Since he became a dad again last month, Alex Kane has written and talked in the media about his joy at the arrival of his son. Here he specifically discusses the fact that he has fathered a child at the age of almost 62:
If I were 22, 32, 42, or maybe even 49, the story would have passed by without much attention.
But I’m 62 tomorrow (I know, I know, you can’t believe it, I don’t look it) and my son — Independence (Indy) Atticus Kane-Dunn — is not yet a month old.
And in a world in which everyone has to be put in some sort of box, I’m now classified as an ‘older Dad’; which means that people pause before saying, “So, you’ll be about 80 when Indy reaches 18?”
Oddly, no one ever says to a 25-year-old Dad, “So, your son will be heading for 60 by the time you’re nudging 80”—which is, I think, a much scarier prospect.
I was looking at some photographs a few weeks ago and was surprised to discover that most of the people in them — a group of men—were actually celebrating a joint retirement in 1967.
I was surprised, because they all looked so much older. Some of them could have passed for mid to late 70s, rather than 65.
I was born in 1955, a few years after the NHS was established and I’m also one of that generation who, as they approached what used to be the traditional aches and pains of middle age, have benefited from better diets, a better understanding of health issues generally, an awareness of keeping fit and, who can, when required, rely on a veritable cocktail of constantly improving drugs, cures, treatments and operations to keep us going.
Whoever coined the line, ‘60 is the new 40,’ was absolutely right.
It wasn’t that long ago when older dads tended to be celebrities: mostly old film and pop stars in relationships with much younger women and fathering children in their late 60s and 70s.
Not so today — when increasing numbers of ordinary guys like myself become fathers in our 50s and 60s.
When I became a father for the first time — to my wonderfully bonkers daughter, Lilah Liberty—I was 54 (my partner Kerri — we have been together for 17 years—is 24 years younger).
Some of my friends had already had grandchildren by the time Lilah Liberty was born!
A number of people asked me if I was concerned about dying while she was still very young? No, I wasn’t.
Young dads die. Young dads have life-changing illnesses and accidents that leave them crippled. Young dads often spend most of their time out at work, only seeing their children for relatively short periods.
Young dads separate from their partners and become weekend dads.
Being a young dad doesn’t mean that you are always a good dad. Being a young dad doesn’t mean that you can always be there for the key moments in your children’s lives. Kerri and I always knew that if we had children —which we were very keen to have — I would be an older dad.
We thought about it and talked about it: the benefits easily outweighed the risks.
When I was six I was adopted by middle-aged parents.
They were wonderful. And the most important thing they gave me was their presence and their time. In those crucial settling in years they were there every step of the way.
When Lilah Liberty was born I gave up full-time work and decided to work from home. It meant a considerable drop in salary; but it has been worth it. I’ve loved the past eight years with her. I’ve loved being there when she wakes and falls asleep. I saw her first step. I heard her first words. I cheered when she managed to get herself to her potty for the first time.
My job is to be there for her, with open arms, an attentive ear and an infinite amount of patience.
On more than one occasion I’ve been mistaken for her grandfather. She doesn’t care: she just wraps her arms around my tummy and says, “Don’t be silly, this is my daddy.”
As it happens I’m one of only a handful of men who leaves off or picks up their children from school almost every day.
I get the stream-of-consciousness download as she tells me everything that happened; I help her with her homework; we read to each other and, now and again, she types out a few words as I work on a column.
Every night, as I have since the day she was born, I sing her to sleep with Bring Me Sunshine.
A group of old friends —our collective age is almost 300 — has even had to put down our drinks in a pub and sing the song to her when Kerri has ‘phoned to say that she won’t go to sleep until she hears it.
Wonderful, wonderful moments.
And I’d rather leave Indy and Lilah Liberty with those moments than with the deeds to a house and a stash of cash. The most precious thing that older dads have to offer is the fact that we tend to be with our children far more than younger dads.
That’s not a criticism of younger dads, by the way. But I do know that the very fact that I am older, settled and an older dad by choice has probably made me a better dad than I would have been in my 20s or 30s.
The most important things any dad, of any age, can give their children are love, time, patience, security, confidence, grounding, tolerance and — something which tends to be underestimated — experience of life.
As an older dad I am able to provide Indy and Lilah Liberty with all of them. They can cope with the fact that I’ll be older than other dads.
And even if they are in their late teens or early 20s when I pop my socks I like to think that I’ll have left them enough love, guidance and happy thoughts to sustain them.
I have very personal experience of the huge difference that older parents, my ‘real’ Mum and Dad, can make.
If I can do half as much good for Indy and Lilah Liberty as my parents did for me then I will have succeeded in being what is now the most important thing in my life and their lives — a good dad.
• Ben Lowry: Some thoughts on being an older parent