Most of my friends are, like me: upper middle-age, a little extra weight around the mid-section and — at least for the men — balding.
Their Big Life Story involves graduating their last kid through college and thinking about how to re-decorate that now-spare bedroom into a rarely-to-be-used-again den. Good for them.
No, instead of thinking about shifting kids out of college and toward taking on the world, I’m bringing one into the world — fussing with which color bassinet to buy. Yes, you got that right: my bride is pregnant.
Oh, and I’m 52.
Screw the AARP card. I need to fill my wallet with Gerber coupons.
That’s the signature I’m putting on my Fifty-and-Beyond Life Story — a life story that’s about to receive its first pen stroke in early July. And, truth be told, I couldn’t be happier.
It took us a while to get here, this pregnancy thing. But, it was mostly due to my fears: Would I have the energy? Would there be age-related complications with the birth? Would I EVER retire? Would my cane double as a toddler-leash when we went on walks?
But there’s just something to the joy of passing along one’s wisdom yet again. To the hope of a new being entering this crazier-by-the-day world. To anticipating a new set of milestones. And, to the privilege of being there, being present as a witness, guide, spectator, teacher and student to the development of yet another soul.
For us, though, three just seemed like the right number. Some people warned us about the fact that a family of five is an awkward number: too hard to fit into one car, too many bodies to easily get a table at a restaurant, too expensive.
Too … whatever.
But life’s messy, right? In fact, it’s in life’s very messiness that also manifests its rugged beauty. Beauty in the tactile chaos of getting everyone ready to go out of the house. Lots of noise at family gatherings that releases a limbic response of connectedness, of togetherness, of family-ness. Family to share with. To teach. To learn from. To love.
But back to this 50-plus thing.
First, here’s a piece of advice to those of you doing the math right about now. Yes, I know I’ll be 70 or so when this kid graduates high school. No need to remind me of that, as so many already have. Trafficking in that brand of rhetoric is actually insulting, as if having a kid at my age: 1) is a bad thing; 2) is any of your business or 3) gives you the right to have the gall to volley such opinionated, unsolicited and vitriolic verve into one of my life’s greatest joys.
So if you’re thinking about interjecting that brand of unsolicited prattle, think again. After all, I plan on being that cool, distinguished dad, and not some decrepit AARP-cardholding senior looking for a dime discount on my third McDonald’s coffee.
I actually, really enjoy being a father of a certain age. It’s clarifying in purpose and rewarding in its own skin. I also think that older parents just have so much more wisdom and aren’t rattled by life’s inevitable vicissitudes. Oh, and whatever “it” is, older parents have probably already seen it, learned from its mistakes, bought its T-shirt, and can easily pass its wisdom along with a different, more settled perspective than a parent in, say, their late 20s or early 30s.
Yes, younger parents have more energy by virtue of their juvenescence. But I, for one, will not deprive this child of an active, get-on-the-field-and-run-after-the soccer-ball kind of dad.
About four years ago, when my current youngest, Sophie, was newly born (about three months old), my wife, Jacquie, and I attended my 30th class reunion. Oh, and we had the baby with us as Sophie couldn’t be left alone at that point. While my classmates were squawking about their kids graduating high school, I was prattling on about which formula didn’t make my kid spit up. Made for fascinating conversation.
Now, again, if we go to my 35th reunion, those same people will no doubt be crowing about their kids graduating college and guffawing about their new grandchildren. I guess that’s a good thing since we can now all discuss the baby thing again, right? Hell, I can even show them at the reunion the latest board-certified techniques on swaddling their grandchildren by using my newborn as a demo model. So, I guess that’s a benefit. To them.
Although I don’t think I really look much like a Quinquagenarian, I do wonder whether I’ll now and then get yet another classic, unsolicited phrase slung at me, namely: “What a beautiful grandchild you have there.” I think that, when that unwelcomed yet good-intentioned rhetoric comes my way, I’ll just play along — much to the dismay of my bride — responding in cliched, cheeseball fashion with: “Oh, yes, and I love ‘sugaring-them up’ and then handing them back to their mom,” pointing to my younger (and younger-looking) wife and then laughing.
But really, having another kid at 52, for me, is really a writing-my-own-story kind of thing. I know we’re already pretty darn good parents. And, without trying to sound too self-righteous-ey about it, the world’s a better place with a few more Anters moving their sticky little fingers and runny noses around in it. This much is certain: I know we’ll be a better family, at least.
As this adventure awaits, I’m filled with counting my blessings and embracing the privilege of putting my signature on yet another human being — hopefully passing along most of my better proclivities.
I also hope that this new child — boy or girl, we won’t know until baby arrives — will keep me youthful in spirit and in deed while also rewriting our family’s script in so many intrepid ways. Ways I can’t yet begin to imagine. Ways that make us appreciate each other and love God dramatically more than we already do.
Most my age wouldn’t choose this option — wouldn’t even consider it — and that’s okay. But it just feels right for me, for us, and there’s no turning back now: Baby. Three. Is. Coming.
Bring it on, Baby Anter. We’ve got everything you need: a cute little Ikea mini crib, open hearts, the best doggie ever, and two pre-made sissies who are already making gifts for your advent.
Give us your heart, tell us your story and show us your soul. Ours are ready-and-waiting.
— 30 —