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Father Time 

click to enlarge Alison and her dad, Jim, 1978
  • Alison and her dad, Jim, 1978

In between Christmas and New Year's, I spent a couple of days with my extended family at a historic lakeside hotel in New York we've been going to for many years. There was no snow on the ground, so we were able to hike one of the most challenging trails on the property, one that ends in a series of ladders through a crevice called the Lemon Squeeze. Together, our crew of 10 scrambled over rocks, into caves and across boulder fields, taking turns spotting and hoisting the little ones at precarious parts.

I've done that hike dozens of times since I was a kid, but this year was particularly special. We've entered what will most likely be a very narrow window of time where my kids can keep pace with my parents and vice versa, where three generations can hike in harmony together.

It's possible for us to enjoy outings like this with my parents because they were in their twenties when they started their family. My dad was just shy of 25 — the first of his friends to get married and have kids.

I've been reflecting on how that affected his life, and mine, as we put together this month's Dad Issue — our cover story, "Dear Old Dad," is about fathers in their 40s, 50s and beyond who are raising young kids. Writer Erik Esckilsen had kids 20 years later in life than my own dad. He interviews fellow fathers of advanced age about the challenges and unexpected benefits of being an "old dad."

I asked my dad recently if being a young dad was tough for him.

He told me that having "a feeling of not really being sure what we were doing" was probably more intense than if he had been older. But both he and my mom had "boundless energy and enthusiasm" then. And active minds, too. When my younger sister and I were little, my dad was still a student, getting his PhD in computer science. He spent some time studying artificial intelligence.

"I think my wonderment at your amazing little brains had a lot to do with what was going on in my life at that time," he wrote to me via email, adding, "I think there are things to be said for any age parent who is excited about it, loves their kids and is willing to weather the storms." Wise words.

We hear from other dads in this issue, too. Burlington dad Benjamin Roesch writes about the tension he feels as a devoted father — and an aspiring novelist ("Creativity Complex"). Two very busy dudes raising a son together talk with Jessica Lara Ticktin in "Balancing Act." And in "Habitat," Megan James interviews a Killington pop about the elaborate tree house he painstakingly constructed for his two kids.

The Dad Issue usually marks the beginning of our summer-long Day-cations series spotlighting day trips in Vermont and around the region. This summer, we're suggesting you extend your stay. For our June, July and August issues, we're sending our writers on overnight trips for a new series we're calling "The Weekender." You'll find the first installment, about my family's Québec City adventure, on page 24. Spoiler alert: C'était magnifique!

Wishing our readers a Happy Father's Day celebrating all dads, young and old!


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