Fathering in Your 50s: Is There a Difference?
My first psychology professor was Dr. Dick Bruce. He told a marvelous story about his family during Psych 100: When home for the holidays, one of his siblings complained that earning a Ph.D. seemed an impossible goal. The degree would take so long. Dr. Bruce's reply was "In 4 years you'll be the same age whether you go to school or not."
Fathering in your 50s is much like Dr. Bruce's thinking. If being older is the only reason we decide against having children, then we have allowed ourselves to be enslaved to age. Certainly anyone should consider factors like health, energy levels, or financial capacity when making the choice to have children. We can decide to have, or not to have, children in our 40s or 50s, but we will end up the same age, in 18 years, either way. When we magnify the negative meaning of age, we don't balance the benefits of having children at an older age. Once we place age into its proper perspective, we can see that there are many reasons to become an "older" father.
Fathers, like everyone, create beliefs about the meaning of age. How we define age then affects other parts of our lives: athletics, diet, vacationing. My young children demand that I stay young. They want to play on the floor, run in the back yard, eat ice cream, and go on family vacations. I find that having young children keeps my perspective young, and my daily life more energetic. I have a youthful perspective, and my life shows it.
As we grow older, experiences can reduce our feelings of attachment. Deaths, and other losses, push older men away from the vulnerability of deep connection. But, children express their love and affection so freely, so that avoiding a bond with them is impossible. I am not closed-off in other relationships, because my children keep me open to connection every day.
The older we get, the more life feels like a grind. We ask ourselves, "Is there anything thing new or exciting in the world?" Young children feel joy and are excited about just-about everything. They see fun in the mundane as boxes become forts. If we let them, they will take us along for the "joy" ride. Fathering in my 50s gave me back life's fun. My children make well-worn activities feel exhilarating again.
All adults know the pain of embarrassing themselves while trying to learn something, but not doing so well. When men hit middle age, we discover how our bodies and minds have begun to falter (even when we try something well known). But, children approach learning new things (sports, reading, games, etc.) without fear. For example, my son is learning to read-and mastering a new word puts joy on his face, with no signs of worry. My son and daughter show me daily that I have nothing to fear if I try something new. I took up golf, as a serious pastime, last year. And, I have fun learning to play. I thank my children for the courage to learn the game..... to enjoy the pars and the double-bogies.
A Final Word from an Older Dad
Yes, there are plenty of reasons to become a father in your 40s or 50s: Youthfulness, Connection, Joy, and Fearlessness are but a few. Parenting has challenges in your 50s, just like it would at any age. But older parenting can reset the aging clock. You live a younger life, and your children benefit from your years of wisdom. Older fathering might not be a fountain of youth, but it will add years of happiness to your life.