This isn’t the first time I’ve written about fatherdom, and I’m certain it won’t be my last, because parenthood is much like an Indiana Jones adventure only with way less Nazi face-melting and lots more poop.
My own trip down the Parent Expressway started when I was the ripe old age of 16. My youngest was born when I was 24, which is younger than (most) parents starting this journey. And while it would be easy to delve in to the struggles of youthful parenting, what I’ve found interesting is how having kids early brings some unexpected surprises when you get older. Namely …
6) You’ll Probably Hit Your Midlife Crisis Early
We all know the trope – adult hits a certain age, looks back on what they might have missed out on and then overcompensates in ridiculous ways, like with a new, age-inappropriate wardrobe or a sports car or trying to bang your daughter’s friends. It’s so ingrained in our culture that everyone pretty much expects it to happen.
The reason for that is because it probably will (but hopefully in a not-teenage-boning way), and especially if you take on the enormous responsibility of parenting early in your life. Days that could have been spent partying your face off and drunkenly shitting in your friend’s sink are replaced with late night bottle feedings and cleaning your own kids’ shit out of your own sink.
Inevitably, you wonder what could have been. Now before you think anything in terms of regret, that’s not where I’m going. As I’ve said before, and will until eternity, I will literally burn down the planet to protect my children because they are the most important things in my universe. That’s not even a question. But feeling like you could have done something more, even if it’s something non-selfish like going to college and establishing an awesome career to give your kids what they deserve, is very real.
And while I do feel precisely that, my reaction wasn’t as grown-up. I joined a punk band at the age of 29 with a couple of 18-year-olds and started partying like a college kid when my children were at their mom’s every other weekend. I was going to reclaim my youth, dammit! You can’t hold me back, life and responsibility, you oppressive fuckwagons.
That lifestyle yielded some varying results, not all of them great. But I did find my love for music and made some great friends. Additionally, however, I discovered …
5) You Might Date Someone Closer to Your Kids’ Age
Trying like some annoying shitbasket to be younger than you are is pretty much the epitome of patheticness. Patheticville? There’s probably a really funny made-up word there that I’m missing the boat on.
The point is, what often happens is that, well, you just hang out with younger people. That’s what I did. The aforementioned (and shitty) punk band that I joined meant I socialized mostly with folks not exactly close to me in age. My best friend for some time was an early college student, who I knew through the band, and on spare weekends she dragged her roommates to my house to play Guitar Hero and Rock Band and what-the-fuck-ever.
This consistent exposure to a younger crowd sometimes leads to you dating those very same younger people, or friends of those people. And while I have dated women older than me, I’ve mostly dated women on the opposite end – sometimes closer to my kids’ age than mine. When I was 35 I dated someone who was 25, meaning she was 10 years younger than I and 6 years older than my oldest. Oh, and equally distant from my daughter. She asked me if that bothered me, more than once. Did it? To her, apparently, yes.
Even now, my girlfriend is precisely the same number of years away from me as she is to my oldest. It’s a thing, I suppose. But even if you don’t feel that age is just a number, there’s always …
4) People Make Stupid Assumptions About Your Age
I once was in a supermarket, buying groceries, and I put some beer up on the conveyor belt thing. Then, a non-melodic voice piped up:
“I’m going to need to see her ID, too.”
She was referring to my daughter, who was 15 at the time. I literally had to flash my ID showing I was 35 and explain that this girl was my offspring, not someone I was trying to buy booze for. My tattoo artist, upon meeting me and my oldest for the first time, thought my son was my “buddy” who just came along for the ride. Even a cashier at a second-hand clothing store asked my youngest how shopping was going with “his brother” on his day off.
That pissed him off, I think, which is hilarious.
Sometimes I think I should’ve gone on a world tour with my kids, frequenting carnivals and duping those age-guessing guys. “How old do you think I am, standing here with my kids, dickwhistle?” Man, I would have cleaned house. So long as I wouldn’t have succumbed to the weight-guessing thing.
But that’s cool. Not everyone needs to know your age. Right, guys?
