When you become a father, everybody is happy to tell you all the hard things about becoming a parent. You’re not going to sleep for the first six months. There’ll be diapers and tantrums and messes and confusion. You’ll be more exhausted than you’ve ever been in your life, and your personal life will all but disappear. They make it sound like a nightmare. There was even a 2015 study, published in the journal Demography, that claimed the first year of parenthood is more emotionally traumatizing than surviving a divorce, unemployment, and the death of a partner. Yikes!
Yes, being a dad is hard. But it’s also one of the most fulfilling, life-affirming, gobsmacking things you can do with your short time on this planet. Here are 30 of the best things about being a dad, and rest assured that we’ve barely scratched the surface. And for some great gift ideas for your dad, check out 30 Unique Father’s Day Gifts for the Dad Who Has Everything
Your Kids Think You Know Everything
It’s probably the only time in your life where someone will automatically assume that your knowledge of the world is unlimited and unassailable. Why is the sky blue? Are there more leaves in the world or blades of grass? Why doesn’t arm hair grow as long as head hair? Maybe you have no idea, but your kid will believe anything that comes out of your mouth.
They Can’t Fathom Anyone Stronger Than You
You may not have muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but as far as your kid is concerned, there is nobody with more raw power than their daddy. You can open any stubborn bottle top, lift the heaviest of objects, and carry them around like they’re light as a feather. As Mr. T might say, they pity the fool that tries to cross you.
They Force You to Slow Down
Before having kids, you probably thought nothing of working late and answering emails well into the evening. But when you become a daddy, you suddenly want your nights and weekends back. You want to turn off the laptop and power down your phone and actually be present for your family. If your dad needs to keep track of hours see the 20 Best Ways to Give Your Dad the Gift of Time.
Showing Them the World
There are so many amazing things you’ll want them to see and experience, it’s hard to know where to begin. Do you want to take them to the Grand Canyon, or show them the Empire State Building, or maybe Mount Rushmore? Vacations aren’t just about relaxing anymore, they’re an opportunity to introduce your little one(s) to the big, beautiful world. When on the go, try to avoid the 10 Worst U.S. Airports for Summer Travel.
You’re No Longer the Center of the Universe
For maybe the first time ever, you care about somebody else more than you care about yourself. Their happiness, their health, their sense of well being and personal security, is more important than your own. You would give up everything for them, without even a second thought.
You’ll Feel Young Again
How did we make it so long through adulthood without remembering that playing hide-and-seek is one of the single best ways to spend an afternoon? You know what else is awesome? Monkey bars. And swings. If you haven’t been on a swing for so long that your thighs start to hurt, it’s possible you haven’t really lived. It took becoming a dad to be reminded of these simple pleasures. To look as young as you feel, here are 15 Best Men’s Haircuts for Looking Instantly Younger.
You (Re)learn How to Use Your Imagination
Do you believe in fairies? How about autonomous robots that can only be stopped with elaborate booby traps made out of Legos? Have you ever sat under your bed covers and pretended you were floating in outer space? Or had in-depth discussions about candy with stuffed bears? If you’re a dad, you’ve probably done at least a few of these things.
Late Night Feedings
Wait, isn’t this supposed to be one of the terrible parts of being a dad? That’s what we’re told anyway. But those 4am feedings, when it’s just you and your baby, and you’re gently rocking them in your arms and listening to their gentle breathing, is something you’re going to miss more than you ever thought possible.
It might take until their teens before it finally happens, but it will happen. Something you do, or say, or wear, will be incredibly embarrassing to them. And you’ll find it hilarious. One of the inalienable rights of being a parent is making your son or daughter cringe at your unapologetic dad-ness.
Having a Kid Is Like Getting a Full Time Personal Trainer
One thing you can’t do with a small child is sit on the sidelines. They want to be chased, and to chase you. Sometimes up steep inclines, and down slides, and across grassy parks that seem to go on forever. It never stops, even when you insist that it’s time for bed and you can’t take it anymore. It’s like you somehow became a parent to a tiny, prepubescent Jack LaLanne.
You’re More Aware of Your Own Bad Behavior
When you have a kid, you want to live longer. So every time you have that third cocktail, or a puff of a cigarette “just cause we’re celebrating,” or a dessert after an already calorie-rich meal, it gives you pause. And it makes you think twice before you do it again. Because you want to be alive to see your kid grow up, and graduate from school, and maybe get married and have kids of their own. And you know what? That cigarette and third cocktail aren’t worth giving that up.
There’s Nothing Better Than Making Them Laugh
A child’s laugh, when it was caused by something you said or did — even if it was something silly or stupid, and maybe especially then — is one of the most beautiful and perfect sounds that ever existed. You can get addicted to a sound like that.
They’ll Give You Renewed Respect For Your Own Dad
You love your dad already (we hope), but your respect for him just gets bolstered after you become a dad yourself. You never realized just how challenging it was for him, and how patient and strong he really was. He thought he was Superman when you were younger, but now that you’re a dad and have some perspective, you’re like, “Oh my god, he really was Superman.”
You’ll Realize Just How Brave You Actually Are
It takes courage to be a dad. Not just because you’re the one who checks under the bed for monsters. Or holds your kid during a thunderstorm and makes sure they know they’re safe. You’re the rock when anything goes wrong, or even could go wrong. You’re the one who puts a bandage on their boo-boo, and takes them to an ER when they have an accident in the park, and sends them off to school and camp and sleepovers even though letting them disappear from your sight for that long practically kills you, but it’s going to be okay, just breathe.
True Unconditional Love
You thought you knew what unconditional love was, but you were wrong. You knew nothing. Until you hold hands with a little person that you helped create, and they look up at you with such complete adoration like you never thought was possible, and you feel like keeping this tiny person happy and healthy and secure just might be your sole purpose in life, that’s when you’ll get it.
