My mobile rang today just after lunch. It was a journalist – they always start by giving their name and then explaining that they got my name from the British Psychological Society media list. I used to assume that they phoned me because I was near the top of the list, but apparently that’s not true, and I have often been actually chosen for being ‘media friendly’. I think that means that I am not prone to use long words, or lots of psychological jargon – probably because I don’t think like that. I do, however, read a lot, and am generally up-to-date. The phone calls from journalists are always interesting and often exciting. Sometimes they are asking for advice, sometimes for my involvement in a phone-in [The Asian Network is the most difficult with a number of highly articulate, highly intelligent participants] sometimes asking for an interview by phone or in the studio, They are interesting because they always ask for a new slant on something, and I am obliged to think and look-up and consider something I haven’t usually thought about before. Last year, for example, I was contacted about a cuddly bear that could transmit messages to children whose parents were not able to talk to them directly for some reason. At first sight this seemed bizarre – the parent had to phone and leave a message with the bear who would then give it to the child. I was particularly unimpressed by the managing director who said that it meant you didn’t have to have those boring conversations with your four year old!! But I could eventually see some merit in, perhaps, the bear storing messages from daddy who was serving overseas so that the child had her own collection of stories from daddy. There seems little point in having a bear to do this, however, some sort of recording device would do as well, and it could be confusing to visit a friend’s house and see the same bear there, giving different messages to your friend. It was stimulating to be made to think about the issues involved. As it was today. The journalist was planning an article on older parents. What did I see as the merits and difficulties posed by men becoming fathers in their fifties plus? [There was a necessary slant to this as the article was for a magazine for the over-fifties…, positive would be helpful!!] We talked about the negatives first. Obviously there would be usually some considerable discrepancy in age between the parents – most fertile women are in their early forties at the oldest. [Older fathers are more likely to have children on the autistic spectrum, with Down’s Syndrome, and their babies’ intellectual development may be slower]. And older men are probably less able to become involved in physical play, less able to toss a toddler in the air or play football for hours at a time. They are probably out of touch with present day cartoons, games, catch phrases, baby clothes etc. They might be less tolerant, more impatient, more inclined to be irritable, more tired. Their memories of being a child date from a different generation with all that that involves. But they probably have more to offer in terms of their emotional maturity, they have [or have not] achieved ambitions but are likely to have come to terms with this. And they are probably more financially secure and to be time-rich and therefore to be able to spend lots of time with their children. The marriage might also be more secure at this stage. More negatives came to mind however. Older men are more likely to become physically unwell or die. While young men do die, it is statistically more likely that a man in his fifties or sixties will have a stroke or heart attack, or be otherwise incapacitated. Older men can become grouchy, and are more inclined to hark back to an adolescence from a bygone era, with little hope of understanding the experiences of their own children. They are often significantly less willing to tolerate piercings or bad language, and are certainly less familiar with the expectations of modern society, and mix less with people from whom they might learn. We discuss the issues for some time. Children may not notice that their parents are old, but adolescents then worry about them dying. Furthermore, older fathers are less likely to have parents living still, and less likely to be around as grandparents too. On balance I believe that older fathers have a lot to offer, but that this may be outweighed by the disadvantages. She mentioned some older fathers and their status as symbols of virility – John Humphries, Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Rupert Murdoch. We talk about the meaning of babies for these fathers. And then I must go. In my experience, journalists are usually pretty good at condensing what I say to give a fairly accurate representation of what I intend. They challenge some of my preconceptions and allow me to think about peripheral but significant issues. I am so glad I don’t have to write the article but it has been fascinating to consider the issues involved; she has promised to send me a copy when it is published.