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Father's Day: Wisdom of Dads

Dean Bordigioni, 54, looks for strawberries with his 2-year-old daughter, Anni Lucia, and 11-week-old son, Coltrane, at their home near Santa Rosa. After nearly half a century of the untethered life, he became a father for the first time at age 49.

CHRISTOPER CHUNG / PD
Published: Saturday, June 15, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, June 15, 2013 at 10:48 a.m.

Dads come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. And thanks to their long span of procreative years — actor Steve Martin became a dad at age 67, the late Tony Randall at 77 — they come in all ages as well.

The average age for first-time fathers in the U.S. is now about 28. That's old enough for a man to gain some maturity and establish a career, but still young enough to have the stamina to keep up with kids.

But what of the dads at the farther ends of the spectrum?

We invited one man who started in his early twenties and another man who was almost 50 when his first child was born — both fathers of three young children — to share their perspective on parenthood as experienced in very different seasons of life.

Griffin Bean, 32, first met his wife, Mia, at a church youth function when he was 18 and she was 17. The chemistry did not click, but they reconnected two years later, and swiftly tied the knot in October 2002 after just six months of dating. He was nearly 22 and she was 20.

Their first son, Avery, was born on Father's Day in 2005, the night before Bean had to fly to Texas to report for basic training as an Air Force reservist.

Now employed as a mobile mechanic and electrician, Bean is the proud father of three boys, including 8-year-old Avery, 5-year-old Finn and 4-month-old Rowan.

What are the benefits of early fatherhood?

Bean: I've got the energy to play and keep up with them and not worry about am I going to break my back keeping up with them? With kids, your priorities are set, and your motivation is set. Life guidance is built in. But you still get to be a kid and play with toys. I still have my Legos and Brio trains from when I was a kid.

What do you find challenging after fatherhood at your age?

Bean: You see your peers who don't have kids, and they're out having fun. But with kids, the costs are far outweighed by the benefits.

What lessons has fatherhood taught you?

Bean: I wasn't very patient. In my teen-age (years) and young 20s, I was pretty impulsive and not incredibly focused. I'm far more patient now.

What surprised you the most about becoming a father?

Bean: I expected to get far less sleep. Two weeks in, our kids were sleeping through the night. It wasn't as taxing as I thought it would be.

What words of parenting wisdom do you remember from your childhood?

Bean: One time I was at the grocery store with my mom, and there was a kid throwing a tantrum. She said, “The hardest part of parenting is not laughing.” Controlling laughter is one of the best ways not to embarrass your children.

How did your childhood affect your parenting style?

Bean: I had a good childhood. If you don't get to have a childhood and are not given the freedom to make your own mistakes, it's going to be harder to be a parent. That's the best training a future parent could have — being a kid. But as an adult, we always forget. It's good to remember.

What words of wisdom would you give to other young men thinking about becoming a father?

Bean: Don't worry and overthink it. A lot of people have anxiety about being competent. It's like a lot of things. By doing it, you'll be made capable. You just do it.

What did you have to sacrifice?

Bean: I was so young getting married and having a kid, I didn't have time to gain perspective on what I did miss. If there was anything I had to give up, it's insignificant. I do find myself short on free time, but the benefit is worth the cost.

What valuable experience did you get in return?

I get to be a kid whenever I want, because I have kids. Also, our friendships with people who have kids are exponentially stronger, because we have a strong commonality. And it improved my relationships with my sisters.

Dean Bordigioni, 54, ran businesses, including a Harley Davidson dealership, lived in Italy, bummed around on the beach in La Jolla and traversed several continents on the back of a motorcycle. After nearly half a century of the untethered life, he became a father for the first time at age 49.

Today, the vintner and owner of Annadel Estate Winery near Oakmont is the father of three: Jake, 5, from another relationship; and Anni Lucia, almost 3, and Vincent Coltrane, 11 weeks, with wife Abigail, who he met at the farmers market in Sonoma after he bought the old winery in 2007.

What are the benefits of becoming a father at your age?

Bordigioni: I'm way more intellectually prepared for being a father. I don't feel like I'm missing anything when I'm hanging out with kids on a Friday night. I get to focus my mental energy on them and it's really wonderful. I've already achieved enough for me. I'm a happy guy. But the biggest thing is that I'm an entrepreneur, which means I work harder than anyone else but I also get to cut my schedule. As an older dad who is somewhat established financially, I have the freedom in my day to spend time with my kids. I don't own a TV; I haven't for 20 years. We just hang out and cook and talk a lot.

What's the downside of becoming a dad at your age?

Bordigioni: I do not have the stamina of a young man, especially when it comes to sleep.

Our newborn has colic and for the first eight weeks we never got a night's sleep. When you're in your fifties and don't get enough sleep, you feel it.

My son Jake is already faster than me and my daughter is right behind him. But I've committed to getting in very good shape and staying in good shape so I can be a dad to these kids. I really need to last until I'm 80 to be in their lives until they're full adults.”

What surprised you most about being a father?

Bordigioni: You never really know what love is until you have a child. It's absolutely mind-blowing how much you love those children. The flip side is that I've never been afraid of anything in my life and now I'm afraid of everything. The world's a rough place.

Did you pick up any parental wisdom from your own father?

Bordigioni: My father was an immigrant from Italy. His father died at a young age, and he was sent to a boarding school in eastern Europe. He was a really good dad but he had no back-training. I pull more from a couple of close friends and my brother, Tom, who have done a wonderful job of raising their families. The best thing I've heard is from my brother. We would go fly fishing together in the Yukon; our guide is about to become a father. He asked Tom, “Your kids are great kids. What's your secret?” Tom says without hesitation, “Their mother was home with them.” The biggest gift I give my family is enabling Abigail to stay home and raise the children. Not everyone is in that position and not everyone wants to be in that position. But for us it's the best place.

How did your own childhood affect your parenting style?

Bordigioni: My childhood was so long ago. I don't take much from it any longer.

What advice would you give other older fathers?

Bordigioni: One of my closest friends in high school got married right out of college. One day we were at a party and one guy was bragging about his golf score. As he was leaving Brad (the friend) goes, “You can't be a good dad if you're a scratch golfer and you have to work. I won't be a good golfer again until my kids go to college.” That has stayed with me. I'm not riding a motorcycle any longer. The most important thing in life is raising these little human beings.

Do you network with other fathers your age?

Bordigioni: My daughter is having her third birthday and 60 people are coming, plus 30 children. I'm the oldest dad but I tell you, there are quite a few of them real close. There are a lot of guys in their late 40s having children for the first time.”

What have you had to sacrifice to have children at this point in your life?

Bordigioni: I don't think I'm missing anything. I was knocking off all the continents in the world motorcycling. My next continent was Africa and I got part of it done. I know I can't leave and ride around Africa for three months, but I don't need to. If I'd gotten married in my 20s or 30s, I would really have felt like I was missing something. I always knew I was going to get married later in life. Before, it was so not on the radar.

What do you get in return for being a dad now?

Bordigioni: I get a really great family. I get a lot of love from these kids and from my wife.

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