No man can stop the passage of the big 4-0

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There are some things parents really should keep from their children until they can at least legally buy the Old Man a pint.

The fairy stories aside, there are certain facts of life that are best discovered first hand such as the pain of childbirth (so I am told), the trauma of trying to switch an account of any kind via a call centre or waiting for the breakdown man to turn up on time (they never do).

As someone who does parenting by the seat of his pants and where the considered approach is always discarded via the nearest fenestrated exit, this means the heir to my collection of Asterix comic books always finds out the hard way.

In some cases there is no real harm in learning tough lessons but, as is often the case with most dads, I always end up go too far.

I fear I overstepped the mark when, in the run up to my birthday this week, I made the mistake of telling our earnest six-year-old that grown-ups don’t care for birthdays as much as children do. I may as well have told her that we were having goldfish soufflé for lunch.

While there are some Peter Pans out there who celebrate every birthday like they were 10 years old, complete with a week-long build-up, most of us mortgage payers and professional nose wipers enjoy the day with the family and it is all forgotten about once Newsnight comes on.

But this is a painful fact that no child wants to hear as, after Christmas, birthdays are the highlight of any year but not when your latest anniversary is your 39th which starts a countdown to the first real landmark since one’s coming of age.

I have never taken much notice of how old I am until now but seeing the big 4-0 on the horizon is a sobering thought, especially when I recall how ancient I regarded my own parents when they were the same age.

The lengthening of life expectancy and changing attitudes towards age mean that 40 is no longer considered the beginning of middle age, even though we are told that now doesn’t happen until we reach 53.

But 40 is still a big deal as it allows us to reflect on the previous decades and forces some of us to get a wriggle on and achieve the goals we set our 20-year-old selves.

I am now at the stage in my life with the awful realisation that I am more than likely to be stuck with all my idiosyncrasies until the end of days and it frightens me. No man can stop the passage of time but they can learn to celebrate. I’ll try harder next year.