The Big 5-0: How Being A Late Bloomer Helped Me Be A Better Father

Mike Wedmann celebrates a significant birthday and looks back at his lifelong penchant for hitting milestones at a more leisurely pace than his peers.

One of my favourite comedians, Jim Gaffigan, wrote a book titled 'Daddy Is Fat'. Today I am wondering if I wrote a book, would it be called 'Daddy is Old'? This crazy talk comes as my 50th birthday rapidly approaches and I finally get my two kids (two and eight) to bed. The thing is, I’m ready for bed too…and it’s only 8.30 pm on Monday night. Would I be this tired if I were turning 35? I have to wonder.

I don’t intend this piece to sound like a complaint. It’s not. It’s no accident that I became a dad for the first time at 42, and again 6 years later. But that is not to say I don’t at times wonder how things would have looked if these opportunities came when I was younger. I had a great visit on the weekend with a buddy that was my roommate in University. My son was with me and we all went for a great scenic bike ride around Niagara Falls. We’ve been good friends for 30 years. and I was the MC at his wedding almost 25 years ago. His daughter turned 20 on Sunday. I remember being at the baptism of this child 19 years ago. At the time I wondered how people managed to pull off this family thing, with all the responsibility and challenges. Most of my friends from my University days went on to have kids in the usual way… in their early 30’s.  A dozen years later this same friend was my best man when I finally decided that I might be able to pull off being a husband, and just maybe, a family man. I do admit that I wondered if I had left it too late.

Today, while many of my long-time friends (I don’t want to call them old) are now dealing with university tuitions and car payments for their kids, my commitments are for daycare payments and swimming lessons. While many long-time friends are looking at retirement plans in the not too distant future…I don’t see that anywhere on the radar.  I am heartened when I am at the playground with my kids and another Dad arrives with grey hair and laugh lines.

But the truth of the matter is, I’ve been a late bloomer on many things in my life, so why not in the parenting field? I was a confirmed bachelor in my twenties, too busy, too self-centered, and too immature for a meaningful relationship at that age. Today I’m grateful that I didn’t have kids at that time, I was nowhere near ready to be a dad or a husband. A family at that time would have been a train wreck.

In my 30’s I began to figure out who I was and what I wanted my life to look like, but it took a bit of time to get those pieces to fall into place.   After all, I had to find a partner that would go along with my craziness. And honestly, when I was 35 I thought I had tons of time ahead of me. I had yet to experience that phenomena my parents talked about; how time goes faster the older you get! When I was a kid the summer seemed endless, at 40 it was a long season, and as I approached 50 this summer it seemed like a long weekend! There are still summer activities I want to tackle and it’s October!   

So what does 50 look and feel like for this dad?  Well at the moment I am still able to keep up with my youngsters. While others have been plagued with bad knees and hips, so far I have dodged that bullet and remain in good health. No ailments that the odd Advil won’t fix. Now we hope that scenario continues indefinitely. But strangely, now that I approach 50, my brain has this wonderful habit of creating a little paranoia around relatively harmless ailments. At 40 I was invincible and unstoppable, at 50 a lingering cough from a cold could be lung disease? A sore knee for a day may be chronic arthritis? That indigestion after the 4 slices of pizza could be a heart attack? So far none of the above has transpired. And while I admit those crazy thoughts surface occasionally, I don’t act on them as I know they are not necessarily rational. It is just a new consciousness of my mortality. At 50 we are no longer middle aged…

I wish I could say I was in the best shape of my life, but that is not the case. But on that note, I will say having two young kids is an incentive to try harder. When I was 40 I decided to start cycling again. it started with short rides around the neighbourhood. On my 48th birthday, I did a 48 km ride. On my 49th birthday I did the 60 km Tour de Mississauga, and in the days before my 50th birthday, I even managed an 80km cycle. Like I said, I’ve always been a late bloomer.

My weekends are always action packed. My eight-year-old just graduated to yet another bigger and faster bicycle this weekend. My two-year-old, anxious to compete with her big brother, is now zipping down sidewalks on a tricycle (with Dad running behind). In the days ahead we will need to find her some skates, because if big brother is skating the little one won’t be far behind. Let’s see how my back holds out on the rink teaching another short one how to skate.

Weekdays are busy with the challenge of getting everyone out of the house on time and off to school and daycare and work. Evenings are about getting dinner ready while still having enough time for play and outdoor time if possible. Sometime after that comes laundry, cleaning the pool, and other grown up chores. Throw in some road trips to the family cottage and grandparent visits, and just maybe a date night once in a while.  Yes, it’s a busy life.

So would I have it any other way? The short answer is no. My life is not without its challenges but coming home to the happy shouts of “DADDY DADDY” does a lot to alleviate those tough moments and days. Even today I am not known for boundless patience. But it’s a far cry from the epic short fuse I had in my 20s. I don’t know that I would have had the temperament in my 20s to work with my son on a school project to create a working toy school bus using only parts we could retrieve from our recycling bin.  Even in my 30s, I don’t know if I could have been a Stay at Home Dad for a year, which I did a few short years ago. That was perhaps one of the best years of my life.  So while turning 50 has its negatives, in my experience, I like myself more now than I did 20 years ago. I believe that level of self-confidence and comfort in my own skin makes me a far better father now than I could have been as a younger man.

So perhaps things happened exactly at the right time. And just maybe I’m not as concerned about being a dad at 50 as I am wondering what it will be like when I’m 60?






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