Is Parenting at 50 Easier?

A Twenty-Something me, with beard and mullet (I know) tailgating before a Grateful Dead show. Photo Randall Luttenburg
A Twenty-Something me, with beard and mullet (I know) tailgating before a Grateful Dead show. Photo Randall Luttenburg

Becoming a SAHD (Stay at Home Dad) at 50 concerned me a little—okay maybe more than a little.  I worried about, bathing, diaper changes, and being the responsible adult.  I was working without a net—it was just me and the baby—without an adult more adult than me nearby.

I’ve outgrown my initial concerns but still dread the day when someone asks, “How old is your grandson?”  Hopefully Cristian will do the right thing and kick them in the leg.  I’m counting on you son.

I spent Sunday’s Super Bowl Party comparing notes with Dads who’ve been there and done that.  We agreed first-moments are great, tantrums suck, and debated which was more annoying, the Teletubbies or Caillou.

Here’s what I learned:

Looking Silly is Okay – My friends may be wondering about this one.  Silliness and an off-beat sense of humor is kind of who I am. I have a hard time seeing a thirty-something me bopping around to kiddie songs during a My Gym class or even out of class. These days I’ve become a rhythmless-dancing machine—it’s easier when you embrace the silly.

Baby-Related Entertainment – My days are consumed binge watching Sesame Street, Sid the Science Kid and Pepa Pig.  Going to show or museum used to be a comedy club or MOMA now it’s Sesame Street Live or the Children’s Museum of New York.  Cristian’s smiling face makes up for the crowds and loud crying children.

Cristian and I heading to the Chilldren's Museum of New York
Cristian and I heading to the Chilldren’s Museum of New York

Pacing and Energy – Twenty years ago I was younger, fitter, and had washboard abs.  Today, I’m older and grayer, okay mostly white without the hair color.  A keg replaced the six-pack. Caring for and chasing after a toddler requires endurance.  Finishing twelve marathons taught me how to pace myself. Occasionally I hit the wall, but push through until Esther comes home from work or I’ve worn the baby out.

I’m Older, Calmer, and More Secure with Myself – It’s not like I’m doing yoga, sipping green tea, or reading the Dalai Lama but twenty years mellowed me.  I no longer stress things I can’t control.  I’ve learned to enjoy the moment because they won’t last forever.  That’s not to say I haven’t fired a baby bottle or thrown an iPhone across the room during those special moments.

Payback’s a Bitch – I watched from the sidelines when my friends became parents in their 20s and 30s.  Knowing I could bolt when the tantrums started was a good option to have.  Those same friends are now empty nesters, offering advice and even babysitting here and there.  These days they’re the ones reaching for their coats when the tantrums kick in.

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One and Done

Esther and I pose for a picture during the Tour de Cure, a fund-raising event benefitting the American Diabetes Association
Esther and I pose for a picture during the Tour de Cure, a fund-raising event benefitting the American Diabetes Association.

A few weeks ago Esther, Cristian, and I participated in a charity walk—we do a lot of them.   For years Esther and I have been running, riding and walking for many causes.   Finishing the walk we ran into a cousin we haven’t seen in quite some time.

We caught up on how she’s been and what’s new with various aunts and cousins as she played with the baby.  We answered the usual baby-related questions.  How’s he sleeping?  Is he walking?  Then came the curveball, are you planning another child?

When Cristian was born I knew he was one and done—although the hospital staff had other ideas.  Waiting for Esther and the baby to be released they planned our next child as I was online researching vasectomies.

IMG_3567

In my mind’s eye, I always pictured two kids.  I’m the younger of two, most of my friends have two—except for my Aunt, Titi Carmen, who has seven—she kept trying for the girl.  If I suggest seven children to my better half she’d handle the vasectomy herself.

Old schoolers insist one child is easy, providing no challenge—real parenting starts with (at least) two.  I come from a big family, Mom is the oldest of eight—of course in those days children doubled as indentured servants.  I can only imagine what Titi Carmen would say if I asked her opinion.

Esther and I are both experienced multi-taskers.   Professionally we’ve mentored and trained employees, and managed the expectations of the most difficult clients.  Outside of work we’ve run over 250 races including 24 marathons and two ultras.  We’ve never lacked energy, but toddlers are the great equalizer.

mini me

Over the past months, our fragile newborn developed into a full-blown toddler— funny how that happens.  Crawling and walking were replaced by climbing and exploring.  Temper tantrums are now part of his personality and bedtime is a nightly challenge of who can outlast who.  So far we have the upper hand.

Becoming a Dad at 50 meant Cristian is probably one and done—this concerned me and still does a little.  Raising an only child is different than raising several children.  With no siblings to play with we enrolled him in classes at My Gym, twice a week he goes to story time at the local library, and we are always inviting cousins over for playdates.

Parenting at any age and family size is a challenge, most things worth having are.  Taking care of my son as I work from home affords me a luxury many parents don’t have—I experience many of his firsts with him, instead of hearing about them—although some days it doesn’t seem that way.

Raising a child is a lot like running a marathon, energy is required, but pacing is important as well.  I’m still at the beginning knowing there are hills to climb and challenges to meet, but the end result is worth it.

pigeons

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