When I read today that 68-year-old singer Billy Joel and his 36-year-old wife are expecting their second child, my first thought was, “Well, there’s hope for me yet.”
I’ve known since I was a teen-ager that I wanted children of my own, but the time and situation have never been right for me to have kids. Although I’m certainly not as old as Joel, I’ve reached the point at which the clock is ticking. I have to get started if I’m going to.
But as I think about this again, I’m reminded of my problem. If I just wanted to reproduce with someone, I would be able to find someone and get started quickly. My problem is that I know the kind of mother I want for my children — and that woman is very hard to find and even harder to woo and win.
The cynical part of me says my real problem is that I’m not rich and famous the way Billy Joel is. If I had his fame and money, I would have my choice of women who want children and would also want me. But the most honest part of me says the cynical part is only half right. If I were rich and famous, there would be plenty of younger women who wanted to marry me, but I still would have trouble finding one who I would want, too.
It seems to me there is no greater compliment I can pay a woman than to be able to sincerely say, “I want to have children with you, because I think so highly of you that I want my children to be influenced by your genes and your character.”
The same goes just as much in reverse, too. I want a woman to love me enough — and to think highly enough of me — to want her children to be like me, as they would inevitably be because of genetics and my daily influence. I want a woman to want to spend time with me and to share life and love, but I can’t think of any greater honor than for the right woman to want me to be her partner as a parent — to want her children to be something like me.
When you choose the person who will be the other parent for your children, you are making the most important decision of their lives. You’re determining not only which things will influence a child — values, beliefs, habits, faults and so forth — but you’re actually determining what half of that child will be in the most fundamental, biological sense. Whether we like to admit it or not, far more of what a person becomes is in those genes than we would like.
I worry enough about making mistakes with my children and somehow damaging them without meaning to. I carry baggage with me from my past that I’ve spent many years thinking about and I’ve spent a lot of time in counseling to deal with the issues. I believe I’m finally ready to be the kind of father I need to be. I don’t know that I could have done such a good job 20 years ago.
I have no idea whether Billy Joel is a great father or not. I have no idea whether his wife, Alexis Roderick, is a great mother. She’s his fourth wife, so I hope he’s finally worked through his issues and found the right match. I can have no idea about their specifics.
Still, it makes me happy to see a man older than I am having children — this will be their second child since their wedding two years ago — and it gives me encouragement that maybe it’s still possible for me to have the family I want so much.
I’m not rich and famous the way Joel is, but I hope the right woman will want me for something more than money and fame anyway.
I hope the right woman — one who I want my children to emulate — will be able to want me as the father of her children. Nothing matters to me as much as this, but finding and winning this woman is completely outside of my control.