As an older parent of younger children – I’m 50 and my daughters are 10 (the twins) and 9 – I find myself feeling more like grandpa at school activities or when meeting their friends’ parents.
In fact, once or twice, my daughters have been asked if I was their grandfather.
The challenges are unique and real. I mean, the other day, someone said something about the girls singing a Dua Lipa song. I’m not even sure what a Dua Lipa is.
If you are an older parent, you know the challenge. But if you rise to the challenges, the benefits of being an older parent are very real.
Still, here are some tips that will help you smooth the way.
This is becoming more important for me.
My kids are active with a capital A. A complete bundle of energy. As an older parent, if I’m going to keep up, I must be in reasonable shape, must eat right, and take care of myself.
The simple fact is it can get exhausting. I think all parents encounter exhaustion, but for me, being 50, it sure seems to hit sooner than a 30-year-old parent.
Either way, my health is important to my children.
And there’s this. Mortality. As I age, and health issues crop up, it becomes more and more important to focus on my health so I can be here for my baby girls for years to come.
I freely admit that I can get set in my ways. I’m 50. I’m divorced. I lived alone for a very long time before my marriage.
It is easy to want to do things my own way, in my own comfort level.
However, being successful as an older parent requires me to be flexible. Recently we took a vacation to a theme park. I enjoy theme parks well enough but they aren’t really my cup of tea. But it was for the girls, and my flexibility ensured a lifetime of memories for them, and the joy of seeing a lot of smiles for me.
Bring your experience to the table
My daughters and I discuss all sorts of things. And I’m not knocking younger parents, but I can leverage, at 50, a huge wealth of experience.
I’m a judo black belt, Coast Guard veteran, worked in journalism for more than 20 years, am now a teacher who is also back in college. The list goes on. Lots of successes and lots of failures that make me who I am today.
The point is, I can use my vast experience as an older experience to create relevance and unique/interesting insights for my children.
When Cameron Boyce, the young and popular Disney actor, was found dead at age 20, one of my daughters felt really silly for being so upset over an actor. Someone she didn’t know.
I was able to use my experience of the death of author Ed McBain and the great David Bowie, and my memories of what happened with Elvis and John Lennon died, to create relevance and comfort, and to let her know it is ok to be upset that a favorite actor had passed away.
Don’t act your age
My girls are at that age where they are starting to straddle the line between childhood and young ladyhood. They want to go to Build a Bear and shop at Justice. They want to watch Nickelodeon and the movie IT (ummm…no). They want to play on a playground and sit at the adult table.
If I go to the playground down the street and start climbing on the play equipment, at best I’ll get strange looks. At worst, people will hide their kids and call the cops.
However, if I go with my daughters, nobody thinks twice about me going down the slide, pushing the merry-go-round, or playing hide-n-seek. Its the difference between being a weirdo and a good dad.
Discuss mortality but reassure your kids
As an older parent, I think the idea of my end is a little more prominent in my kid’s mind. The simple fact is a child born to a 24-year-old will likely have his or her parents around far longer than a child who entered a parent’s life at 40 or 45.
They know this.
It is important to reassure your child. Love your child. Make sure they know you’ll be around as long as possible and your love for them will never, ever, waiver.