Sage Advice: Older Father Hates Granddad Assumptions
Just because he looks like a grandfather – doesn't mean he IS one
Dear Amy: I am a happy father. I was overjoyed to have my first child at the age of 57.
My boy, “Michael,” is now 11, and in the fifth grade.
My problem is that most of the younger parents assume that I am Mike’s grandfather. I always promptly correct that assumption, saying that that I am his father and that we started late.
Some of these statements are made within my son’s earshot. This has an impact on attending parent/teacher meetings and school functions.
This embarrasses both of us. He is a sensitive lad.
He has even said that he hates his parents being so old. (His mother is 47, but she looks much younger).
On one occasion a very heavy-set woman told me that I must be Michael’s grandfather. My response was to congratulate her on her pregnancy. As she assumed, so did I.
I would appreciate some help in addressing this issue. as it is a constant source of emotional distress.
– K, in Colorado
Dear K: The way to address this is to acknowledge your son’s perspective and feelings, without giving in to them.
Your embarrassment reinforces his. Your rudeness to an overweight woman teaches your son that it is acceptable to be mortified for the privilege of your age, and that rudeness is an acceptable reaction when someone makes an incorrect assumption.
Across North America, millions of grandparents are currently raising grandchildren, of course, some people assume that a 68-year-old man is an adolescent’s grandfather!
Your age makes parent/teacher conferences challenging? Why? You are there to discuss your son’s schoolwork. If a teacher brings up your age, or your child’s sensitivities surrounding it, you should ask for the teacher’s advice about how to handle it, and be open to a course correction.
Tell your son, “Hey, I understand that this can be hard on you sometimes. But you know what? It is what it is. I feel proud and lucky, and I don’t care what other people think.”
You cannot change your age. Many families carry burdens. Families cope with poverty, disabilities, and dislocation. Reassure your son that you’re healthy and happy, and that you plan to be around to bug and embarrass him for a very long time.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2020 by Amy Dickinson