(This is the Tantrum, in which Dadwagon’s writers debate one question over the course of a week. For previous Tantrums, click here.)
I feel old. That’s the long and short of it. Ever since Sasha came into my life, three and a half years ago, I’ve felt creaky and tired, increasingly inflexible in both body and mind. I am cranky and irritable. I’m curmudgeonly. I fart more. I am embarrassing. I am old.
Of course, I’m not really all that old. In two months, I’ll turn 38, which is neither particularly old nor particularly young (though I’m older than my parents were at this stage of child-having). I have friends who started earlier, and friends who started much later: One of Sasha’s preschool classmates has a dad who’s probably a dozen years my elder. And while he seems spry, I can’t quite imagine myself doing what he’s doing. As it is, I’m already looking ahead to landmarks in Sasha’s life—high-school graduation, college graduation, marriage, kids—and trying to calculate my age: 53, 57, 60-something, 70-something?!?
Mostly, it’s not a physical thing. I’m in good shape, and relatively energetic, and barring surprise injury or sickness I’ll stay that way for a couple more decades. It’s just the creeping inevitability of death that gets me. That is, I like Sasha (and presumably will also feel kindly toward her coming baby sister), and I want to be around for as much of her life as possible. Every year that I delayed having kids is a year I didn’t get to see them grow up, and that knowledge is like a knife in my guts: What will I miss? How will I be unable to help? Without me around, who will teach the kids (and grandkids) to mix cocktails?
Not that I could’ve started any earlier. From age 29 to 34, I was peripatetic to a fault, and before that unhappy and unstable (financially) enough that fatherhood would’ve been a miserable hardship. Could I have done it? Yes, probably. Although I am (I hope) a different person than I was a decade ago, I don’t think my fundamental approach to life and parenting have changed significantly. Sasha could be hitting 13 this year, and I’m reasonably sure I’d have done just as bad a job bringing her up as I’m doing right now. If there’s one thing that you take away from DadWagon, it’s this: we all suck. Also, Bill Murray was right in Meatballs:
Anyway, to get back to the fundamental issues of this Tantrum, are older dads OK? Yeah, but they won’t be around long, so be nice to them. And should younger men be allowed to breed? Sure, as long as we’re not talking about my colleague Theodore—that dude would’ve been a terrible dad if he’d started in his twenties, when he was a selfish prick. As it is, he’s graduated to being merely ridiculous, which is about the best any of us can hope for.