Ten years ago, if someone had told me that I’d be married with three children before I turned 30, I’d have either scoffed with derision or rocked in my chair with fear. It’s funny how life turns out: I never particularly expected to have all my kids this young but, now that it’s happened, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
One of the reasons I’m really pleased we started a family when we did is because of how absolutely exhausting it is. Thankfully, my wife and I are both relatively fit and healthy – but still, being a parent is completely knackering. Now that I know what’s it’s like, the concept of waiting until I’m older, creakier and more haggard before having children is by no means a more attractive proposition than the situation I find myself in today.
And so it’s with a sense of bizarre fascination that I viewed the news that Peter Stringfellow, already a grandfather four times over, is to become a dad again – AT THE AGE OF 72. If I find it exhausting to get up and change nappies at the age of 29, how on earth is this septuagenarian going to cope? Well, according to an interview quoted in today’s papers, he’s not too concerned on that front: “I know it’s going to be tough so, of course we’ll have nannies – a night nanny and a day nanny and a holiday nanny and an aeroplane nanny.” Well, quite. We’ve all been there, Pete.
On second thoughts, maybe the challenge of having young children isn’t anything to do with age. Perhaps it’s actually down to how much help you can afford. But still, when you have a young baby, there’s only so much you want to pass on to others – don’t you think? Even if I had the wealth of Mr Stringfellow, I’m genuinely not sure I’d want to use it to pay other people to look after my kids (although I do like the idea of an ‘aeroplane nanny’). Admittedly, it’s completely exhausting getting up in the night with a child who’s in urgent need of a glug of Calpol, but it’s also all part of the journey of having little ones. You haven’t really done the whole being a dad thing until you’ve had to give a presentation to a load of your colleagues despite only having 90 minutes’ sleep. And when, two minutes before that presentation, you realise that your two-year-old evidently covered your arse in Weetabix before you left the house, it’s even more of a challenge.
Peter Stringfellow isn’t alone when it comes to famous older dads: Paul Weller fathered twins at the age of 53, David Jason became a dad for the very first time at the age of 61, and Des O’Connor also had a kid at 72. It must be odd for your child to start growing their own teeth at the same time that you’re losing yours, and there’s something strange about having a baby in the full knowledge that you almost certainly won’t live long enough to see them into adulthood. But who am I to judge, eh? All I’d say is that I’m very thankful to have had kids in my 20s. I still feel woefully unprepared and horrendously under-qualified – but I doubt I’d feel much different if I was half a century older.