Fortune: Older dads know all the best new tricks

Fortune: Older dads know all the best new tricks

December 16th, 2012 by Mary Fortune in Life Entertainment

There's an article in The New Republic this month that will scare you to death about waiting until you're old (relatively speaking) to have kids.

Everyone I know is doing it. Waiting until they're about 30 to get married. Having kids -- or trying to -- at 33 or 34 or 35. Or, what the heck, 40. Everyone wants to get their careers going, have some fun and then grow all the way up and meet someone fabulous before they take the parental plunge. Those are all good things.

But time has a way of waiting for no one. We all know clocks tick relentlessly and doctors are standing by, ready to slap that "advanced maternal age" sticker on the file of any pregnant patient over the age of 34.

So this article picks apart the broad societal result of all this late procreating, analyzes the myriad potential negative physical effects on the kids and the crush older parents experience as caretakers for small children and their failing parents during middle age.

And all of that leaves me, of course, thinking about my husband, who is the 55-year-old father of boys 12 and 7.

Last week, my husband and I attended our younger son's second-grade play. He was a dinosaur, and he only missed one line. We were very proud. That evening, we helped him with his spelling homework while our seventh-grader labored over his grammar workbook. Bedtime involved bickering over toothbrushes and stuffed animals, but everyone was stowed by 9. Victory.

Meanwhile, many of my husband's friends have kids who are wrapping up medical school, walking down aisles, getting promoted and bearing babies of their own. People are starting to talk retirement. We're trying to figure out how to pay for high school.

Jim's always done things his own way. He spent his 30s working and traveling and whitewater kayaking on multiple continents. He waited until he was 42 to marry. I was 27. Our oldest son arrived one year and one week later.

So I had kids a little younger than I imagined. And he got started a bit later than he thought he would. We have some perspective on both ends of the equation.

There are very real drawbacks, certainly, to being the oldest dad at the playground. I tend not to think much about them. Mostly what I think about is stuff like this.

Our older son is car-crazy. He wants to go to Atlanta and visit the Ferrari dealership. If he had come to me with that idea, I probably would have said, "No, they won't let us walk in and ogle cars that cost more than our house. Now go do your homework."

Not Jim. Jim has this way of kind of ... considering things.

"Write them a letter," he quietly advised Jack. "Tell them about yourself and why you'd like to visit and give them my phone number and my email address. You never know."

So Jack wrote the letter and I dropped it in the mailbox. And darned if those Ferrari people did not write back immediately and enthusiastically, sent Jack a Ferrari of Atlanta calendar, invited him to come on down for a tour and told him to bring his little brother, too.

Because you know what about older dads? They understand how sweet and fleeting it all is. And they've been around long enough to know that, if there's something you want, you may as well ask.