My daughter was born a little over a year ago, and much to my surprise most everything that everyone had told me up until that point turned out to be true. It will be fun, it will be hard, being a parent isn’t always easy, when you finally see that sweet little face…, and all those sorts of things.
Sure, I knew that I wanted to grow up, marry, and have a family of my own, but my path was becoming more and more different as the years passed. My wife and I married in my late 30s and we struggled a bit with pregnancy—it was seemingly not going to happen. And I was becoming OK with that.
Then it did!
But what was I to make of becoming a father after 40?
By the time my father was 34 he had three children of his own, and a vast number of changes had taken place since then. I guess you might say I felt a little outdated or even old fashioned. I would find myself thinking about what my childhood was like, and then trying to apply it now.
Sometimes it felt like some sort of odd culture shock. I guess cutting pictures out of an old Sears catalog and gluing them to typing paper to create a Christmas list no longer applied here.
I needed to make a transition.
Even though I had received all those little tidbits of information and pieces of advice, my vision for the future looked a bit different. I was going to be a first-time father after 40, and I didn’t know what that meant.
I would celebrate with other friends and their families—baby showers, weddings, graduations, etc. I would scroll endlessly through social media to find that many high school and college classmates were becoming parents for the third or fourth time, some even becoming grandparents. I somewhat felt as if I would be showing up late to the dinner table.
Through the process of acquiring the toys, the clothes, and all of the other necessities, there was no surprise again that no one had heard of Lincoln Logs or Pick-Up Sticks.
At this point, I wasn’t sure if I was more hesitant about becoming a father at this age, or the fact that things I thought were applicable no longer mattered.
Still, even this far in, I find myself asking people, “Is that a thing?”
What was being a first-time father after 40 going to look like for me? I mean, let’s face it, my mind automatically goes to high school graduation, and how old I will be then. I would be lying if I said the thought of not being there in those pivotal moments for a young adult never crossed my mind.
However, something truly grabs a hold of you as a parent of a small child. You might even say there is something buried deep within all of us—that if we carefully peeled back the years, we would find there is really no specific age needed to inspire a child.
I began to research being a father after 40—how common it was, and if there were any other fathers out there experiencing the same things that I was. There didn’t seem to be any shortage of health issues for men over 40, either.
Much to my surprise, I wasn’t alone.
Actually, becoming a father after the age of 40 was more common than I thought, so I did feel a sigh of relief.
So yes, being a first-time father over the age of 40 is different, but so is being a first-time father in your 20s.
I often think of age as tiers of well-seasoned knowledge, and as long as your children are young, the only thing they will remember is that you simply showed up.
It will be fun, it will be hard, but it will also be worthwhile. I can teach her how to play Pick-Up Sticks, or how when I was young we would use the Dewey Decimal System to locate our books.
You will never be too old to say, “Back in my day,” and you won’t have to “ask for a friend” because you know that being a dad gives you everything that you need no matter what your age is.
Take care of yourself both physically and mentally, and even though sometimes you might find it difficult, make time for yourself!
So embrace this new stage at a different age, be present in the memories, and don’t overlook the teachable moments for yourself or your child. Your child will be their best when you are at yours.