Many things should be off the table at 79 – and becoming a parent is top of the list

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Five months into first-time fatherhood, and everything hurts all the time. My knees are so sore from rocking the baby in his early days that I am almost certain there is serious ligament damage but can’t bring myself to visit a doctor for confirmation.

My back aches from an endless cycle of lifting and putting him down, made worse by the fact that he appears to double in size every half an hour.

And my voice is permanently hoarse because being a parent means your life becomes a musical; every act must be accompanied by a big number in order to prevent possible tears. “We’re going to have a bath; we’re going to have a bath; my knees are shot; the water’s hot; we’re going to have a bath!”

Meet The Parents … again. Robert De Niro has just become a father for the seventh time at the age of 79.Credit: Marija Ercegovac

Five months into first-time fatherhood, and I have never felt older in my entire life, so you can imagine my surprise when I read this headline: Robert De Niro “just had a baby” at 79.

At first, I assumed it was just the latest in a series of strange roles that have made up the latter part of De Niro’s career. Of course, the guy who starred in Dirty Grandpa (2016) and The War With Grandpa (2020) is now shooting I Just Had A Baby At 79.

But no, there it was, splashed across news websites and doing the rounds on breakfast television: Robert De Niro, 79, has just become a father for the seventh time. The two-time Oscar winner and his girlfriend, Tiffany Chen, 45, welcomed a daughter on April 6.

De Niro confirmed the news while doing press for his latest film, the appropriately titled About My Father. Quizzed about his six children, the 79-year-old corrected the interviewer, “Seven, actually,” De Niro said, adding: “I just had a baby.”

As far as announcements go, it’s pretty De Niro; he was hardly about to drop a carousel on Instagram, but more curious was the response. For the most part, people seemed nonplussed. Articles used phrases like “expanding his brood” or referred to how “scared but excited” he was about becoming a father again.

But nowhere was anyone putting their hand up and addressing the elephant in the room: should we be scared (not excited) that Robert De Niro is having a baby at 79?

Alec Baldwin with son Eduardo in 2021.Credit: AP

The Peter Pan syndrome of famous men is not new; you can’t kick a rock down Hollywood Boulevard without hitting a guy born before the First World War but whose girlfriend is on TikTok.

And coming up with a list of examples is easy because the minute De Niro announced his baby news, the algorithm kicked into gear. Aware that people would be searching online for “old actors with young babies”, websites started pumping out listicles.

Thanks to US Weekly’s Celebrity Dads Who Had Children Late in Life, I know that Alec Baldwin had two kids at 62, Richard Gere had one at 69 (and again at 71), and Steve Martin became a father for the first time at 67. Yeah, the guy from Parenthood (1989) waited until 2012 to actually give it a go.

The age-old problem we have here is that these men do not see old age as a problem at all.

While we may roll our eyes at the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and his penchant for dating women under the age of 25, what De Niro is doing is more irresponsible.

Putting aside the issue of what constitutes an acceptable age gap, surely common sense suggests that once these Peter Pan men hit a particular age – let’s say 50 – they should approach sex in the same way they approach steep hills; safely.

Undoubtedly, there will be those who believe this entire column is ageist and everyone should be free to do whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want.

But at 79 years old, certain things should be off the table completely: parkour, spicy foods and becoming a parent.

I’m under no illusion he will be changing nappies or getting up for feeds. One of the perks of being rich is hiring people to help with the tricky bits, which is fine.

My wife and I regularly daydream about how much easier things would be if we were insanely wealthy. But all the money in the world can’t buy you more time, and time is what matters most.

The sad reality is that Robert De Niro’s seventh child will be on borrowed time with her father, making the decision selfish.

By the time I’m 79, I look forward to my children taking on the role of caregiver: making sure I’m fed, singing to me and keeping me away from sharp corners.

As for De Niro, well, I hope his knees are still up for it.

Find more of the author’s work here. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Instagram at @thomasalexandermitchell and on Twitter @_thmitchell.

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