I’ve known my entire life that I wanted to be a dad. It started when I was little and looked up to my own father. He was funny, smart, strong and was always there. I don’t remember a time when he wasn’t there; from every day stuff to big decisions, he had my back. I know I put him through some level of hell as I grew up. We all have that moment when we get a little too big for our britches.
Time went by and I graduated college, married the girl who helped me to grow up and had a couple of rug rats, and I now look back at my 18-year-old self and wonder how different life has become. You may be thinking, “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
Well, let me get to it and tell you why being a dad is hard:
#1 Traveling alone is no longer fun
I used to travel… a lot. I enjoyed traveling. It was a way to see the world. A way to find inner peace and gain new experiences. But right after my first child was born, I knew I wanted to be a constant part of her life as my dad was for me. Granted I still traveled for work. Becoming a parent was a jarring experience for me at first. Little by little, as my daughter grew older, the moments where she made me laugh came more and more often. Just this evening my wife cut some grapes for my 5-year-old and as she handed them to her, my daughter said, “Geez, what took so long?” Obviously, this was a teachable moment that should be dealt with expeditiously, but I couldn’t stop laughing. Where do these kids get the audacity?
I know we aren’t supposed to laugh, but during these moments I can’t help but laugh. I digress. The truth though is that every time I travel now, as I’m getting to my 6 am flight on a wide open southbound 183, something in me begins to hurt. I love my kids and I miss them. I miss their giggles, their funny stories, their outrageous need to climb on me like I’m their own personal jungle gym. I realized that I don’t want to miss a thing. Not even those inappropriate (and hilarious) remarks.
#2 Never enough family time
Being part of a large family has been very rewarding and at times challenging. I was an only child, but luckily I had a big extended family with very loving cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents. In my family aunts and uncles were like big brothers and sisters. Cousins more like little brothers and sisters. In my case that is all I had, so every time we were together I made the best of it. I made sure to take my licks and give some out.
Growing up, maybe most of the drama was hidden from me, but we laughed, cried and fought like a family. No matter what, we stuck by each other. As I grew up and had children of my own, the need for this family grew. Our son Caleb was born with a congenital heart defect; essentially half of his heart did not form. We didn’t know it until two days after his birth. The shock was intense for my wife and me. During this trying time, the relationships with my family were greatly solidified. My family came through for us. Drove for hours to help at the hospital, watch our daughter, whatever we needed. Their support was incredible.
The biggest challenge in this regard is that I want to give my kids the same supportive, loving and fun family I’ve been lucky to have. I want them to grow up knowing their family is there when life is tough. I want them to feel they are part of something and know that we won’t always get along or always be near each other, but that we must always strive to be there for one another. However, with everyone in different cities, there just doesn’t ever seem to be enough time together and I’m always wishing for more.
#3 Money isn’t very exciting anymore
Coming out of college and going to my first full time job felt amazing. When I collected that two-week check, I thought I was rich. I was ready to get my car washed, my clothes dry cleaned, take my girlfriend out for a nice dinner. Man, was I on top on the world. As we get used to nice dinners and vacations, we begin to think that money is the way to show love.
Fast forward to marriage and having kids. Little did I know how much kids cost. It’s a funny thing, because the world we create for ourselves is based on the needs versus wants as we define them. To be clear, I believe my son NEEDS an indoor trampoline. I have convinced myself that the things I buy for my kids are for ensuring their happiness. This kind of thinking is something that my younger self thought was a way of showing my love. I still show love in this way, the difference is that I now know that it isn’t what my children expect or need. The reality is my children want one thing and one thing only, to be with me. To be beside me and play games or just be.
Money doesn’t mean what we think it means. It’s just currency. That’s all. It’s not something you use to make your kids love you more. Time with them is the currency they trade in. Ever ask a toddler to hand you money? They just stick out their little empty hands and say, “Here you go.” They value hugs and kisses and bedtime stories. Being a father has shown me that the value of a safe home is very important and the future we save for our children can greatly improve their options in life. At the end of the day, a piece of paper, some crayons and Daddy time is all my daughter truly wants from me.
#4 Growing up
In youth, guys can be arrogant, selfish and impatient. Once he in the father role, this changes rather quickly. I’m a copilot. My wife is the pilot and she is downright amazing. I’m not trying to get any kudos for my statement. It’s just facts.
It turns out no matter how hard I work, a full day with two kids is tougher than dealing with anything you throw at me at the office. To be clear, my wife is the one that taught me patience. The kids taught me how frustrating it can be to convince someone that the mac and cheese they just asked for isn’t good enough, but the chicken nuggets they found at the bottom of the freezer sound better… even though they will take another 20 minutes in the oven.
Children can test you in ways you haven’t been tested. As a young man, I did not believe I would have the patience I have today. My wife has now become my Obi-Wan Kenobi. What has been the hardest thing about being a father has now made me a better man. I no longer allow frustrations to get the best of me. No longer do I care about how long my Taco Deli order takes or that the person in front of me forgot his signal and cut me off. I realize that my ability to control frustration has translated me in to a more peaceful and caring person, and that’s important for me to model for my kids.
#5 Sleep (lack thereof)
This one is completely true. I need more sleep. The days of going to bed at 3 am after spending a night out with friends on West 6th are over (I’m showing my age here). I used to start getting dressed at 9pm before going out, get to bed at 3 am and wake up at 11am. Some people were responsible in their 20’s. I was not one of them. The reality of children is that they like schedules. Whether you put them to bed at 7pm or 9pm they are waking up at 7am on the dot.
Now you may be thinking, my kid a great sleeper and wakes up late. Well you are very lucky! I am not as lucky. My kids have a way of finding out what time I set my alarm and decide to wake us up right before it. Until very recently, my daughter would come downstairs from her perfectly cozy bed and sneak into our bed. Sometimes it would be okay and other times there would be numerous kicks to my face, ribs, etc. But with all this lack of sleep, the one thing that I found to make it tolerable were the morning snuggles. Those little moments where they sleep so perfectly with their hair all messed up, looking like angels. I’ve never loved something so much in my life, and in those peaceful moments when they are sleeping so securely beside you, that you realize the four hours you slept didn’t hurt quite so bad. I may have woken up with a black eye, but it was worth it.
With that I leave you the 5 reasons being a dad doesn’t stink. In the last five years since I became a father, I have found myself. I’m a more patient, loving, family oriented man. I strive every day to be the man my wife, children, parents and family are proud of. The little things that used to matter to me when I was young just don’t anymore. And I couldn’t be happier about that.
Author: Daniel Zadik