This closeness in age, though, does bring some benefits. Specifically …
3) Sharing Hobbies Is Much Easier
I’m confident I’m not the only one to play video games with my kids. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one to get my shit ruined by my kids who are way better at that crap than I am. Watching the replay of my youngest jump-head-shot me with a sniper rifle over a car in Nuketown is infuriating. What an asshole.
But still, having those same interests is pretty fucking cool. I actually like Black Ops, and Dragon Ball Z and Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat and fuck yes.
We even sometimes dig on the same music. AWOLNATION is a good one, and The White Stripes another. We could even sometimes agree on Imagine Dragons. Sure, I’d occasionally like to throw on The Doors or Son House or Frank Zappa, but we had some commonality.
Anime, The Office … there is no shortage of things we enjoy together. Hell, we’re all about tattoos now. We’re a goddamn tattoo family!
Long story short, I have a bit more in common with my kids than most probably do. That’s not to say that the majority of parents don’t share interests with their kids – that’s inevitable and completely natural. But there’s something cool about your children trying to share what they think is a cutting-edge meme with you and then informing them that you’ve been making fun of that tired fucking thing for a couple of months.
Despite their cultural handicaps, they’re super cool and we have a lot of fun sharing in those experiences. What’s also pretty neat is that …
2) Grandparents Can Be Way More Involved
I told my mom she was going to be a grandma when she was 36 years old. This produced two results, the first being solely my presumption, the second being flat-out nature:
“What in the goddamn shitfucks were you thinking, or not thinking? Is this real? Have you never heard of condoms, dumbass?”
“Wow, grandma time! Finally, kids I can enjoy and not be responsible for!”
The latter is a common feeling amongst grandparents. Spoil the kids, give them what they want like loud, annoying toys and Red Bull then ship those little bastards back home to Mom and Dad. Shit yes. It’s pretty close to being the Cool Uncle, but you don’t get to feed them beer and show them porn.
When they’re younger, though, grandparenting is simply easier. Attending every single sporting event or Christmas music program or “Your sculpture looks like an alien ballsack but good job because I love you” art event is hard. Probably harder than R. Kelly at a high school prom. But it’s easier when you’re in your 40s than it is in your 60s.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean anything about want or desire. It’s just, like, nature, or something. Reality says that the younger you are the more active you can be. It’s not that you can’t drive to a soccer game. It’s just … fuck, you’re older. It’s okay. Nobody expects you to attend every single thing.
Younger grandparents mean more active grandparents. Maybe yours are, in fact, older and superheroes and make it to everything. Good for you. But typically, age is directly proportional to attendance. My mom has been freaking Super Grandma, not making occasional, obligatory appearances, but being at so much of my kids’ stuff that sometimes people think she’s their mom.
Jesus, that whole age assumption thing comes back and bites us in the ass. And it’s super fucking weird.
Still, it’s great, because my children have the benefit of someone they adore being super-involved in their lives. In activities they care about. A supportive family member who gives a shit about what they’re doing.
At the end of the day, though, something creeps into your mind, something you feel kind of guilty about. But it’s there, and it’s not something that should bring guilt. It’s how things should work. It’s exactly what you’ve worked toward and are on the verge of achieving. Your kids are on their way to becoming successful adults. And as you reach that milestone, you realize …
1) You’re Going to be an Empty Nester Early
I love my kids. I have three, two of them are out on their own now and one is still at home finishing high school. They are the greatest humans I have ever known, I hope because I’m partially responsible for that while acknowledging that my opinion is biased and fuck you because they’re the best.
As I think about my youngest venturing out on his own, though, I’m now having to ponder what my life looks like, being an early-40-something empty nester. Holy shit. Early 40s? What the fuck am I going to do? More than half of my life has been spent caring for these no-longer little people. What comes next?
I’d say a world tour with my current band and occasional drug-fueled orgies with supermodels, but my band’s not that good and my girlfriend might frown upon the latter. It’s still a mindfuck, though, as any parent who gets a night away from their kids might tell you. “Shit, they’re out of the house. What do I do now?” A conundrum, to be sure.
Right now, I’m not sure what I’ll actually do. Maybe I’ll start writing a book, or an album, or take up wrestling alligators while wearing a tutu. Because man, I look good in a tutu and I think there’s a YouTube market for that kind of shit. Even if it is for perverts.
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