I like to joke that I’m pushing 70. It makes my mid-fifties feel more middle-aged and less geriatric. Yet my 70s will be to my younger kids what middle age will be to most of their friends: The age of their parents when they’re leaving high school.
It’s the central tenet of what makes a “geriatric dad” different than the rest of them, and that’s mortality.
It’s also the reason I haven’t written in this space. It’s not a “fun” topic. It’s a very daunting one, and it bluntly reads like this: I’m not going to last long enough to be a great dad to Clint and Yvonne for nearly as long as I’d like.
It’s a dark but undeniable perspective on what is the otherwise joyous project of parenthood. At this moment, I can’t understate how buoyant it is to be a part of life’s milestones for these two kids. There is nothing more exhilarating than shaping a young life for the better, watching those traits emerge that you know are directly the result of your and your partner’s influence (with, perhaps, a bit of help from our DNA — nature v. nurture is a whole ‘nother subject).
Clint will be four in November. Yvonne will be two in October. Yvonne’s use of language, all but nonexistent a few weeks ago, is hilariously emerging from her tiny adorable mouth. Every day with her seems to mark a developmental breakthrough.
Clint’s growth has become more subtle on the day-to-day, but it also reveals glimmers of sophistication that are eye-opening in a kid not yet four years old.
Plus, there’s the love thing, a two-way street that is also a whole ‘nother subject. It’s also another reason I haven’t posted on this site. It’s terribly important, but I’m not sure I can write about love. But I hope to give it a shot.
Being a dad to these two kids is a moment-to-moment management challenge, but it is even more rewarding than I remember it from the first time I did this in the 80s. At this moment, my age is irrelevant because I have no health issues and abundant stamina.
And then you do the math. I do it all the time, and so do my friends. It’s the proverbial elephant in the room when the dad has the gnarly grey hair and jowly face of a young grandpa. It’s a face that’s certainly appropriate for the dad of Bill and Leigh, my kids in their 20s. It’s more complicated as the dad of toddlers.
People frequently have children because they want to enrich their own lives, but ultimately it’s not about the parents. It’s supposed to be about the kids. The dark issues surrounding my age are about the degree to which I will be able to do for them what my parents did for me. It didn’t end when I graduated from high school. My mom and dad were great parents to me after I left the nest. They were also much more fun once they stopped disciplining me and we grew much closer after I reached full maturity.
The math tells me I may shortchange Clint and Yvonne in that aspect of my job. And yes, I knew that going into the project. I justify it because the world is better off with Clint and Yvonne in it, even though their dad isn’t likely to be around as long as he’d like.
And there’s really not a damn thing I can do about it, except try to make it a quality experience for as long as I can.