FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH
|“Just a State of Mind”||
|By: Ron Brounes||
A few weeks ago, I was contacted by an editor friend from a monthly community publication about participating in an article they were scribing about “older” first-time parents. Oh sure, I’ve been mistaken for Emmy’s grandfather a time or two (or 20) and the other parents in her nursery school class usually address me as “sir,” but am I really considered an older dad? Just because I recently received my first announcement of a friend’s kid’s graduation (from college) and many of my “old” buds are planning their 50th birthday parties? Or because I was alive when JFK was assassinated (but can’t remember where I was when I heard the news at 11 months), while my new contemporaries speak more of John Jr. (or Ted) when memorializing the Kennedy tragedies?
In reality, I have noted a slight generation gap with our “new” friends on a few occasions. While my wife and I still proudly display our vintage collection of CDs (not albums nor 8 tracks), our peers groove to their tunes via iPod. Recently we traded in our dinosaur cell phones for the most basic Blackberries, while others are on third and fourth generation devices. Soon after we mastered the art of texting, we learned that everyone had gravitated to social networking sites where they can share all of the intimate developments in their lives with all who have access to their Walls (and all of their “friends”). After much resistance, we ultimately joined the Facebook crowd and I immediately began posting my weekly economic/market newsletter (“And That’s The Week That Was”), in anticipation of the outstanding networking opportunities provided. Sadly, I have found that biz networking and social networking are too very distinct animals; my contacts seem far more interested in the TV shows I watch and any uploaded family videos (haven’t really mastered that one yet) and couldn’t care less about my views of Fed Chairman Bernanke or the austerity programs in the European Union (not sure I blame them). I do enjoy the oh-so-personal birthday greetings I send to folks I knew in a prior life, and hitting “like” on the countless witty comments (are these considered “tweets?”), pics, and videos posted by friends (of friends).
WISE BEYOND YEARS…
Still, I was a bit intrigued about an article that highlighted the perspective of the older parent. After all, I have noticed on more than one occasion how the other dads gathered around me at school functions with pens in hand (or iPads in laps), ready to jot down (type) any and all words of wisdom I offered from my years of life experiences. Surely, my (trophy) wife and I were far more qualified to become parents because of our maturity levels and the host of prior activities that helped prepare us for diapers, breastfeeding, colic, and potty training. Undoubtedly, hours of watching SportsCenter and debating preferences in book clubs (not me), traveling to countless UT games and backpacking through New Zealand (actually late 30-somethings rarely backpack), running marathons and mastering the snowboard (definitely not me) translate so well into excellent parenting skills. At times, I have heard others mention that older parents appreciate their new roles much more because they waited longer to enter this stage of life. Granted, I will admit that five years ago, I wondered whether fatherhood was in my cards (probably not as much as my mom did) and cannot imagine life without the daily joys and wonderment (and occasional aggravation) provided by my daughter. But I am not arrogant enough to believe that a 25-year old first time dad has any different feelings or that my senses of happiness, pride, concern, and unconditional love are any greater than his. (I just throw out my back more often.)
In reality, some may argue that older parents actually are less prepared than our younger counterparts. Sure, a few additional years in the work force may offer a nice head-start to new family expenses, but many of us lived the “wild” single life for so long, we became quite set in our ways. We grew accustomed to our personal daily routines and may be a tad less “flexible” and more resistant to change. (Selfish is such an ugly word.) As we quickly learned, young kids don’t care much about our desires to sleep late on weekends and read the Sunday Times, get a quick jog in before the noon Texans’ kickoff, or plan a last-minute girls’ trip to Park City. Further, most of us have very limited experience with children and anyone born after the 70s (or 60s) seems young to us. I was around quite a bit to watch my nieces (and many friends’ kids) grow up and shook my head at the very “questionable” decisions their way-too-young parents made through the years; however, I was always able to get the kids wound up and then head back to the “Man Cave” at the end of the day when the real parenting fun began. (I have no doubts that my family/friends are now quite frequently shaking their heads at our “sound” decisions.)
OLD, BUT NOT QUITE OLD ENOUGH
In any case, I jotted down a few notes about maturity, life experiences, greater appreciation, and even patience (isn’t that right, honey?) that I felt would make for interesting insight into the mind of the older dad. I remembered quite a few amusing anecdotes to share and worried that the author/editor would have to make the piece a multi-issue series in order to accommodate all of my entertaining musings and excellent advice. (Do community magazine writers ever win Pulitzers?) Well, I contacted the writer and was informed that my participation in this piece would no longer be needed. In actuality, I was too YOUNG to be considered an older dad (at least from this magazine’s perspective) as the editors had set the cutoff age at 45 when his first child was born. (I had been a very youthful 43 and 9 months at the time.)
Initially, I did not know how to feel? Exuberant that I was not considered “over-the-hill” and maybe my best years were not behind me; or insulted that my fine insight was not fitting for the magazine? I hadn’t felt so young since I was carded at an Astros game a few years ago when buying a beer (though the teenage vender snickered, said he had to card everyone, and totally ruined the moment). Who was this writer looking to interview? Tony Randall, may he rest in peace? (For my younger friends, Randall was an actor who starred in the TV show, The Odd Couple, in the 70s and fathered his first child at 77.) I actually knew a couple of even “older” dads (than me, not Randall) to recommend for the piece and am eagerly awaiting their insightful words of wisdom and life lessons that can help us “younger” folks with our parenting skills.
AN OLDER DAD AFTER ALL
I hadn’t the heart to break the news to Emmy that her “old man” was no longer going to be the subject of a Pulitzer Prize winning article. So, instead I did what dads (with no clues) have done for generations; I came home with assorted goodies from the store to ease her disappointment. (The dollar aisle at Target is always a sure-fire cure.) I don’t believe that older dads have any monopoly on spoiling their kids and succumbing to their every wish instead of exhibiting restraint and teaching a life lesson in the process. (I can just feel my family/friends shaking their heads.)
Lately, however, Emmy has been requesting something we are not able to give her. For months now, she has been asking for either a baby brother or a puppy (and doesn’t seem to have a huge preference either way). Unfortunately for her, we have put out foot down on this one. Instead, we are planning to give her a baby sister around October 23 and hopefully she will be appreciative of that gift (I know we will). While Emmy has grown more enthusiastic about the upcoming arrival as of late, she still hasn’t given up on the puppy idea. She will have just turned four and, from what I understand, will be a huge help with the baby. (Apparently, maturity really kicks in by the 4th birthday?) As for me, I will be 47 and 10 months, and will get the opportunity to learn what it’s really like to be an older dad. Maybe that magazine would like to reconsider?