As I pushed the stroller down the path, I met a couple coming towards me.
“Oh, what a beautiful baby girl,” said the woman. “You must be so proud of your. . .” and she froze, mid-sentence, looking at my white hair.
“Daughter,” I said.
“Daughter,” she replied, relieved. “You have a lovely daughter.”
There will be more conversations like this in the future.
There are things you expect to happen at certain times in your life. You expect to graduate from college or university in your twenties. To get married in your late 20s or early 30s. To have children soon afterwards.
I did all that. I had my son when I was a little older – at 36 – but more or less at the expected time. What I didn’t expect – because who could? – was becoming a dad again at 52.
It wasn’t a decision my wife and I made lightly. We knew that children of older dads have a higher risk for certain genetic conditions. We knew I was going to be old – really old – when our baby became an adult. And we knew that my friends would crack jokes.
But we also knew that we love each other very much. We knew we’d be supportive and caring parents together. And that being born into two cultures (I’m Dutch, my wife is Tamil) would give our child a unique perspective. And we knew that my son would be an awesome older brother.
Stats & stories
As did some research, I realized it wasn’t just Biblical figures or Hollywood celebrities like George Clooney who had children at an older age. Around the world, the average age of new dads has been rising since 1972. And the number of dads over 50 is climbing as well – though we only make up about 1 percent of all new dads globally.
I learned that becoming a dad later in life also leads to longer life for both the dad and the child. Turns out that being able to father children at a later age shows good health overall, which can be passed on to babies.
I also did some calling around. When baby was on the way, I reached out through Facebook to one of my former colleagues who had a daughter in his 50s. He wrote: “What fun! Take advantage of the fact that you get to grow up all over again. Everything is exciting. You really get to live in a wonderland.” My old boss told me that men who had children later in life said they felt younger and more focused. My cousin’s advice was more practical: “take good care of your knees,” he said.
God’s good time
I remembered that being a new dad at 36 wasn’t easy. I was stressed and anxious. My father died the night my son was born. I had started a new job around that time. I felt as though I didn’t know the first thing about parenting. And I was still paying off student loans, too.
Being a new dad at 52, though, was totally different. I was calm. Peaceful. When the nurse put my daughter in my arms, I felt like an athlete who has just stepped back onto the soccer field after a long time away. Maybe I was a bit creakier, and heavier, but the fundamentals of the game were still there. I felt I could see things I didn’t see when I was younger. I felt like I would anticipate more, and scurry less. I actually felt . . . wiser.
Our daughter – when she arrived after a C-section – was named Anika Kamala Rang. Anika is a girl’s name in both of our cultures. Anika means grace in Dutch and graceful in Sanskrit. Kamala is for my wife’s family name, Kamalavasan, and honours her dad. We’re using both pronunciations of her name – Dutch and Tamil – interchangeably.
I know she’ll probably have to explain to friends that I’m not her grandpa. I know we didn’t choose the easiest path. But I know, looking into my daughter’s smiling face, that it was the right path. Maybe not on my time, but certainly in God’s good time.
And that’s the most important thing.
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