As an older dad, I often find myself "holding court" with younger fathers as they hang on my every word, hoping to gain some wisdom from my years of life experiences. (At 49.5 with two daughters almost 6 and almost 2, I can't protest much about being considered an "older" dad.) To be honest, nothing I learned in my 30s remotely prepared me for parenthood and even older, wiser dads can learn a thing or two once that first kid arrives and practically laughs in our faces (gas perhaps?) at our initial attempts at parenting.
1. There really is more to life than Texas Longhorn football.
In my 20s, 30s and even early 40s, Longhorn football dominated my social calendar. When fall invitations arrived in the mail, I pulled up the schedule to make sure there was no conflict. (The games generally won out.) These days I have been known to miss a game due to music class, lunch with the girls or simply because "Dora the Explorer" is on TV.
2. Older folks don't mind getting up early.
Ever seen a 50-year-old sleep until noon? I rather enjoyed the early-morning feedings and the quality time spent getting to know my infant daughters. (Fortunately, "SportsCenter" comes on at 3 a.m., when that occasional distraction helps makes colic more bearable.)
3. More important, "SpongeBob" comes on at 3 a.m.
"SpongeBob" is actually more entertaining than "SportsCenter" and has no age limit. In fact, I often find myself watching it even when my kids are asleep. Is that a sign of my maturity level (or lack thereof), or am I losing it a bit in old age?
4. Younger parents are far more technologically competent than I am.
If it weren't for my "young" dad friends, I would have virtually no photos and videos of my kids downloaded on my computer, no movies on my iPhone/iPad for my daughters to watch on airplanes and fewer than a dozen Facebook friends. And I certainly would never be "blogging" about family.
5. My 5-year-old is far more technologically competent than I am.
My oldest daughter kicks my behind every time in Temple Run, Doodle Jump and Fruit Ninja. Believe me, I am not letting her win. Even my 21-month-old can make a better-looking plate of cupcakes on the iPad.
6. Our new friends love introducing us to their parents.
On more than one occasion, we have been invited to friends' homes for dinners only to find that their parents would be joining the party. Once a friend's dad even tagged along for a movie. This is not a complaint, as we always enjoy the evenings.
7. Older folks take longer to recover from "minor" aches, pains and hangovers (and kids don't care).
Those strained muscles and sprained ankles from the softball field, jogging track and basketball court used to feel better after a little ice and ibuprofen. A greasy breakfast was a surefire cure for a hangover. Now, time is really the only thing that helps. Unfortunately, most kids' internal alarms go off at about 6 a.m., regardless of how their parents are feeling.
8. I have become the go-to guy for other dads' ailments.
I don't practice medicine or even play a doctor on TV. And yet, at birthday parties, school functions and little league games, I find myself engaged in conversations about ailments that afflict people "my age." Just last week, I was showing a 30-something dad the proper way to stretch his psoas muscle (lower back pain).
9. In my mind, I am the same age as my "new" dad friends (but, sadly, I am not).
They look like me, they act like me, they root for the same teams, they have the same kid issues. But some of my friends were still in diapers when I was leaving for college. In their minds, I am one old dude and the butt of countless jokes about aging. (I think they are jokes.)
10. I laugh when my new friends get depressed about turning 40.
Come see me in ten years. You will still get no sympathy... just a few jokes.
11. My 5-year-old thinks it's cool that I am older than her friends' dads.
I suspect that my daughter's definition of cool will change over time.
12. Payback is hell.
My friends with older kids love getting even by winding up our kids and then departing before the witching hour. I remember those days when I got their kids wild and headed home to the couch for "SportsCenter."
13. Payback is hell (part two).
My mom always complained about my picky eating habits and wished me a child with a similar palate. I have one. In reality, even today, in my 50th year, I eat very few veggies and love joining my kids in a hearty plate of mac and cheese.
14. Little people, little problems. Big people, big problems.
I get stressed out about the slightest runny nose, skinned knee or lost teddy bear. Then I hear my friends with teenage kids worry about drinking, drugs and sex and I calm down.
15. I no longer think my older friends were lame for using the "kids" excuse.
I used to ridicule my buds for missing football games, bringing their kids to Super Bowl parties and failing to get hall passes for a "guys' night out." Now, I can relate. See you next Super Bowl... kids in tow.
16. Old age plus kids means discounts-a-plenty.
Maybe old age does have some benefits. Once that AARP card comes in, I will be able to get twice the discounts at movie theaters and other venues. Then again, the cashier will most likely confuse me for the grandfather.
17. Older parents surely relish their roles, but no more than their younger counterparts.
Some say we have a greater appreciation of parenthood because we waited longer to enter this stage of life. I am not arrogant enough to believe that a 25-year-old first-time dad has any different feelings or that my senses of happiness, pride, concern and unconditional love are any greater than his. (I just throw out my back more often.)
18. Kids keep us young -- or at least young at heart.
I'm always tired. I have constant aches and pains. My kids drive me crazy. And yet I wouldn't trade my daddy role for all the national championships in the world. While some of my friends are becoming empty nesters, I am enjoying life as the "older" dad and can't wait to attend more music classes, serve as coach for sports I've never played, help with homework I don't understand and grow old with my (younger) dad friends.
19. Unfortunately, my late start to daddy-hood cost my kids some valuable relationships.
I wish my daughters would have known their grandfathers other than through photos and the stories we share. I wish they would have had more time with Grandma Libby (my wife's mom) who left us last year. I feel no greater joy than when I see the expressions of utter delight on their faces when they play and interact with Mamaw Brounes, my mom and their last remaining grandparent.
20. Older parents obsess about aging and mortality.
I worry about the future and what it holds for me and my family. Will I be moving into a nursing home around the same time my kids are renting their first apartments? Will I be able to walk my daughters down the aisle? Will I have the strength to play with my grandchildren? Will I even make it to these milestones? Truth be told, I can stress out about the future or I can live in the moment ... because I am the "older" dad, loving (most) every minute and learning new things every day.