Monday 16 September 2019

Blessed are those men who procreate after 40

Older men make better dads than hormonal oiks who are still children themselves, says John O'Keeffe

JOHN O'KEEFFE

THE poor fathers of Ireland were dealt another terrible blow last week. Well, at least one section of us. Apparently fatherhood may be out of reach for men in their mid-30s, a "new" study suggests. Infertility specialists found that miscarriage rates increased significantly when the prospective father was older than 35, while pregnancy rates dropped after the age of 40.

You could have fooled me, mate. There's me at 44 years of age, minding my own business and -- hey presto -- seven weeks ago, a fourth child, a brand new PPS number arrives on the payroll. That's right, all the fours -- number four at 44 -- yet according to this "new" survey it's a wonder I can dress myself in the morning, let alone father a child.

In fact, quite how I did it is anyone's guess -- including my own. We're a special interest group, you see, and I am advised that a certain type of woman would prefer a mono-syllabic 20-year-old hoodie with galloping halitosis and a poor take on historical revisionism. Me, bitter? Never.

Now before I start to get really elderly, here is a survey I prepared earlier. Some months back, it was reported that older men were in fact a better bet for producing healthy offspring than hormone-fuelled automaton teenagers with spots.

The largest study investigating the influence of paternal age on having a baby with birth problems found that fathers under the age of 20 were, for instance, 17 per cent more likely to have children born early and of a low birth weight. Happily, there was no increased risk for babies born to older fathers, aged 40-plus -- so, boys, put that in your tracksuit pocket and say "dunno".

After all, if there is one thing more ludicrous than the sight of a very young mother, it has to be that of a very young father. Witness their inability to achieve anything concrete on behalf of their offspring in the child's early years, other than an uncanny speed in sorting out the child benefit before the umbilical cord has been severed. Their toe-curling attempts to take a proactive role in the child's development go no further then the farce of pushing a pram incessantly up and down their street and, for the "crazy" ones in their 20s, cradling the infant in a sling with 'Look at how relaxed I am with my child' emblazoned on their imitation Polo top.

Young fathers are always poorer than us grandees of the reproductive game, and indeed many still receive pocket money from their parents. They have risible formal education and, in the University of Life, have experienced little more than a bad snog in Wesley Rugby Club on a Friday night, or cider parties with Junior Disprin in the local park.

Compare these little oiks, if you will, to real men such as Jonathan Dimbleby, who became a father again last year aged 62; or John Humphrys, the veteran BBC Radio 4 Today programme presenter, who had a son, Owen James, eight years ago at the age of 56.

Do you think these men enjoy collecting football cards, regaling each other with tales of epic drinking sessions, or saving Christmas club money for that special present for "the Ma"? I don't think so.

If you don't believe that older fathers are by definition superior to their younger counterparts, then listen to Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield, when he says, "Older men are simply better able to provide for their pregnant partners than younger fathers. It makes sense that babies born to older fathers probably have a better start to life."

Better start to life? These kids are beyond blessed. No worries for baby that Daddy is going to start throwing up because he drank too much the night before, or getting all teary over Grey's Anatomy. Your daddy is a man. He worries about you, but deals with things. He spins more plates then young fathers will ever have bottles of alcopops, and he never complains. When he cries, he does so alone and then rarely. He doesn't wear stone-washed denims or tracksuits and he never tries to be his child's friend. Nor does he let the side down. Instead, he keeps his many chins up when all around him are losing theirs.

Frankly, there are no disadvantages to being an older dad. We are fully formed and resemble mature gnarled oak trees -- and when we stand at the playground entrance ready to pick up our children, we mimic Zeus, and the yummy mummies can only stop and wish.

I and my ilk may qualify as a grandfather in certain postcodes in Dublin, but I can live with that. I am 44, I am blessed with four beautiful children and, unlike child fathers, until the Daddy of them all takes me away, I will always be the giant on their shoulders.

Rock on real dads, and pass the slippers.

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