May 11 • 15M

Old Dad

I have a 19 year old, a 17 year old, and a 1 year old. Madeline has a 9 year old and an 11 year old. Yes, I am tired. I am also in awe every single day.

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Appears in this episode

Ryan McMahon
Joke Talk Yell Write brings you deep into the irreverent and inspiring creative life of award-winning Anishinaabe comedian, writer, and podcaster Ryan McMahon. One of North America's most essential Indigenous voices, Ryan has been on the cutting edge of Indigenous media, storytelling and comedy for over two decades. Known for his risk-taking, innovation, and bold approach to storytelling, Ryan continues to push boundaries and break new ground in this dynamic and thought-provoking series.
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I’m an old dad. I will be in my mid-sixties when my youngest graduates from high school. It occurred to me the other day that I will need to open up my spirit to things I left behind long ago - playdates with other people’s kids that I can’t stand, parent-teacher nights and volunteer work with insufferably boring parents I have nothing in common with, and the wonderful world of discovery, creativity, and play.

This is my audio essay on being an “old dad.”

Episode Transcript

Old dad. Good Dad. Present Dad. Rich Dad. Poor Dad. Fat Dad. Tired Dad. Mad Dad. Aging Dad. Stay At Home Dad. Fun Dad. Grumpy Dad. Old Dad. Dad. Dad. I'm a dad. I've been a dad for nearly 20 years now. It's going okay. It's gone okay.

I think I've always wanted to be a dad. I was in my early twenties when I had no business being a dad when I first started having recurring dreams of being a dad, and at that time, I was 21, maybe 22. No prospects, no jobs, nothing going on. Just an out-of-work actor trying to figure out the world.

And I started having this recurring dream of me walking through Trinity Bellwoods Park, holding this young toddler's hand and teaching them about the world. And in the dream, it's like a movie. I'm seeing the dream from behind me and the baby.

As me and the baby in the dream walk through the park, and we're walking slowly at their speed. We're smelling flowers, we're looking at the trees, chasing the birds, looking at those big, fat black rat-like squirrels or chipmunks or whatever the fuck they are in downtown Toronto, and we're just enjoying the day.

We walk along the trails of the park, and we find a bench, and we eat a snack, and we finish the snack, and we keep walking to find our next adventure. And that dream, I had for months. I don't know why I had it. I had no business of being a dad at that time. I had no money. I was couch surfing and homeless.

I had nothing going on, but maybe it was the world or the universe telling me that I better buckle the fuck up because this was bound to happen, and it did. I became a dad sometime around the age of 24, and I wasn't ready to be a dad. I had other shit going on. And my daughter's mom told me she'd do it on her own, and that wasn't an option for me.

When I told my Cookham that my then-girlfriend was pregnant, she said, you better get your shit together and do it right. And I tried, but at that time, In my life, I had plans. I was going to move to New York City. I had just auditioned for Saturday Night Live through the NBC Diversity program. I had things I wanted to do, but when I became a dad, all of that went away by choice.

I left it behind. And being a dad became the most important thing to me in my life, and I went all in. I was a stay-at-home dad. Proud dad. Happy dad. [00:04:00] And it was hard. I was young, and obviously had never done that before, but to those that get to experience the joy of being a dad, what a joy it is. It's just an unbelievable joy.

It's also the hardest days of your life. Don't get me wrong. Uh, they can be some of the worst days of your life if you're being really, really, really honest; who hasn't hated their children or dreamed about how good life used to be In those moments where you're talking through your teeth and you just, you're, you're making up fucking words that you've never even thought of

those days, those days come and go. But for the most part on the whole, fuck, it's great. Like really great. My personal joy comes from discovery and learning. This is really all children do. As they discover and learn, they become these creatures of habit. Right now, Sam, when he walks up the stairs to go to the bedroom for his nap, We did it one time where I would walk up to the stairs, peek my head through the banister, through the railings, and give him a kiss on the way.

But now, he expects that every single nap, he puts his face up to the railing and he gets his kiss before he goes up for his sleep. He discovered that that was a fun thing to do and that's what he liked, and now we do it. Brings him joy, brings me joy,

And that joy, that discovery, that playfulness, that learning, being open to the things in the world is such an important reminder for me. I love being a dad, but I am an old dad. I have a 17 and a 19 year old, and I have a one year old, quite a gap.

If I were a chief, I would be one of those chiefs with old kids and a young kid and even younger grandkids, and my fucking God, if there is a creator in the universe, don't let that happen to me. I can't afford it. I don't have the energy, the time, or the commitment. I'm working on my shit. I can't be raising my kid and my kids as kid, Jesus fucking Christ.

