Lessons We Can Learn from our 'Older' Parents


Photo Credit: Omega Photography 
                             
I was born when my father was 39. While that’s practically adolescent by today’s standards, back in 1985 I was one of the few kids on the block with a verging-on-middle-aged dad.
I remember being at a park with my parents as a kid and having someone ask me if my dad was my granddad. I was mortified that they could possibly mistake the handsome salt and pepper haired man that I was with for my gramps.  While I like to think that the honest mix-up had more to do with how baby-faced my mother was, she’s 13 years my dad’s junior, it taught me very early on to be protective of my dad.  
Fast-forward 29 years and dad’s now on the cusp of turning 70, while I’m quite anticlimactically inching towards the big 3-0.  Over the years we’ve celebrated most of our biggest age milestones together, 10 and 50, 20 and 60 and so on.
As the possibility of starting my own family becomes more of a reality, I’ve thought a lot about how being raised by a forty-something is more and more the norm these days, especially amongst young professionals.  
In many ways, I think ‘older’ parents are often more emotionally and financially ready to take on the task of raising kids, although there are plenty of exceptions, good and bad, on either end of the age spectrum.
Being raised by a slightly ‘older’ parent has taught me some valuable lessons over the years, some of which are worth sharing:

Lesson #1- Health Matters
Whether it’s bi-weekly trips to the tennis club or taking the dog for a long walk, dad’s always kept active.  At 69, he divides his time between golf rounds, yard work and pool maintenance.  While he’s not out running marathons, all the little things he’s done to keep fit over the years add up.  
He’s taught me firsthand that if you incorporate moderate exercise into your day and avoid things like smoking, you can really contribute to the quality of your life.
Lesson #2- Life is Not a Rat Race
Dad immigrated to Canada from Egypt when he was in his early 30's.  Despite having an engineering degree he started off his working life by loading textbooks onto a truck.  He finished his master’s degree at night school and finally landed a job in his field.  All of this took time and patience and I imagine more than a little faith that it’ll all work out in the end.  Yes, both the times and economy were different back then but he still had to work his b--- off.
Whenever I get down on myself for being almost 30 and not having all of my ducks in a row, I remind myself that we all come into our own at different stages in life and that's okay.
Lesson #3- You Have To Enjoy the Small Things
People always throw the ‘small things’ cliché around, but it’s one thing to say it and quite another to live it.
Whenever I call home, dad runs through a detailed list of what each one of our family pets is doing at the moment, or he will comment on the intricate details of what he and my mother are up to that day (usually a morning coffee, followed by a few rounds of tennis and maybe a trip to the market). 
My dad is a cancer survivor who knows firsthand that tomorrow holds no guarantees.  But instead of letting that paralyze him with fear he finds quiet beauty in his routine and truly enjoys the simple details in life. 
Lesson #4-Family Is Key
My dad has always been there for his immediate and extended family.  He’s helped family members get back on their feet and even came out of retirement to help put me through grad school.  He does all of these things with no expectation of return.  Instead of giving handouts, he gives hand ups.
Through his example, I’ve come to realize that a loving and supportive family (no matter what baggage comes attached) is an invaluable gift that needs to be tended to. 
Lesson #5-You Can Keep Your Youthful Spark Forever
My dad has a black and white photograph of his parents, siblings and himself framed on his dresser. They are at a beach in Alexandria.   In the photo he is the youngest, a little runt of a boy in swimming trunks with a big smile. I see that same smile reappear often- when he is telling jokes to friends, when he is sitting across the table enjoying a meal, when his favourite hockey team scores a goal! 
In his life, humour is the fountain of youth and it’s a public fountain that cost nothing and can nourish everyone.
Happy Birthday Dad!