Being a dad is no joke. As I always tell my friends, making kids is the easy, enjoyable part of starting a family. Once they’re there though you assume responsibilities you never really thought about and try to meet expectations to prove your worth as a “quality” dad. Being the father of two highly-opinionated, snarky kids (a teenage boy and a precocious 8-year-old girl), here are five things about being a dad no one told me.
I wasn't given a warning about performance anxiety. No, not THAT kind of performance. When my wife told me that she was pregnant with our son, I was ecstatic. It was something we have been waiting for (and I also realized the "boys" were actually working, woohoo!). But the day after the announcement, I was working in front of my PC at home, and it just hit me: I’ll be a father, and I didn’t have any savings.
That thought led me into a downward spiral of worrying: will I be able to provide for my child and my wife? Will I find a better job? Is my current job fit for a padre de familia? What about when my child enters elementary school? High school? College?
Am I going to be a failure as a father?
At that moment, I kind of wished the boys didn’t perform their job that well. My wife noticed that I looked sullen and worried and asked me what’s wrong. Thankfully, after I told her my fears, she reassured me, helped me process, and made me realize that I just need to take it one day at a time and enjoy being a soon-to-be-dad.
You’re expected to be Mr. Handyman. When you get married, your wife will likely assume that you, being this virile alpha male, know your way around a toolbox. Minor house repairs should be your domain. While my dad taught me how to use a screwdriver (leftie loosie, righty tighty!), becoming a dad brings with it additional expectations on your skills.
After breaking his favorite toy truck when he was young, my son naturally asked me to fix it. One look at the poor truck though, with its cracked housing and wheel and bent axle, I could tell there was no way anyone could fix it. When I told my son that it was beyond repair, he gave me this look of profound disappointment. He thought his Dada could fix anything, short of resurrecting a totally destroyed toy.
I felt quite small when my son gave me that look. So I salvaged his damaged perception of his superhero father and drove him to the nearest toy store. Yes, I bought him a new toy. Problem solved. Reputation intact. Dada is a hero.
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You will have to steel yourself for when you have a girl.
Be ready for fashion makeovers. This is something you will have to steel yourself for when you have a girl. Little girls think everyone is a mannequin, and the most pliant one would always be you, the Dad. Why? Because they have this sixth sense -- they know they’ve got you wrapped around their finger. Lipsticks and makeup while you’re working at home? Suffer through it.
Headbands and tiaras while playing tea party? Suck it up. Putting colorful clips on your hair because she’s bored while waiting for your flight at the airport's waiting area? Sit through the embarrassment with quiet dignity. On the plus side, though, you get really admiring glances from the ladies. I think their uteruses can sense great daddy material when they see it.
Patience x infinity = dadhood Patience is not just going to be a virtue when you’re a father. It’s practically going to be your last name. You have to learn to keep your cool when they throw a tantrum at the toy store, when they kick their sibling on the face, when they pull the placemat from the table with a plate on it. You can’t lose your cool and get angry for something little kids are kind of expected to do because what kind of a dad would you be? You’re trying to be the cool DAD, right? And Cool Dads are, you know, COOL! You’ll have to learn the art of Zen even if you don’t know what the frigging hell Zen is when you became a dad.
You’re going to be a rolemodel -- 24/7 No one tells you that being a role model is a LOT of hard work. It is probably the hardest thing to do when you embark on your journey of fatherhood.
Whenever I’m with my son and daughter, I have to remember to say “please,” “thank you,” “po,” and “opo” when I talk to everyone. When I order anything at the restaurant, I have to be extra nice and polite even when I’m tired and just want to mumble our orders with a quick thanks to end it. Every single show we watch together, every single movie, every single Facebook post they read becomes an impromptu moral lesson.
Patience is not just going to be a virtue; it’s practically going to be your last name.
And you know you’ve turned into a parent when you do the one thing you hated your parents for doing -- give those “during my time” and “when I was your age” stories. You suddenly realize your parents told you those stories not to torture you; they just really love you, and they’re just afraid you won’t develop the tools and skills you need to survive adulthood.
And yes, this is THE ONE THING I wish someone told me about being a dad -- you’ll always live in this bubble of overwhelming love for your children, vexation for the wrong things they do, fear for their future, and pride for raising really cool kids.