Everyone writes these great stories about the things about fatherhood that surprised them. Wonderful, pie-in-the-sky stuff, like how first-time-father-dudes never truly knew how to love until they saw their child’s eyes. Or the surprise of having to learn how to do girl’s hair as the father of a daughter.
That’s all totally valid.
But there are a lot of things that are very not-shocking about fatherhood. Things that, when they happen, you saw them from so far away that you actually forgot about them until they were right there, running you over. No-brainers about fatherhood, such as …
1. I’m raising a small me.
I understand this doesn’t sink in for some people. But early on, I knew that whatever my kid saw me do, he’d do. Whatever he heard me say, he’d say. Obviously. That’s how babies learn the world. So when my son is sarcastic to me, I get it. He’s just putting out what he got in.
And whenever I curse (which is, on a good day, once every four sentences), I know it’s coming right back at me. And it does. When my son was no more than three, he hit his leg on the coffee table and then sat down, and without knowing that I was listening, said “ow, my f**kin’ knee.” We had to explain that there are adult words that he just doesn’t get to say until he’s been chewed up and destroyed by a constantly contracting and crushing life, breaking him from the inside out. Then, and only then, do bad words truly mean something for you, kid.
I’m raising a tiny me. I knew this from the start. So I’ve got to put love, happiness, nerdiness and some humor into him so the rest of the world doesn’t regret that I had a kid.
2. Kids break EVERYTHING.
You can train your child that you live in a museum (and what fun is that), or teach them specifically what to touch and what not to touch, but eventually, your child will break everything you care about. They will put a slice of cheese in the disc tray of your PlayStation 4. They will tear holes in your couch cushions. BTW, they’ll also break their own arms.
They will, in fact, break everything you have until you have bought everything in your house three times. They will also break your heart. You know it and you wait for it and it happens and then you go off and cry and you get back on your feet and wait for it again. It all pays off though. At least that’s what my dad said.
3. I get to buy toys again.
This is incredible. I get to go to the store and buy toys. And my son thinks it’s for him, but yeah, I never got Nerf guns when I was a kid, and now there’s a million of them at the store and they shoot all sorts of neat stuff from darts to missiles to ham sandwiches. I get to buy video games and superhero action figures. And I get to play with all of this stuff with my son because he and I make a great team.
But sometimes I get conflicted. I want to buy an action figure and keep it in the box, but then I think, “no, I bet my son would want to play with this.” Then I take the action figure out of the box, pose him like 50 times, make him beat up other action figures I have, and then when I hear my son coming down the hall, I silently whisk my action figures off my desk and back up onto my bookcase really quickly. Shhhhhhhhh. I get to buy toys.
I also get to go on eBay and buy old stuff that was around when I was a kid but isn’t anymore, like the old, two-color GameBoy. I even dragged out my old skateboard as if I’m ever going to skateboard again. Hell no. But I’m going to get my son totally into skating and enjoy watching him do it.
4. I have to be the bad cop. A lot.
Once your baby starts walking and talking and being a real human and not a shit-lump wrapped in blankets, you know you’re going to have to lay down the law. It starts with stupid stuff like “no biting.” Then it’s no putting the dog’s tail in your mouth. Then it’s “don’t stand on my laptop” (see No. 2). Then, it’s “you need to eat all your food or there’s no figgy pudding.” Et cetera, et cetera.
But there’s a million other things that will make you raise your voice, or send both of you to bed crying. They’ll tell you that they hate you. Your spirit will break and you’ll want nothing more than to break their spirit in return. But even though you’re the bad cop, you’re still a cop. You’re actually more than that … you’re a parent. You knew this was all coming. And so you just hold it together.
5. Fatherhood is fun.
I’m raising a rad kid who likes toys and video games and enjoys dancing. When my wife was pregnant, people would tell me fatherhood was tough, but they also said it was a lot of fun. I’d get to do cool stuff like teach a little person how to throw a baseball or how to use a camera. I get to show my son how to make a pizza, and I get to explain the universe to him before some shitheel at school ruins it for him. I get to play Frisbee with him and pretend I can still skateboard. I get to take selfies with him and listen to jokes about poop. I also get to do some of this fatherhood thing in my pajamas. And for every time my son tells me he hates me because I won’t let him eat cupcakes and play Halo on a school night (dude, hit me up on Friday), he also tells me that he loves me, and he smiles when I do things with him and he laughs at my poop jokes.
This shit is the life. The. Life.
A version of this first appeared on 8BitDad.