Life as an Old Dad: Is It Worth It?
I’m an old dad. I mean, a really old dad. While the average age of fatherhood has been climbing over the past 30 years from around 27 to nearly 31, I’m still an outlier — by decades. My first and only child was born when I was over 50, putting me in the rarefied company of 1% of American men.
When I scour the Facebook posts by members of my high school class, they’re posting pictures of their grandchildren and their retirement cruises. Meanwhile, I worry about my dwindling savings and scramble for freelance work as I face the prospect of supporting my 15-year-old son for the next three years — not to mention college costs that are likely to top $75,000 a year by the time he graduates. (Luckily he’s a straight-A student and wants to study computer science. A wise choice, unlike his father who opted for the impecunious life of a journalist.)
I can’t say I wasn’t warned. I knew the risks. Though a bevy of prenatal tests assured my then-wife and I that everything would be alright — probably — I still scoured the Internet for stats. What I found wasn’t too reassuring. Paternal age it seems, is correlated with pregnancy complications, lower birth weight, birth defects. And even if your infant survives all that there’s always the chance of something coming up later in life. A higher probability of autism, for example. Or schizophrenia. (On the other hand, late-life kids tend to grow up smarter, with higher than average IQ — a silver lining.)
So was it worth it? Yes. An unqualified yes.
Yes, I need to tell my son to slow down when we walk, since my old legs need to struggle with his teenage pace. I’m sore the day after an afternoon playing catch and he easily beats me at tennis. And computers? Don’t even ask. While I struggle through manuals with each new app I download, he’s proficient in a minute. He’s a digital native and never know a world without smart phones and laptops and pities my deprived childhood.
But all that pales when I think of what he’s given me. A chance to relive my childhood and youth. His enthusiasm and energy. A renewed conviction to save our planet for him and his children. The deepest purpose for life that I could ever imagine.
For all the prospective parents who look at the calendar and wonder if they’re too old to have children, I say just do it. Take the leap. You’ll never regret it.