I was 50 years old when my son Cristian was born and a stay-at-home dad for the first two years of his life. Initially, this concerned me because I had never changed, fed, or bathed a baby before. I was working without a net; it was just him and me without an adult, more adult than me nearby.
Despite my concerns, I was cocky. I knew our life would change, but I thought, how hard could this parenting thing be? Most of my friends had kids, and my cousins, too. Some had two or three. It couldn’t be rocket science. It was probably like learning the ropes at a new job. I was cocky.
I had a different concern, my age. Less than 1 percent of first-time fathers are 50 or older. I became a father at an age when my friends were getting ready to send their kids off to college. They were touring college campuses while my wife and I were planning trips to children’s museums and the zoo.
I might sound delusional, but I didn’t feel my age. Maybe it was the Revlon #41 hair dye that masked my salt and pepper hair. I led an active lifestyle, ran marathons, and wasn’t taking any prescription medication. My biggest concern was someone mistaking Cristian for my grandson.
The transition was more demanding than expected. I learned first-hand about sleepless nights, diaper blowouts, and how the baby wipes and diapers were always at the bottom of the diaper bag.
I compared notes with other dads during Super Bowl parties and summer cookouts. We agreed first moments were great, tantrums suck, and Caillou was annoying. With time, I mastered the required multitasking and improvisation skills. I no longer looked like a gorilla dragging a baby chimp around its cage at the zoo. That meant I mastered Parenting 101, but Baby 2.0 was waiting for me.
A lot has changed since playdates. My Gym classes and Peppa Pig were part of my daily routine. I’m older and grayer, not because I stopped coloring my hair. A new job, parenting responsibilities, and a damaged knee ended my running days. My lean physique was replaced with a Dad-bod, and a keg replaced my flat stomach and six-pack.
People regularly assume Cristian is my grandson. The first time was on the Coney Island Boardwalk. A colorful-looking local came up to me and said, “Your grandson’s cute Pops.”
The first time was on the Coney Island Boardwalk. A colorful-looking local came up to me and said, “Your grandson’s cute Pops.” Now we could be at Home Depot or the supermarket checkout line when someone says, “He’s cute; my grandson’s about the same age. ”I’ve learned to smile and laugh off their embarrassed head bob when I tell them he’s my son. Usually.
Is there a benefit to becoming a parent at an older age? Older men are usually calmer and more secure with themselves than their older counterparts. Maybe so, but it’s not like I spend my days doing yoga, sipping green tea, and meditating every morning before sunrise. A 34-year-old dad worries as much as a 54-year-old when their child is sick or is being rushed to the emergency room.
My other concern is Cristian. How will he feel being the son of an older dad? Right now, he’s an 8-year-old boy. He looks at me and sees Dad. I’m the one who takes him to the pool and kicks the ball to him after soccer practice. With that change when he gets older? Probably. My father was 38 when I was born and I noticed he was older than the other dads. When I graduated from college, I realized he was more than a good father—he was a good man. I can only hope Cristian has the same impression of me when he gets older.