Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Call me an a$$hole, but...

What would I tell someone about having a child later in life?

Well, for starters here is what I would NOT tell them:

It'll be the best thing that ever happened to you.

This assumes that everyone wants to, and needs to, and should be a parent. This gives you nowhere to put all of the incredible things you have done. This says, "You HAVE to feel this way or you are a total asshole." What if parenthood destroys your marriage? What if you are unable to deal with the child's needs- financial, emotional, educational, social, and on and on...

It may be that becoming a parent will be a truly wonderful, fulfilling experience, and a highlight of your life. However, let's leave words like "best" out of it. Please don't ask me to line up everything I have done in the last half-century and place my son somewhere on that scale. It's just not a fair question. Studies have shown that people with children usually place their children at the top of the list of their sources of happiness. It also shows that those people are less happy than those without children. I don't always place a great deal of weight on studies, but here is my bottom line:

I love my son to the end of the earth and back, but I would never dare to tell you what sort of an experience you will have, or should have.

And the there is:

You're gonna just LOVE it.

Well, you may and you may not. There are days that are amazing, and days that threaten to break me. I don't think that's age-related; it's just a part of parenting. If anything, I appreciate having more background and history to draw upon to get through those rough days, and to give perspective to those times of magic. I am glad that I spent time in the mountains with a friend who made such a strong point about my four favorite words (thanks to him), "This too shall pass."

And of course, 

Enjoy these moments; they grow up so fast.

Those words are true, but you don't need to hear them from me. You've already been told by every single person walking the face of the earth who ever had a child. If you're not living in these moments, no amount of cajoling from friends, family, or strangers will snap you back to the present. You'll just wake up with strange whiskers in the sink (or bathtub), laundry odors you don't want to identify, and a cell-phone plan that rivals your mortgage. Remember, everyone (but me) warned you...

But then there is this;

By waiting to have a child, you will see that child become able to outrun you much sooner, but you'll be wise enough to sit still. They'll be back. 

You'll become friends, if you are so inclined, with younger people. For me, this has always been a key to staying young. People my age rarely share my interests. Younger people, especially younger parents, help me to connect with the world that my son will see. They help me feel younger, to be younger than my years.

Your years with your child will be fewer, but more precious if you choose to make them so. There is an urgency to make the most of the time available. The challenge is to not become overbearing, not to have a need-to-be-needed that overwhelms and creates a push-back.

It will be a challenge to prepare your child for life without you, to promote independence, perhaps at the expense of your own desire for closeness and connection. My goal is to just be a person my son would like to be with. Given a 50-year age difference, that won't always work. Even now, it's obvious he loves being with me, but not all day- every day. We both need a break, as almost any relationship does. 

Finally, this:

Becoming a parent can make you a better person, if you're willing to put in the work. I find myself working on my temper, my conflict resolution skills, my communication, my health and activity level. I seek creative self-development. I make time for myself, I try to follow through on my words and my plans. 

I want to be the person Jay would like to become. It's the greatest gift my parents gave to me. If I am strong enough to pass that on, it'll be the greatest gift I can give to Jay.


  1. My father was 50 when I was born. My parents were Italian immigrants. I had sisters 16, 18, and 20. My father was a tailor and had a workshop at home [besides his full-time job in the garment industry] and men would come over to have suits and coats made or altered. My mother was deaf and never worked outside the home but was a seamstress, superb cook, grew vegetables, had a flower garden. They were from an era that had amazing family gatherings, meals. I had adult cousins who took me to plays, ballet, cultural events, dance classes. I had the best of both worlds as my parents did not seek that out. They had incredible work ethics. While all my friends had younger parents, I never was left out of any experience or adventure with so much extended family involved. I can remember people asking my Dad - "Was she an accident"? [in front of me] and bless his heart say "No, she is a gift of my old age".

  2. Wow. What a beautiful story; thanks so much for sharing. It sounds very fulfilling. We struggle with whether to have a sibling for Jay; I think we will make the most of our community and extended family. I hope he never feels he is alone in the world.