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Fri May 3, 2013
Author Interviews

Advice For New Dads From A Veteran Father Of Four

Originally published on Fri May 3, 2013 8:28 pm

Clyde Edgerton is the author of 10 novels, but his latest book is nonfiction — a guide for dads. Papadaddy's Book for New Fathers: Advice to Dads of All Ages opens with a summary of Edgerton's own family situation:

I have a daughter, Catherine, aged 30. I have a 9-year-old son, Nathaniel, a 7-year-old son, Ridley, and a 6-year-old daughter, Truma. I'm 68. The age gap between the younger kids and me is not something I think about much, because I feel physically about like I did when I was 40 — or at least, I think I do. I think I ...

I just forgot what we were talking about — age?

Edgerton calls himself a C.O.D., or "Considerably Older Dad," and while his new book has advice for fathers young and old, he has special tips for men who are embarking on fatherhood later in life. He joins NPR's Melissa Block to talk about the perks and pitfalls of fatherhood, and whether he thinks of his own mortality.


Interview Highlights

On taking a "second crack" at fatherhood as an older man

"I think if your health holds up it can be a very good thing. I believe there's a secret chemical that's turned loose when you have kids that says you've got to survive, you've got to be strong — that keeps you on your toes, besides all kinds of other things, when you have three little ones running around."

On a crucial piece of advice for new fathers: Install the car seat in advance

"It could take from one to seven days to get that car seat in. The same thing with the crib — I finally finished after four days in the middle of the night, and I was so happy. I was in the living room and I started rolling it toward the baby's room, and it wouldn't go through the hall door."

On the unexpected pitfalls of animal-shaped vitamins

"You have these vitamins, and you've got a small child that wants the kitty vitamin and so you have to cut it in two, and one day I almost said, but I realized I probably shouldn't say — once I cut the little kitty in two I probably shouldn't say, 'Bad kitty!' Well, I'm afraid my little 3-year-old might not know any better and get a great big pair of scissors and go after our kitty, who was still a kitty, and we don't want that to happen. So you never know what kind of example you're setting when you do what you do."

On "sky television," one of his suggestions for entertaining children

"Kristina, my wife, and I thought about this one day when our kids were of course watching television. And we took a big blanket and put it in the backyard and said let's go lie on our back and look at the sky and call it sky television. We saw all kinds of things. I mean, what pops in my mind is a hawk flying over with a snake dangling from its beak, we saw — of course you see airplanes, but you see all kinds of birds, and it's one of those things that it just, it seems to be there but you have to discover it. So we enjoy still doing sky television once in a while."

On whether his mortality affects his parenting now more than with his first child

"You know, I think if I were not lucky enough to be as healthy as I am, I would worry a lot about that. But because I feel good physically, I really don't think about that very much. ... I was 36 when my father died, and I hope that I can live that long for my children. That will put me on up there. It's nice to have more than one little one, because while one is pushing you in the wheelchair, the other one can open the doors. I've been thinking about that a little bit."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

And now, some parenting advice from a self-described considerably older dad, a COD.

CLYDE EDGERTON: I have a daughter, Catherine, aged 30. I have a 9-year-old son, Nathaniel, a 7-year-old son, Ridley, and a 6-year-old daughter, Truma. I'm 68. The age gap between the younger kids and me is not something I think about much because I feel physically about like I did when I was 40, or at least, I think I do. I think - I just forgot what we were talking about - age?

BLOCK: That's writer Clyde Edgerton, author of 10 novels, but his latest book that he was reading from there is "Papadaddy's Book for New Fathers: Advice to Dads of All Ages." And this has induced considerable snorting and the occasional guffaw around our offices. Clyde Edgerton, good to talk to you.

EDGERTON: Thank you, Melissa. It's great to be here.

BLOCK: You have advice in here for all ages, but special tips for what you called the considerably older dads such as yourself, who's, you know, getting a second crack at this whole father business really, right?

EDGERTON: That's correct. I think if your health holds up, it can be a very good thing. I believe there's a secret chemical that's turned loose when you have kids that says you've got to survive, you've got to be strong. That keeps you on your toes, besides all kinds of other things, when you have three little ones running around.

BLOCK: Well, there are a lot of things in the book that you learned the hard way that could seem, you know, maybe obvious, one of which is install the car seat ahead of time.

EDGERTON: Well, it could take from one to seven days to get that car seat in. The same thing with the crib. I finally finished after four days in the middle of the night, and I was so happy. I was in the living room when I started rolling it toward the baby's room and it wouldn't go through the hall door.

BLOCK: You describe a pitfall that I would never have thought of, and it involves children vitamins in the shape of animals, which many of them are, right, and you had a problem here.

EDGERTON: Well, yes. It's kind of - you have these vitamins and you've got a small child who wants a kitty vitamin. And so you have to cut it in two. And one day, I almost said but I realize I probably should say, once I cut the little kitty in two, I shouldn't say bad kitty.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: What happened? What happened there?

EDGERTON: Well, I'm afraid my child, my little 3-year-old might not know him better and get a great big pair of scissors and go after our kitty who's still a kitty, and we don't want that to happen. But, you know, you never know what kind of example you're setting when you do what you do.

BLOCK: You also include in here a poem by Mason Williams that you think is pretty surefire entertainment for kids. It's called "Them Toad Suckers." I wonder if you'd read it for us.

EDGERTON: I forgot all about that. I'm not going to read it. I can say it, I think. I've been saying this poem forever. I love the poem. How 'bout them toad suckers, ain't they clods? Sitting there sucking them green toady frogs. Sucking them hop-toads, sucking them chunkers, sucking them leapy-types, sucking them plunkers. Look at them toad suckers, ain't they snappy? Sucking them toad frogs sure makes them happy. Them huggermugger toad suckers way down South, sticking them sucky toads in their mouth. How to be a toad sucker, no way to duck it. Get yourself a toad, rare back and suck it.

BLOCK: Now, you know, what kid wouldn't like that?

EDGERTON: Kids love it. And adults even occasionally love that poem.

BLOCK: You do have pages and pages of games and stories that you suggest for kids of whole different ages, and I think the one that I might like the best is sky television. What's sky television?

EDGERTON: Kristina, my wife, and I thought about this one day when the kids were, of course, watching television. And we took a big blanket and put it in the backyard and said, let's go out on our back and look at the sky and call it sky television. We saw all kinds of things. I mean, what pops in my mind is a hawk flying over with a snake dangling from its beak. We saw - we could see airplanes. We could see all kinds of birds. And it's one those things that you just - it seems to be there, but you have to discover it. And so we enjoy still doing sky television once in a while.

BLOCK: Do you think - as an older father now of young children, does your own mortality, do you think, factor into your parenting in a way that it didn't with your first child who's now 30?

EDGERTON: You know, I think if I were not lucky enough to be as healthy as I am, I would worry a lot about that. But because I feel good physically, I really don't think about that very much. I do think and - I do occasionally think, I hope - I was 36 when my father died, and I hope I can live that long for my children. That will be put me up there. It's nice to have more than one little one because then you'll have - while one is pushing you in a wheelchair, the other one can open the doors for you.

(LAUGHTER)

EDGERTON: So I've been thinking about that a little bit.

BLOCK: That's Clyde Edgerton, author of "Papadaddy's Book for New Fathers: Advice to Dads of All Ages." Mr. Edgerton, thanks so much. It's been a pleasure.

EDGERTON: Thank you, Melissa. It's been a pleasure here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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