We’re pleased to welcome Len Filppu to our blog today for a Virtual Book Tour. Len is the author of Prime Time Dads: 45 Reasons to Embrace Midlife Fatherhood, a parenting book filled with a collection of his humorous and heartfelt essays. They support his radical notion that mature men are well-suited for fatherhood, and that rather than being just ‘better late than never,’ midlife fatherhood can actually be better later.
Len is a writer/screenwriter who’s worked in Silicon Valley and on Capitol Hill, but he says the best thing he ever did was become a first-time father in midlife. He celebrates life every day with his wife and kids, who are now 14 and 11. So let’s begin.
HMC: Your book, PRIME TIME DADS: 45 Reasons to Embrace Midlife Fatherhood – what’s it about?
Len: When faced with first time fatherhood at the age of 49, I didn’t know whether to celebrate with champagne… or hemlock. But it’s turned out to be best thing I ever did. I discovered that I possessed many attributes as a mature man that helped me to love fatherhood and also made me a better dad. And I was so happy and relieved to find later-blooming fatherhood so enjoyable, rewarding, interesting, and valuable that I wanted to shout about it from the highest mountain. Surely, I figured, there must be other mature men like me, and plenty of women and partners in love with them, who might want to have children and raise a family. This book is for them.
HMC: How did you come up with the idea for the book?
Len: I was writing fictional screenplays and pondering my next project. It occurred to me what a pleasant and fulfilling journey fatherhood was, despite the fact that my son peed in my ear when I was changing him, my wife and I were sleep walking, Visine-addicted zombies, and our home décor was post tornado. I concluded the three-ring circus to write about was happening 24 by 7, right here under our family’s big top. While plenty of celebrities such as Steve Martin and Warren Beatty become later-blooming dads, there wasn’t any recent literature available on the subject and scant news about the average Joe’s experience with mature fatherhood. Nature abhors a vacuum, and I figured there must be others like me and millions who love them, so the book was born.
HMC: Who is the target audience?
Len: For the purposes of this book, I think of prime time midlife for a man as somewhere between the ages of 40 and 60 or so, but it could be younger depending on the man. And while PRIME TIME DADS is written by a man for men from a male point of view, it’s a book women will love, you know, a peek inside the men’s locker room psyche. If you’re a woman in a relationship with a mature man who is reluctant or undecided about having kids, this book is the rattle prod you can use to jolt him into a new consciousness. Wrap it up in bacon and it’s the perfect gift for the mature or late-blooming husband, boyfriend, son, grandson, nephew, colleague, buddy, bodyguard, or boy toy you think might make a great dad.
HMC: You were scared about later-in-life fatherhood?
Len: Yes, truly. I was an uncle and had dated women with children. I had an inkling of the time and energy commitments parenting required. I wondered if I would have the stamina, if I’d miss doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Would I sit on bleachers at Little League games dozing and drooling like Homer Simpson’s dad while mumbling songs from Woodstock? But I discovered to my surprise that as a mature man, I had a large toolbox of experience, skills, and psychological attributes that not only helped me thrive in fatherhood but also made my parenting more beneficial to the kids and the family unit.
HMC: What’s been your biggest surprise as a prime time dad?
Len: Honestly, that it’s so much fun and that I’m so much better prepared to face fatherhood’s difficulties and appreciate its deep joys as a mature man. Having children in my 20s or 30s would have felt like a prison sentence to me. I might’ve seen my wife as the warden, scraped a sippy cup across the baby’s crib bars, grown resentful, then bitter, and planned my escapes. That’s not healthy for the kids or anyone else.
HMC: What are some of the attributes of later-in-life fatherhood?
Len: Well, it’s not about the fact that I can now grow hair better from my ears than my scalp. Men age well. We mellow, become more patient, more empathetic, less self-centered. Mature men generally have a bit more money to help meet the costs of parenthood, and are farther along in their careers so they have greater flexibility to spend more time with their kids in their early formative years. Young men and women expend their juices figuring out who they are, establishing themselves in careers, and scrimping to buy a house. These time and energy sinkholes often detract from parenting efforts. They diminish as we get older.
HMC: What was your biggest fear?
Len: Oh, how vanity leads to insanity. To tell the truth, my main fear, number one, was that I would be mistaken for grandpa. I tripped out on visions like, would the young cashier at the grocery store tell me what a nice “grandson” I had who’s helping me shop and did I somehow miss the Depends and Geritol on aisle 8? But the reality is completely different. Fatherhood has revitalized me. The fear was all in my head. I was being an ageist to myself. I made a commitment to stop discriminating against myself, and I’m comfortable as a unique, but certainly not antique, prime time dad.
HMC: What about dying when your kids are still young?
Len: Accidents and disease can happen at any age. The actuarial charts say I may not be around forever, but knowing this is actually a plus. I don’t take any of this ride for granted. I’m grateful to be a dad. Rather than always saying “later” to my kids’ requests for a game of basketball or a swim, I try to say “yes.” I purposely inject quality times into our lives. And taking fatherhood seriously drives me to regular doctor visits, to the gym, to the nutritionist, to yoga. Yes, I’m an old dog learning new tricks like downward dog. I may not be around when my kids are 45 and 50, but they damn well know I was around and deeply involved when they were four and five and 15, and I’m going strong. I joke that later blooming fatherhood will either keep me young or put me in my grave, and that the jury is still out. But the truth is that it’s keeping me young, active, invigorated, attentive, creative, and inspired. All these benefits make me a better dad and help enrich the lives of my children and our family.
HMC: How do your children feel about all this?
Len: As far as I can tell, they treat me just like every other kid treats their parents. Yes, we’ve had talks about death, dealt with their fears. But doesn’t that happen in every family? I remember those childhood fear-based discussions with my parents. I’ve taken the kids to book signings and the audience has asked them how they feel. They say they’re glad I’ve been active in their lives, that I’ve been able to attend school plays and concerts, that I’ve been a sports coach and team parent, that I’m around and aware and deeply integrated into their lives. It’s normal for them. Later in life fatherhood and parenthood is increasingly a new normal, a growing trend.
HMC: Do you have a piece of advice for other or wannabe mature dads?
Len: Yes. The trick is to turn things around. Make positives out of perceived negatives. Think you’re too tired to go to the Cub Scout meeting? Get up and go. It’ll energize you. Worried you won’t last forever? Then make every moment count, say yes to creating quality times in your parenting life, and get to the gym and the doctor. Overwhelmed with tasks such as driving to swim practice, seeing a choir concert, and picking up dinner all at the same time? Count your blessings that you’ve got people who love you and you’re in the midst of a rich and rewarding life. For me, a full nest trumps an empty nest. Turn negatives into positives. Don’t sit in a rocking chair dreaming about the past. Keep on rockin’ into the future.
HMC: Readers, now that you’ve heard these stimulating words from Len about his book Prime Time Dads, we’d like to hear from you. To ask a question or share your comments, click on ‘Leave a Reply’ at the bottom of the post, then follow the prompts.