Fatherhood at 50: Don't Forget Your HelmetJohn Flynn
Im part of the generation that waited to get married til later in life, and, in turn, delayed having children til after 40. It’s not an uncommon thing in our culture: There are many parents, dads in particular, who can relate to my having a first child at 41 and a second child at 44. The interesting thing, however, is that as our children grow just a little — fast forward 10 years — we’re in our 50s and our kids are sometimes expecting us to act like we did when we were in our physical prime. The reality is, this dad’s already receiving offers to join AARP.
Still, being an older parent has its advantages: I’m a lot smarter now than I was in my 20s and 30s; I have a good, steady job that I love; and with age comes a certain level of maturity and wisdom that my youth never realized.
But then there are the potential limitations of fatherhood at an older age.
My 9-year-old daughter, Rosie, is extremely active and demands a lot of me. When I say “extremely active,” I don’t mean she’s active having tea parties or playing with dolls: she bounds, leaps, guts fish, plays hoops, and is wholeheartedly exuberant about extreme sports. Rosie doesn’t want to hear me impart my “wisdom”; she wants me to DO stuff, so this 54-year-old dad tries to keep up. I skateboard, bike ride, build treehouses, and, when she’s not looking, I try to catch my breath.
Her most recent passion is dirt bikes. You heard me right: motocross-style dirt bike riding.
I’m actually an experienced motorcycle rider. Back in the day, I could hold my own with anyone on a motorcycle. The catch is, the era in my life I’m referring to was 35 years ago. (gulp.) So, while I know how to ride a motorcycle, I could almost hear my tired bones asking me, “Are you crazy?” Of course I don’t want to admit that I’m on the verge of being too old to ride motocross, but I’m her dad: dads do stuff with their kids.
So, this past Labor Day weekend, my daughter and I, and two good friends, took a dirt bike riding class in the desert near Temecula, California. We rented all the gear: the motorcycle, pads, helmets, and Power Ranger-like bodysuits (I looked awesome).
The night before our trip, Rosie was so excited she couldn’t sleep. When I woke her at 5:00 in the morning, she popped out of bed like it was Christmas. She couldn’t wait to get started, and after drinking my Metamucil (okay, I’m joking), I was pumped, too.
We arrived at the training center, suited up, and, before I knew it, Rosie was disappearing over the crest of a hill, riding like she was born to do it. I’d like to take some credit for it, but it was all her. Talk about being proud: I thought I would bust.
Meanwhile, back at the senior center, I have some good news and some bad news:
Good News: I didn’t forget how to ride a motorcycle. It was, as they say, just like riding a bicycle.
Bad News: I was so sore, I felt like Wile E. Coyote after Roadrunner chased him off a cliff.
Good News: Rosie and I had the time of our lives. I wouldn’t trade that time with her for anything.
Bad News: Did I mention I was a little sore?
Good News: I still looked awesome.