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  1. Kids & Family

Tell Me About It: Older couple ponders having children

Carolyn Hax is away. In her absence, we are offering columns from her archive.

Q: I'm 35 and my husband is 51. Would it be stupid for us to have a baby? As potential parents, we have a lot to offer. I'm just worried about our (his) age(s).

A: I'll repeat my standard advice to anyone wrestling with the decision to have children: Would you want you as parents?

It's about what you would be comfortable choosing for yourself if you were that child. Let's say neither of you dies prematurely. Then your child would be a young adult by the time Dad dies. Does that sound like something you could live with, as a child?

Let's say your husband has a long illness preceding that non-premature death — something for which older people are at higher risk. Then it could affect your child's adolescence. How does your imagined child handle that?

Of course, serious illnesses, accidents and other causes of premature death aren't famous for their ability to discriminate, and do sometimes strike the young parents of young children.

So, that's why my answer to you won't get any more decisive. Whether you'd want you as parents covers everything: how you'll play with your kids; how you'll pay for kids; how you'll wear your age; how each of you would handle it if one of you got sick or died, or if your marriage dissolved; how you'll divide the workload; how you'll handle discipline, extended family, education — everything.

This isn't a set of concerns for older parents-to-be, it's for all parents-to-be. If the answer is, for example, "A or B couldn't handle being a single parent," then maybe A and B shouldn't have kids, even if they're both 28 — because who's to say they'll be competent, energetic, effective co-parents just because they're 28?

You do your best to foresee the life you two can offer a child, and the measures you'd take in the face of the unforeseen. Then, you decide — not rationalize — whether it's a life you'd want yourself. To my mind, at least, that's the beginning and the end of the test.

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