| Paul McCartney with wife Heather
London, June 1: Paul McCartney was a jaunty lad when, with John Lennon, he composed the song When I’m Sixty-Four.
A smiling young McCartney poked gentle fun of a distant, near-unimaginable age. Him, this tousled Beatle, as a wrinkled grandad with empty gums, gnarled limbs and a garden full of weeds' It was hard to credit.
“When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a Valentine, birthday greetings, bottle of wine'
If I’d been out ’till quarter to three, would you lock the door'
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four'”
Four decades on, Sir Paul McCartney, purpled old pro of pop, summoned the media last week and announced that he and his new wife, the second Lady McCartney formerly known as the model Heather Mills, are expecting a baby.
By the time, God willing, the infant arrives in the world, its father will be well launched into his 61st year. Maybe we need to re-draft that opening verse:
“Now I’m much older, dyeing my hair, aching joints and bones,
Must you keep on waking me to feed the babe, change its nappy, bottle of gripe'
Keeping us up ’till quarter to three, wailing all the night.
Calpol and Lego, bathtime and tears,
Now I’m sixty-one!”
It is grand news that the McCartneys are expecting a child, and yet, and yet… at the back of one’s mind, alongside the merry paradox of a sometime youth pop idol as a geriatric dad, is there perhaps something disquieting about fatherhood so late in life'
Some children with old parents can find that they resent the extent of the age gap. Is it selfish to have a baby so late in the day' Is it fair to the child, its mother, its siblings and even to the father himself'
Sir Paul is the latest in an impressive list of well-known older fathers. London’s mayor Ken Livingstone recently had his first experience of soiled nappies and late-night feeds — all at the age of 57. Tony Blair has done his bit by fathering a child at 45 — little Leo’s infant cries mixing with the more customary political wails of Downing Street life.
David Bowie, at 53, and Michael Douglas (58) have both spawned late. Other famous fathers of late have included the ever-active Mick Jagger (57), Phil Collins (51), Rupert Murdoch (72 and by no means yet finished with dynasty-building) and Luciano Pavarotti (with twins at 67).
Jack ’Sullivan is co-founder of the pressure group Fathers Direct and edits its publication, Dad magazine, which is given to “expecting” fathers at ante-natal clinics. He argues that the advantages to late fatherhood outweigh the disadvantages.
“Research shows that old fathers are three times more likely to take regular responsibility for a young child. They are more likely to be fathers by choice and this means that they become more positively involved with the child. They behave more like mothers, smiling at the baby and gurgling — although young fathers are probably better at getting down on the floor for physical play.”
“One downside can be the extent of the generation gap. There can be a cultural distance. And, of course, old fathers are less likely to become active grandfathers. “This will not be the case with Paul McCartney, but money can be a problem. An older father is likely to be past his peak earning years and may have a second family. He can be strapped for cash.”
Charlie Lewis, a professor of family and developmental psychology at Lancaster University, suspects that many of the problems surrounding late fatherhood will not affect the McCartneys and other famous parents, thanks to their status and wealth.
However much one pities the child born to a rich old man who persists in doing the peace sign and using the word “groovy”, it is still a cause for silent marvel that it will be more than another 17 years before Sir Paul can throw the keys to his youngest child and sing those familiar words: “Baby, you can drive my car.”