Roughhousing is Awesome
When a dad wrestles with his son or daughter, it’s not unlike professional wrestling. Everybody knows it’s fake, especially the wrestlers. Nobody is going to get hurt. Every headlock is soft, every body slam is measured, and there’s no danger that anybody is going to experience serious injury. But it’s exhilarating nonetheless. Every dad worth his salt knows how to roughhouse, with the exaggerated fury of Hulk Hogan, and his “opponent”, like a tiny Rowdy Roddy Piper, takes the choreographed attack with a giggling glee.
And So Are Manners
You spend enough time reminding your kid to say “please” and “thank you” and it starts to rub off on you. You realize that being polite isn’t just some arcane pleasantry we demand of our offspring. It’s actually a pretty good way to exist in the world.
Coming Home From Work
The workday can beat the joy out of you. But when you come home after a long day at the office and throw off your shoes and collapse on the couch, and then you notice those little faces running towards you, so happy and grateful to see you again, it makes every grueling moment worth it. When you pick up a kid in your arms, with the last bit of strength you have after a punishing day, it’s a reminder of why you bother to throw yourself into the rat race at all.
Watching Them Become Great at Something You Could Never Do
It might be a clumsy but beautiful ballet when they’re just five, or hitting their first home run in a youth league baseball game, but when they have that moment, doing something you either never tried or never did that perfectly as a kid, it can be enough to make you dizzy with pride.
Being Their Teacher
Everything they learn, it in some way involves you. When they walk for the first time, you’ll be holding their hands. When they learn to ride a bike, you’ll be right behind them, holding them by the waist. When they learn to read, you’ll be holding the book. When they learn to do math, you’ll be sitting right next to them, cheering them on. You’ll be like their personal Yoda. And speaking of Yoda…
Introducing Them to Your Geeky Obsessions
The first time they see Star Wars, it’s going to be with you! If Star Wars isn’t your nerdy cultural touchstone, it’ll be something else — and we all have one, let’s not pretend otherwise — and you’re going to be the person who shows it to them first. They might hate it. Honestly, odds are they won’t have the same emotional attachment to it that you do. But you’ll be the one who shares it with them first. And that counts for an awful lot. If you end up looking like a geek instead of a dad, we got you covered with 15 Killer Style Accessories You Never Knew You Needed.
It Doesn’t Always Go Your Way, and You’re Okay With That
Your idealized vision of fatherhood probably isn’t going to pan out. They’re not going to be as much into baseball as you’d hoped. Or they don’t love the same cartoons or board games or pop culture benchmarks that were so meaningful to your childhood. And Star Wars? Sorry, they’re just not interested. Feeling that sting, and being okay with the rejection, is in some ways the epitome of what it means to be a dad.
Cuddling! Come oooon! Do we even need to explain why this is awesome? Have you ever cuddled all morning with your kid and then realized you’d made plans to meet somebody, and you were like, “We told them we’d be there,” and your kid was like, “I don’t wanna?” And you’re like, “Are you sure?” And they’re like, “Let’s just cuddle.” So you keep cuddling and blow off whoever you were supposed to meet, and it’s the best decision you’ve ever made in your life.
It’s a day that’s literally just about you. You’re the whole holiday! You know how Christmas is about celebrating the birth of the Baby Jesus? For Father’s Day, you’re the Baby Jesus! It’s all about you, and how ridiculously awesome you are. It’s a day where staying in pajamas and doing absolutely nothing and maybe eating donuts in bed and being generally unproductive is not just tolerated but expected and celebrated.
You Start Taking Better Care of Yourself
That annual checkup you’ve been putting off for too many years? Now that you’re a daddy, it’s harder to make excuses like “I feel fine, what’s the big deal?” Or “I’m not going to make an appointment till I have any noticeable symptoms.” That might’ve cut it during your childless years, but now that you’re responsible for somebody other than yourself, you start asking questions and bringing up topics with your doctor that you would have avoided not so long ago.
You’re More Thankful Than Ever For Your Partner
Whoever is co-raising this little demon — sorry, we mean angel — with you, they must be a remarkable person. Maybe they even gave birth to this tiny human being. Can you imagine? And yet they still decided to stick around. They’re nurturing and patient and loving in ways you wish you could live up to, and they’re strong when you feel like falling apart, and you can’t imagine doing this without them. Having a kid is a surefire way of making you realize what a lucky SOB you actually are. If you really want to show your thanks, here are the 50 Best Ways to Relax with Your Partner
You Stop Being Afraid to Ask For Help
You’re never too old or too clever to realize that sometimes you’re in over your head. Parenting is hard, and sometimes you have to cry “Uncle.” Or, as is sometimes the case, “Grandma!”
You Learn to Pick Your Battles
You’re not going to win every showdown with your child. When you actually accept that, and realize that sometimes they’re not going to eat even a bite of a vegetable, or get into a bath, or go to sleep because you said it’s bedtime and why are you ignoring everything I’m saying?, life gets so much better.
You Have a Renewed Appreciation for the Small Things
If you’ve been alive long enough, you start to miss a lot of the details. Who has time to just sit and watch construction workers, or be awestruck at the simple beauty of a tree, or giggle at how amazing water feels when splashed in your face in a bathtub? But a kid isn’t about to let those incredible moments slip away, and they won’t let you miss them either.
They’ll Eventually Grow Up and Leave the House
Can you imagine? Someday they’re going to be grownup people, and they’ll want to start their own lives, in their own homes where there’ll raise their own families. It’s equal parts exhilarating and terrifying, to realize that these tiny people that you created from scratch, and spent decades crafting into confident and beautiful human beings, will someday be independent enough to go it alone. I’m not crying, you’re crying. Shut up!