An Open Letter to George Clooney: Parenting advice from one older dad to another

With long-time bachelor George Clooney married and expecting his first kids at age 56, one older dad shares his own experience of becoming a father.

dad with two daughters on stoop

Photo: Gordon Graham

Dear George,

We’ve never met, but we have a lot in common. We both have grey running through our dark hair. We were both married once before we hit the jackpot with our current partners. And we both found ourselves preparing to be first-time dads at age 56.

Now I have two daughters, ages 6 and 3, and you will soon have your twins. So allow me to share a few reflections on getting into the parenting game as an older dad.

Yes, we’re old enough to be their grandfathers.

This came home to me—again—the other day when the girls and I were tracing around our hands with colour markers.

“Let’s write down our names and ages,” suggested my older daughter. She proudly penned, “Cassidy 6.” When I wrote “Gordon 62” I felt a weird jolt of pride and shame, joy and regret.

 The reality is, George, by the time our kids are out of college, we will be pushing (gulp) 80 years old.

We may never see our grandchildren.

We may not even be here for our children’s weddings.

But you know, I’ve come to this conclusion:

There is little point in thinking so far ahead.

After all…

Our kids don’t care.

Last night I asked my 6-year-old what she thinks about the fact I’m older than most dads. Much older, say, than her best friend Eva’s father.

“Well, actually,” she said solemnly, “Eva gets tons of pop tabs.”

“Huh?”

I got a look that told me I was totally missing the point.

It turns out Eva’s dad works at the town arena, so Cassidy suspects she gets the tab from every can of pop they sell. This clearly gives Eva an unfair advantage in the race to bring the most pop tabs into class to compete for the school’s Golden Dustbin Award.

“Dad, you should drink more beer,” Cassidy advised me. “But the kind that comes in cans, not bottles.”

I guess I could do that. Anyway, this conversation confirms that my age is far from the biggest issue in her world.

The important thing is that we play with them.

As older Dads, we know ourselves better. We have 20 or 30 years more experience to draw from. And we know what matters in life, like playing.

I can build a giant rocket with Crazy Forts and name all the pups in PAW Patrol. I’m not bad at drawing unicorns. I have some good moves for “Shake It Off” and I can do a heartfelt rendition of “Let It Go.”

Sure, after I play Go Fish down on the floor, it takes me a minute to stand up straight again. But I’ve seen 30-year-olds with stiff knees, so…

Play with your kids, George, and they won’t care how old you are.

Kids keep our priorities straight.

In the old days, I never stopped working. These days, even though I’m a writer, I keep banker’s hours. My workday starts at 9:30, after I walk the kids to school, and ends at 3:30 when it’s time to pick them up. Any more hours at my desk have to be negotiated with my wife.

But I’m fine with that, most days.

Knowing that my time is limited helps me set my priorities. These days I still get the important stuff done, and this new efficient me is actually making more money than before the kids arrived.

But for the next 15 or 20 years, George, we have something else to attend to beyond our careers. Something more fascinating than the best movie or book project ever: seeing our own kids learn and grow.

Nothing beats that.

The more work we do, the more we enjoy the rewards.

Lots of our peers are already grandfathers. They get to indulge their grandkids, and then hand them back for all the messy and exhausting chores like feeding, changing, bathing, and settling them down to sleep.

George, you have the resources to pay someone to do all that. But if you go with a team of nannies, you might never experience the hard-won joy of making it through a particularly trying bedtime. Like the one I had just last week.

Our 3-year-old Lily had run through her full repertoire of delaying tactics: wanting a drink, missing her favorite stuffed animal, going to the potty, fussing with her covers, even claiming to feel sad because “no one wants to be my friend.”

After more than an hour, she held up her warm little arms to me for a “huggie.” And when I leaned down, she whispered, “You’re the best daddy in the whole world.”

George, I think starting the parenting game at our age gives us the home-field advantage. We’re more familiar with the world and more comfortable in our own skins. We know the stakes, and we’re playing for keeps.

I know I’m a great dad. I’ve been told that. And George, I’m sure you will be, too.

Read more:
5 lessons for new parents
#ThisIsMyLife: Life before and after kids
Why advanced maternal age could make you a better mom

 

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