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Diverse dads<br> Whether older or younger, today's fathers know becoming a parent is special and important -- at any age

They're 21st century dads, men in their 40s, 50s and 60s secure in their professions with the time and resources to commit to their young children.

Some are first-time fathers who delayed marriage for decades looking to first put their lives in order before starting families. Second marriages, too, have reintroduced middle-aged men to a new round of fatherhood.

"People say it keeps you young," said trial attorney James Scime, who at 58 is remarried and the father of five children ages 2 to 29. "I'm not so sure about that, but it keeps you engaged with the young."

In the past decade, the number of first-time fathers over age 40 has jumped 18 percent, according to U.S. Census reports. In addition, between 1999 and 2006, the number of married men aged 65 and older with children under age 18 jumped 29 percent from 110,000 to 191,000.

Do older fathers, brimming in wisdom and maturity, make better fathers? Or is parenting with all the energy and mobility it demands best left to younger counterparts?

"Parenting either earlier or later in life is neither good nor bad," said Amherst psychologist John Northman. "Each has its areas to watch as well as areas to work around. There is no right or wrong as to when to become a parent."

>Teeming with teens

At age 63, former Buffalo mayor Anthony Masiello has three daughters ages 39, 16 and 13. Married for the second time, Masiello believed he is a different kind of father to younger daughters Ariel and Madeline.

"When I became a father at 23, I was still trying to figure out who I was, trying to make the transition from sports to a new career, let alone adding the responsibility of a child," he said. "I was a kid myself to be honest with you, even though I was 6 foot 4."

Masiello's first marriage ended in divorce when his first daughter Kim was 3 years old. Kim Adamucci, now 39 and married, lives in Seattle. It would take Masiello -- a former Canisius College basketball star -- 20 years before he would marry again to a woman he met in Albany, when he was a state senator. Masiello marked his life calendar by birthdays and elections.

"Let's see, Ariel is 16," he recounted. "I was elected [mayor] in November '93, so we got married in September '92."

At the moment -- on this hazy Saturday afternoon -- two teenage daughters join him on the patio of their Buffalo home. Ariel, fresh off her first high school prom the night before, and Madeline, the basketball player, sit quietly for now.

"I still drive them to school, just like when I was mayor," Masiello beamed, before he started counting again. "Madeline has four years of high school, so that will take me to 67. Four years of college will take me to 71, and they'll both go to graduate school. They'll be into colleges, and I'll be into my 70s. I figure I have tuition and weddings the rest of my life."

>'You're never off duty'

Like Masiello, James Scime became a father in his 20s. Loaded with energy and enthusiasm, he was never to be closer in age to his children, one advantage held by young fathers, according to the psychologist.

"You become involved in their lives," said Northman, "and when you eventually become empty nested, you can begin to do all kinds of things that maybe you put aside earlier in life."

Scime's first daughter Lauren was born when he was 27, just after he started practicing law with Lipsitz, Green, Scime, Cambria, the Delaware Avenue firm that bears his name. Second daughter Anna followed within 18 months, and Daniel didn't arrive for 10 years. When his wife Linda died of a brain tumor in 2000, Scime thought he never would marry again.

"I was this far away from off duty," said Scime, measuring a two-inch space with thumb and index finger. "The reality is, you're never off duty. Your kids are your kids. You worry about them forever, just about different things."

Scime is youthful in a black golf shirt, and surrounded by Anna, 28, and Dan, 20, their resemblance is remarkable. A pair of younger sons -- Michael, 4, and Nicholas, 2 -- buzz through the Snyder home under the watch of second wife Courtney, whom he married in June 2004. The veteran father has learned not to hover this second time around, and to "save the discipline for the important stuff."

"My friends go to the Rue Franklin," Scime said. "I'm eating more than I should be at the Red Robin. Small price to pay, right?"

>Finding time for family

Mark Croce wasn't sure if he'd ever marry, much less start a family. He was too busy establishing himself as Franklin Street's arch developer launching Buffalo Chophouse, Buckin' Buffalo Saloon, D'arcy McGee's Irish Pub as well as an army of parking lots until the inevitable dawned.

"Hey, I'm getting older," he recalled the moment, sitting in a downtown coffee shop with one hand wrapped around his cell phone. "I'm dating this woman for almost 10 years, and in some states I would have been legally married. I figured if she could put up with me for 10 years, we were truly meant for each other."

Croce married at 47, and today he's chasing 50 with the help of his 27-year-old wife Jessica and their 10-month-old son Dominic.

"There's a little bit of an age gap between us," Croce said. "One of the things that came with the 'I do' was two kids, not that it was her precondition of marriage. It was that important to her as she was growing up to make sure she had a family and raised children. I think she gave me a new perspective. I never looked back."

Croce looks down, often, when he's piloting his family in his helicopter. "I took [Dominic] up for the first time and he loved it. He fell asleep like he does in the back of a car," said the father who would change restaurants years before he ever thought of changing a diaper. "We landed right on Angola beach at my friend's house. We knew this kid was a beach bum."

Being an older father, Croce experienced many events that he might not have if he were a twentysomething dad. As a result, Dominic will not lack much.

"There's a trade-off," said Croce. "I don't want him to be a spoiled kid. I want him to appreciate things, to respect people and to understand the importance of education -- even though I want him to have the best."

>Finally a father

"I think it's an enormous asset to a child to be parented by somebody who is at a place in his or her life where they know who they are and what is important," said Erie County Surrogate Judge Barbara Howe. "Certainly with the adoptive dads who are frequently older dads, they know they have wanted to be a parent for so long, and they wanted it more than anything in the world."

Buffalo Bills athletic trainer Bud Carpenter and his wife, Kathy, waited three years for Sarah Wen, the toddler who was just two days shy of spending two years in a Chinese orphanage.

"[Before Sarah] we had a chance to travel," Carpenter said. "We went to four Super Bowls, one Pro Bowl in Hawaii. We take nice vacations down to the islands, but we got to a point where that wasn't enough in life. Eventually it got to be old. It wasn't fulfilling our life."

At 58, Carpenter is at home with himself. It's this confidence and life skills that so often distinguish mature parents from their younger counterparts, observed Howe.

"In the bigger picture, this is the most wanted child," said the judge who has presided over hundreds of adoptions since she started her 10-year term in 2004. "And that is what is important, not whether the child was expected but whether the child is wanted."

Carpenter often engages his young daughter in physical play, and is joined as spectators on the sidelines of her soccer games by a cheering section of his friends.

"Certainly we're the older parents watching, and that's an adjustment, not necessarily an easy one," he said, refreshing in his candor. "But we knew that. It's not going to be easy for her. As she gets older, so do we, and her friends' parents are going to be much younger than we are."

On most days, Sarah jumps high on the trampoline her dad shopped for and installed. Carpenter also cut, sanded, drilled and stained each board that makes up the massive backyard play set known as "Fort Sarah." It was built in a barn-raising fashion in 10 hours one day by Carpenter and friends.

"All of our friends are grown up and have real jobs," noted Carpenter. "That's one of the advantages of being parents at our age. Sarah lacks for nothing when it comes to having books. We have enough for our own library, I think."


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