I'm an older dad with younger children. I was 43 years old when our first son was born, 48 years old when our second son arrived.

I'll turn 62 years old later this month. To most people, I probably look like the grandfather more than the parent of school-age kids.

Our older son, now 18, is off to college this fall in a neighboring state, while our 13-year-old second-born will be an eighth-grader come August.

All things considered, I've always thought being an older dad was a plus. Life experience helps one navigate parenthood. By the time I became a dad, my career was stable and my personality — for good or bad — was basically set. I've always thought this freed up more of me to be attentive to the boys.

The coronavirus pandemic has scrambled this generational math some. Suddenly my age and a couple of underlying health conditions have put me at "moderate risk" — my doctor's words — for developing serious complications were I to be exposed to the virus.

I don't dwell on this, but it's something to think about.

For the last couple of months, working at home with my wife and kids, we've sort of been living in a bubble. While at times the boys have struggled with boredom, at least we've felt relatively safe together.

Nobody really knows what school will look like this fall, but assuming the boys resume some semblance of normal classroom instruction in middle school and college, it will present an interesting problem.

Will interacting with the boys raise my risk of of getting COVID-19? Should I socially distance from my eighth-grader and sit 6 feet away from my older son when he comes home for Thanksgiving dinner?

I don't know, frankly. Part of me thinks, no, to heck with it. Another part of me is reminded that the easy way out is often the selfish way.

I guess it will depend on what pandemic looks like in three to six months. Maybe I'm just kicking the can down the road.

There is a lot of creative thinking going on in the halls of higher education. I've been reading about colleges going for a bookend approach, inviting freshmen and seniors to campus and continuing distance learning for juniors and seniors.

Some colleges are looking at canceling fall break and ending the first semester at Thanksgiving to cut down on student travel and, presumably, virus transmission. Meanwhile some universities, including the University of California system, have already announced they will stick with online classes in the fall.

Short of a full-scale resurgence of the virus before August, colleges will be aggressive in trying to return to some semblance of normality. Their budgets aren't built to withstand a massive loss of tuition money.

Local K-12 schools are likely to experiment as well. I'd be willing to bet the fever monitoring and some stabs at social distancing will part of the plan. Maybe days of attendance will be staggered. Perhaps lunchrooms will be closed and students will eat at their desks.

No matter what happens, K-12 and college students will be testing the "invisible enemy" and returning home to family.

I have friends who would say I shouldn't leave the house until a vaccine is found. I have other friends who think fear of the virus is overblown and that we should just get back to our regular lives.

Fortunately, balancing risk is something parents become good at.

When the time comes, I will go into a quiet room and let my heart and mind talk it out.

That, and a little prayer, usually does the trick.

Email Mark Kennedy at

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Mark Kennedy / Staff file photo