Thank God for Mick Jagger. Whenever I’m feeling that I made my run too late by starting this fatherhood caper well past my prime, I just catch up with the latest on the procreation habits of my big-lipped, skinny-hipped buddy.
In December 2016, Jagger fathered his eighth child. He was 73 at the time. His oldest child is 47.
With typical candour, Mick’s old sparring partner Keith Richards reacted to the announcement by saying:
“Mick’s a randy old bastard. It’s time for the snip. You can’t be a father at that age. Those poor kids.”
Sure, Mick and I live in slightly different worlds. He’s the lead singer of The Rolling Stones and I, to put it bluntly, am not.
Yes, Mick’s girlfriend was 30, and yes, he’s fathered children with five different women, and yes, he makes more money in a minute than I do in a year and yes, he has probably never had to change a nappy, do the grocery shopping or do the school run in his life.
Still, I’ve got a couple of decades on Mick and no-one in the playground has mistaken me for the girls’ grandfather – yet.
Mick is not just a relatively new father, but a grandfather and a great-grandfather. And he still has to race around stage every night as if he’s a teenager. I ruminate on this as I turn up The Stones’ 19th Nervous Breakdown at the end of another exhausting day and try to convince myself: “Yeah, he’s probably more tired than I am.”
Marriage and children weren’t on my agenda for a long time. Then in the course of interviewing people for a magazine story I was writing, I met and fell hard for a woman who wanted both. I was already past 40.
We dated for a while. It was great, but we were looking for different things. We moved on. We didn’t see each other for nine months. We randomly ran into each other again. We got together again. We were casual. We had another big talk about the future. We took another break for a month. We got back together. We were not so casual. We moved in together. We travelled. I proposed on a Friday the 13th on the Spanish Steps in Rome while fending off gypsies who were trying to get me to buy roses and pick my pockets. We got married and then we had two daughters. I guess this is serious.
Here’s the bit where I’m meant to say: “And I can’t imagine my life any other way.”
But I can. It’s a different life, for sure. It’s packed wall-to-wall with writing and travel and music and love affairs.
But the truth is I’ve got all those things. I’m a full-time writer, I travel overseas a couple of times a year, I’m a music journalist and I play in a band for fun, and – at the risk of you sticking your finger down your throat – I’m still having a love affair with my wife.
Sure, all of those things are frantically squashed into much smaller time frames than if I hadn’t started a family. We all know about the need to compromise and compartmentalise if you want to have something resembling a life outside of being a parent, whether it’s work, creativity, hobbies, intimacy or a shower that lasts more than two minutes.
And now I’ve got kids I’ve become that guy. The one who says he never thought he’d love being a father so much. Although everything is crazier, more hectic and more tiring than at any point in my life, the clichés are all true – I love the way these little creatures automatically reach for my hand when we leave for school in the morning, I love the way they babble incessantly about every little thing that crosses their mind, I love the impossible questions they ask, I adore every picture they draw and every story they make up and the way they dance like no-one’s watching and how angelic they look when they’re asleep and…somebody stop me or l’ll just keep going.
They can also drive me totally insane, but that’s part of the deal, right?
Whether this happens to you at the age of 25, 35, 45…or 73…fatherhood is something for which we’re all equally unprepared, yet we all become equally besotted.
As Mick once famously sang, “If you try sometimes you might just find you get what you need.”