Hello, I’m Jamie Kaler, a 50-year-old man with two children under the age of 2.
Oh, have I got your attention? I can almost hear you muttering, “you poor son of a gun” under your breath. And you’re not wrong. So how did I get here? Fatherhood at fifty! Like Keeping Up with the Kardashians, it’s a witty piece of alliteration that disguises the fact that you’re way too old to be watching whiny, selfish kids get everything they want.
You know that feeling you have right when you start down the hill on a toboggan? It’s really fun until you realize that you have no way of steering. And then it picks up speed and you have that urge to bail out, but you don’t. Then it’s going too fast and you no longer have the option to bail, so you hang on for dear life and hope for the best.
That’s how I feel every day. All day.
How did this all happen? Where do I begin? Well, as I sit here with my little girl and sing along with “Let it Go” for the umpteenth time, it dawns on me how much my life has changed in a few short years.
Just five years ago, at the ripe old age of 45, I had:
- a starring role in a successful TBS sitcom
- a beautiful rent-controlled apartment at the beach
- a bank account full of money
- a lot of fun eating out every night
It was pretty great. During hiatus, I would travel the country doing stand-up comedy shows, enjoying delicious cocktails, and also eating out every night. I dated liberally, saw every movie on opening day, and did I mention that I ate out every night?
Sure, I watched my friends drop off into “conventional family life” like characters in Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians. Over the course of 20 years, I went from being the hit of the wedding, to the only guy at the singles’ table, to not being invited at all. Which was fine by me. I saw one friend get married three different times. At his last wedding, I didn’t even bring a present. I just signed someone else’s card on the gift table. “Congratulations on your wedding, from Mr. and Mrs. Thompson … and Jamie.”
I had become “single-tutionalized,” incapable of compromising with another human being about living arrangements.
What did I care? The weddings were really just farewell parties for me to say goodbye to my friends, one by one. I knew I’d never be lured into that conventional life. After all, I had become “single-tutionalized,” which means that I was incapable of compromising with another human being about living arrangements.
I imagined my life on that trajectory. I would become the old dude who lives at the beach, who wears the AM/FM headphone set with the metal detector. I would ride my bicycle with skin like burned bacon and wear a Speedo bathing suit that reveled in my lack of inhibition. Over drinks at the local patio bar, I would regale America’s youth with tales of yesteryear. The kids would indulge me and I would ride off into the sunset laughing all the way…
And then it all changed. Met girl, married, baby, second baby … it happened that fast. Like a sucker punch in a barroom fight, I never saw it coming. And by the time I did, it was too late.
To say life has changed would be a gross understatement. I’ve discovered that a hangover and having children age your face in the exact same way. Remember that full bank account? Yeah, me neither. And I’m not really sure which I miss more, sex or dining out.
But, the truth is, I couldn’t be happier.
As much as I gave my kids life, they may have saved mine. When I come home and my little girl runs to give me a hug, I’m brought to tears. (Full disclosure: I’m an emotional guy. I sob whenever SportsCenter does that piece about the kid with the disease who hits the winning free throw).
Had they not come along, I would have probably been found floating face down in some jacuzzi. My picture would have hung over a couple of the local bars in town. People would toast my memory with the shot of the day. Perhaps a buttery nipple? And the memory of me would slowly fade with time.
Just think of what I would have missed.
I’ve always done things the hard way. And the lesson here is that it truly is never too late.
True, I’m just getting started while most of my friends are watching their kids graduate college. Sure, it’s going to be much more difficult with failing vision and minor arthritis. And okay, it’s going to be awkward taking my little girl to a Daddy / Daughter dance when I’m in my sixties. And YES, I know I need to earn a living and survive long enough to see these kids grow up into productive members of society. But screw it, I’ve always done things the hard way. And the lesson here is that it truly is never too late.
So keep coming back to check my progress, laugh at my misfortunes, and remind yourself that maybe your life isn’t as bad as you think it is.
Upcoming installments will include watching the birth of my second child on FaceTime from an airport in Omaha, my terrible decision to throw a wrap party at my house three weeks after the birth of my first child, and the time the dog peed in my mouth.
P.S. Can somebody please proofread this because I can’t find my glasses!