But I'm an old dad. I know I'm an old dad. Madeline tells me not to worry about it, but I worry about it and not in a like, morbid, I'm gonna die soon way. And Sam's not gonna have a dad, but just in a, I need to figure out things for Sam. That I have no intention of learning about. I need to be open to the world that I've shut out completely TikTok, and he's coming up in a world that I'm not familiar with. I don't pay attention to pop culture. I don't know what kids like toys or us has changed since I was there last.

But I need to be open to all of this now.

I need to reopen my mind, my heart, and my spirit to everything that is new once again, making me feel like the 20 something-year-old that became a dad for the first time. It's a wild experience. I don't know if I recommend it for everybody. But my God, every day is the greatest.

And it's hard. I'm away from my daughters. They are in Winnipeg. I'm in Hamilton. I'd never recommend it. And with their blessing, I'm improving my life, my mental health, my physical health, my spirit. And we're working on blending our families and getting everything set the way it ought to be. And it's hard and it's a challenge and it's difficult every single day.

But being my daughter's dad is the greatest joy I've ever felt. Being Sam's dad is the greatest joy I've ever felt. Learning to be Madeline's kids' friend, not stepdad. I'll earn that someday. But friend that they can trust, that they can confide in, that they can have fun with, is a great joy.

But I'm an old dad. Not as old as Robert De Niro. Old Bobby D. Bobby D at 79 busting nuts and having kids. Bobby D I'm 46, not 79. Elon Musk's dad just copped to having a baby, and he's in his eighties.

I don't know.

I don't know.

I don't know what it's gonna mean for me to be. In my sixties, when I go to a high school graduation, I'll probably be wearing a sweater vest waving, you know, my favorite handful of records around as Sam moves out to go to university somewhere and I throw 'em five of my favorite books, philosophical learnings or political rantings or whatever Shakespeare that I dust off to make him learn from, to remind him of what it means to be human.

I might be that dad.

I might be the dad that says to Sam, that's not hip hop. If you want hip hop, you're gonna sit down and listen to this. I might be that dad,

But I'm an old dad going to the park these days in my mid-forties and looking around at the parents that are in their early twenties. I have nothing in common with these people, and these are the people. Who are going to be the parents of the other kids in the class, and they're gonna be telling me about something had happened on some reality show that I won't fucking watch, and I'll have to smile and nod and go, “Wow, that is so funny,” or “that is so controversial. Wow. How could they have said that?” Or I'll say, huh, “just stop talking.”

That might be the worst part of being an old dad is that now I have to go back into the parent circles and be friends with, with, with, with Mercedes's dad and, and talk about the Leafs or the weather or whatever.

There were some cool parents when I was raising my daughters. There were some cool parents. There were some parents that I could get along with just fine at the park or at the birthday party or at the movies, but the thought of having to do that again with a bunch of 20 year olds at my age.

But I'm gonna do it.

I'm gonna do it because I love Sam, because I love my kids. I'm gonna do it because you do things that you don't want to do when you become a dad, when you're a good dad, when you're an old dad, when you're a present dad, a rich dad, a poor dad, a fat dad, a sad dad, a stepdad, a proud dad, a happy dad, a tired dad, a mad dad, an aging dad, a stay-at-home dad, a fun dad, a grumpy dad, an old dad.

An old dad.

An old dad.

An old dad, not a dead dad. Not yet. Not for a long time. I've made up my mind. I'm gonna live to my early nineties. I mean, I'm not going to the gym yet, but I have quit meat. I don't drink anymore. I've lost about 70 pounds feeling better than I have in over a decade. So not a dead dad yet, but an old dad or Sam calls me Dad-day. Dad, dad, dad, dad.

One time in BC, I was doing a workshop about being a dad. I was asked to do a workshop about being a dad. The room was full of young people, not yet parents, but I talked about how, if nothing else, getting through pieces of your life and treating them as though they were a job. It would help you get through some of the harder parts.

You just have to do your job. When you have a job and you've signed a contract and you're getting paid, you just have to do it even if you don't like the work. And I said that's kind of like being a parent. Even if you don't like doing laundry or cleaning the house, or reading the longest book your kid could ever pick, you still gotta do it.

I said you get through it. Just treat it like a job. A job. You don't want to get fired from a job you can't get fired from. Treat it like a job. And an elderly man came up to me afterward and said, I really liked your presentation. It was funny, it was engaging. The kids liked it. He said, but I wanna urge you to change it.

Don't ever call parenting a job. It's a privilege. And it's a privilege that many parents didn't get to enjoy because of residential schools. The sixties scoop, the child welfare system. So never forget what an honor it is to raise your kids.

Do your best every day.

Nahow. Miigwetch.