their choice and experience.