6 things that surprised these dads about fatherhood

Father’s Day is upon us, and that means it’s the perfect time to reflect on all the wonderful things our fathers have done for us. It’s also the perfect time for fathers to reminisce about all the things fatherhood has taught them over the years. Parenthood overall involves a lot of first-time experiences for both parent and child alike, and something dads and moms quickly learn is that it’s nothing like they tell you in the books.

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As such, dads are regularly surprised by their children and, in turn, how the world reacts to them as parents. It’s a constant learning curve, and you pretty much just have to ride the wave of every new development. We wanted to find out exactly how fatherhood ends up being different than expected, so we asked a number of dads to elaborate on moments that surprised them most.

1. Great minds

Ray, a contractor from Arizona, can’t believe how much his son resembles him in every way.

“I’m constantly surprised by how much my son and I think alike. I can stay one step ahead of him because I know what he’s going to do, but it’s hard to discipline him, because I would do the exact same thing. It feels like I’m having an inner dialogue and punishing myself for being me,” he said.

2. Time marches on

George, a blogger from Chicago, can’t get over how fast time is moving and how quickly his kid is changing. It’s almost impossible to keep up.

“Your role changes so damn fast. Just as you settle into looking after a helpless ball of baby, he’s a toddler, and you need to master your debate skills. Then you have to adjust your weekends to get him to the park to run around and get some air, and all of a sudden, you’re like a lifeguard, always on the lookout for trouble.

“It whips by, dragging your life along with it. It’s crazy.”

3. Mental versus physical exhaustion

For Andrew, a writer/actor from New York, it was all about realizing how mentally exhausting as opposed to physically exhausting a newborn child can be.

“I thought I’d be completely exhausted all the time, but that hasn’t been the case. While I’m definitely tired more often than I used to be (and now go to bed at 10:30 p.m. instead of 1 a.m.), sleep deprivation’s primary effect has been on my mood. Especially early on, I felt completely impaired in my ability to modulate my mood. Little problems would seem like the end of the world, and I would get anxious or obsessive about nearly every aspect of my daughter’s development. So the mental strain has been huge, but the physical strain hasn’t been as big as I expected.”

More: We ask: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten from your dad?

4. They’re so smart

Jim, a social worker from Georgia, never thought his kids’ intelligence would baffle him. He said it was shocking “how incredibly intelligent children can be. I was used to seeing kids wailing in stores and eating dirt at parks, making a fool of themselves, but there are days my 3-year-old comes to me and talks about engines having pistons, or remembering when my birthday is even though she was 2 when I last had one and haven’t ever talked to her about my birthday.”

5. Sexist judgment

Not all fatherhood surprises are good. Michael, an actor from Los Angeles, couldn’t believe how judgmental people (especially women) could be of his parenting skills.

“What really got under my skin and really shocked me was that women would come up to me and ask me if I needed help with my son. They would ask if they could hold him and say that they could calm him down. They would ask condescendingly if I was able to handle it and if I was OK and ‘don’t worry, he’ll be fine when he’s with Mommy.’ One woman even said to me, ‘Aww, why don’t I take him? He needs a woman’s touch.’ I was stunned that strangers would have the audacity to ask to not only hold my son but suggest that they could do a better job of parenting him than I could.”

6. What it means to do anything for your child

Justin, a property manager from New Orleans, never fully understood what it meant to want to do anything and everything for his child until he was, shall we say, deeply entrenched in fatherhood.

“They say you’d do anything for your child. And while this is true, I always thought it fell more into the category of jumping in front of a bus. In fact, it’s more like, ‘My newborn hasn’t pooped in four days, so now I’m going to insert this glycerin suppository without any squeamishness or hesitation. And then I’m going to squeal with glee when a mudslide of black goo comes pouring out of her butt.’ You don’t overthink what you have to do for your kids; you just do it.”

Truer words were never spoken.

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This post was sponsored by Dockers.