As we have recently discovered that we are expecting our fifth child in October (our 11th in total, this being a second marriage for both of us). It seems to me a suitable time to post some reflections and thoughts on being a mature aged dad. Being a mature aged dad (M.A.D.) is relatively new to me but being a dad is not. My oldest son Xavier is almost 29 and came to me when I was 32, Callum is 24, Dominic 22 and Maggie is almost 21. Liadhan has two daughters- Anastasia is 20 and Emilie is 16 .
I am now 61.
So, since my early 30’s I have not really known life without there being children about the place. Even now the older ones feature significantly in our lives.
So when this new one comes along my mathematics tell me that by the time he or she comes of age, 18 these days, I will be 80 (if I am spared my three score years and ten + some).
How do I feel about that now?
Well, I have been blessed with good health thus far in my life and I feel youthful enough on that level. I put in a good days physical work, I don’t really have any aches and pains and I have started yoga lessons to try to ensure that I don’t seize up. Liadhan keeps me well fed on healthy food.
I can still throw the little children about in the air and make them squeal with delight. I can chase them about, we can go for walks and I can lift them out of their bunk beds at night to take them to the toilet. While they are young and needful of these things I am sure I will be able to undertake, and find pleasure in all these, and other fatherly roles. I love having them around, they make me smile inside.
I still enjoy creating a pleasant childhood for these more recent offspring just as I did for my older children. The little ones love to hear the same stories of when I was young and what life was like then (it was very different 60 years ago). I like to make them interesting play spaces and ensure that their world has a magical thread running through it, whether that be an opportunity to sleep out under the stars, sit around a campfire and hear songs and stories, fly high up into the sky on a homemade swing or balance along a long plank.
As I am now pretty well retired and working a small holding, I love the way that these little ones are able to move seamlessly in and out of my adult world. They will come and watch me digging or weeding in the garden and will join me for a while using their own little tools, or I will be fixing something in the shed and they will come and ‘help’, chattering away as they do. I am home all day so they are at liberty to join in any time and then flee back to their own world when they have had enough.
This seamlessness was not so much a feature of my being a father to my older children, they had all that these little ones had, but dad in those days went out to work all day.
I am naturally an affectionate person and continue to be so with all our children, I love to hug them and snuggle up close to them, I like to chat about what they have been up to whether that be a day working the legal profession, a budding business plan or the latest collection of bugs critters or inanimate objects from the garden carefully stashed in a cardboard box!
So being a dad of young children at 61 has many similarities to being a dad in my 30’s except now I have more time around them because I don’t have to work 9 to 5.
There are differences though, as you would expect. Some are physiological and some are mental. I might throw them in the air and chase them around but I don’t do it as much as I did when I was a young dad, it takes a bit more effort mentally to engage with them on that level. These days I like to spend more time on my own projects and am happy for the children to come and watch or participate for a time. But there is a part of me that really looks forward to having an undisturbed time of focussed labour at whatever I am doing, and, at times I find I resent their intrusion.
I think I am, to some degree, less patient and can be a bit of a grump. I enter into their world less than I did as a younger dad. It may be that I observe less of the intricacies of their childish play and do not involve myself in it as I once did. In some ways this is contradictory in that I have more time to engage with them because I am at home, yet I am busier now with ‘my work’ than I was as a 9 to 5’r.
I can only speculate as to why this would be so. As a mature aged dad I feel much more mortal, time has a more finite tinge to it, I can see the end of the future. Most people at my age would be considering what they might soon be able to do to indulge themselves in their latter years, to pursue those pastimes that they sacrificed in their younger years in order to raise children. I think that there is some inner body clock that causes me to be torn between the two. To pursue things that I want to do and yet, at the same time, to be everything to these younger ones that I was to the older ones when they were little.
I cannot escape the fact that it cannot be like it was as a young dad.
The age gap between me and my younger children is significant and leads me to consider some things that a young dad doesn’t have to.
My body is older and will get older and frailer, though that may not mean I will be unhealthy. When I hit seventy I will still have children of 8, 10, 12, 14 and 15. This, I have no doubt, will limit at least some of the things I will be able to do with them. This can be a sobering thought some days!
My mind and my intellect has matured, I suspect it is not as supple as in days past though I hope it will be more seasoned. Nonetheless, to a considerable degree, it is much more formed than that of Miriam, Hannah, Esther, Eva and junior. My thought processes are inexorably approaching their nadir, theirs are rushing towards their zenith. My experience in life and the impact it has had on my thinking is so much greater than theirs. This is not necessarily a negative. From this experience may well come wiser decisions, particularly where those might influence their futures, and a greater degree of acceptance of who they are and what they become.
There is a gap in history between the little ones and I that currently spans over half a century. I wonder about this. Will I seem like grandfather to them or father?.
Sometimes, quite naturally, I think about the consequences of me dying when the littlies are of a tender age, or of being incapacitated in some way. But then, events of all kinds, happy and sad, joyous and tragic, shape who we are in both positive and negative ways. Understandably I also consider the fact that children can bring to their parents both grief and sorrow as well as joy and happiness. What grief and sorrow may come to to me in my 80’s is a thought that has sometimes drifted into my mind?
How will I handle their increasing youth and vigour and my own waning strength? Now I draw energy from their energy, vitality from their vitality and a childish outlook on life from their childishness. How long will that continue?
All that said, all that I have reflected upon, if but briefly, does not dominate my thinking day to day. I go about life as if I am in my 30’s, ignoring the limitations of being 60+ and thanking God that I can do strenuous work, still kick a football about, have new and creative opportunities to express myself, have outrageous plans for an adventurous future with Liadhan and the children, have a good and warm and loving relationship with all 10 of our children and have a personal relationship with God who loves me and cares for me.
The fears and anxieties about age are but fleeting ones, subject to my own moods which sometimes, but not often, can be of a pessimistic hue. I have never thought of myself as ‘retiring’ in the accepted way that that term is used. Endless rounds of golf seem like a death sentence to me, I don’t have the discipline or focus necessary to pursue a hobby and I never settled into a career path that opened doors to some extra curricula activity upon retirement. It would seem that the only thing I really know how to do is to be a dad! So…I can learn something from my reflections that will help me be a better MAD dad.
In conclusion….No regrets at all. I love them all and would not have it any other way! Yet it was said by some wise person that discretion is the better part of valour, all good things must come to an end- junior will be the rearguard, the last jewel in the crown….
‘As thy days so shall thy strength be’ Deuteronomy 33:25