What Old Dad Can Offer

Lee Siegel on being the father of young kids while in his 50s:

[I]t isn’t too difficult to squelch the regret that I didn’t have children at a younger age. If I had, I wouldn’t be experiencing the joy of these two particular precious darlings. I wouldn’t have known a little more about life, as I do now, or had the same ironic distance from myself that the years have brought me. Blissfully, I experience no yuppie torments about the duties and sacrifices of parenthood. On the contrary. I’m grateful to my children for helping me grow out of my own childish narcissism.

This mostly rings true as the dad of two wee ones at the age of 36. I was far too stupid in my early 20s to have been responsible for children, and while I’m no dad of the century now, I’m far more able to keep things in relative perspective, and to see things from a useful distance at this age. I’m a little wiser than I might have been, though the bar is low.

But being in my 30s, both my wife and I are still subject to the “yuppie torments,” the endless comparison of our own parenting to others’ — especially since so many within our cohort have reproduced at roughly the same time. It’s pointless baggage, it never helps us parent any better, but we’re still vulnerable to it. Thanks, Facebook!

More Siegel:

The plan is to make myself so present in their thoughts and feelings that my immortality will be guaranteed—life cycles be damned.

I have no illusions of immortality of any kind through my kids, but this is my goal nonetheless; to be their absolute safe place, their lives’ olly olly oxen free, the person from whom they will always draw strength and love. If I do it right, it will still be so when I’m gone.

(Here is a drawing I just did about how I feel about my amazing boy as he outgrows me and everything else. The girl amazes me must the same, but she’s a baby to me, and therefore not yet outgrowing me for now…for now!)

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