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Surprises of Fatherhood

June 19, 2017
by Nick Johnson
If you were to rewind the clock a number of years, back when my wife and I were giddy with the news of being pregnant, you would have found a young man who had read all the books on how to be a great dad, who attended a number of seminars on what it means to be a godly father, who had even facilitated small group video trainings on the topic. That young man held his newborn and thought to himself, "I've got this." That young man, who thought he knew so much, was so, so, so incredibly naïve.

That young man has learned a lot in the last five years, and I'm not nearly as confident in my abilities to father well as I was those years ago. And as I think over the years, I’ve found a lot of things that weren't covered by any of those books, movies, seminars, or discussions. Here are a few that quickly come to mind:

Here are eight things that have surprised me about being a father:

      1. The Lack of Sleep

Ok - everyone knows that when you have a baby, you don't get any sleep. I had been told that by so many people, “Oh, you're going to have a baby? Better get caught up on your sleep now, cause you're not getting any later! But what they NEVER told me was that the sleepless nights don't stop! Ever! I'm 5+ years into having kids, and I'm still not sleeping through the nights. Granted, it has gotten better over the years, but I'm still rolling out of bed at all hours of the night to deal with bad dreams, needing help going to the potty, or re-covering a child who’s thrown off their blanket and can’t retrieve it.

You also would think that if they're up through the night, they'd sleep in, right? Wrong! My son is up before 6am every. single. morning! It doesn't matter what time he goes to bed or how well he sleeps. And on those mornings I get up extra extra early to have some me time? He somehow knows and wakes up before me. I've grown accustomed to living in a perpetual state of borderline exhaustion.

I'm currently telling myself that once they grow out of the toddler phase I'll get some better sleep, but in talking to other dads, I'm not so sure any more….

 2. The Bruises

My son loves to run and jump to hug me when I get home from work. I love being greeted like that. But what I don't love so much is how he always lifts his knee when he jumps at me. If I'm lucky, I'll take it in the stomach….

No one warned me about how physically painful it can be with kids. I love wrestling with my kids, and it all started out innocent enough. Back when they only weighed 15 pounds, it wasn't a big deal for them to jump off the couch and accidentally land on my head. When they're 60 pounds and still think they only weight 15?  Ouch! And I thought taking a softball to the face hurt. In the words of Dr. Suess, "No. You must NOT Hop on Pop"

 3. The Eyebrow-Raising

There was an old tv show called "Kids say the darndest things" and I thought it humorous, but it never really resonated with me. Now when I hear all sorts of things spout out of my kids' mouths, the only response I have is to raise my eyebrows and ask my wife, "Whaaaat?"

Take this morning for instance, I was dragged into my kids room (much too early by the way) and forced to sit and listen to them sing their new song. They climbed onto a pair of buckets and belted out at the top of their lungs,  "I AM THE YMCA AND I AM A POOL." This was followed by a bow and the question, "Do you like it?" Cue me looking to my wife, raising my eyebrows, and asking, "Whaaaaat?"

dad with child and kite

         4. The Tears

It used to be that crying was something I very rarely did. But now it seems I'm bawling at the simplest of things. My son finished preschool this spring. He had a graduation ceremony (which I dutifully attended despite thinking it was silly), but there he was up on the stage being handed a ribbon and it was like a spigot was suddenly thrown open in my head. The water started pouring from my eyes….blarg! I'm tearing up just writing about it! What is wrong with me? No one ever said it was going to be like this!

        5. The Joy

Sometimes it's the most simple of things that bring the most joy and light up my face with a smile. This morning, my daughter had dressed up in a concoction of a dancing outfit and a fireman costume then proceeded to follow me around on her hands and knees panting and pawing me like a dog. I patted her head and said, "good doggy," and she was so adorable when she arfed back. Why did that bring me a moment of joy? I have no idea, and no one ever told me that silly things like that would become the highlight of my days.

And it's not just seeing them do funny things - their joy is so incredibly contagious. I could be down in the dumps and they'll run up to me overflowing with exuberance at having just chased a squirrel out of our backyard, and I'll catch their joy and have a total attitude change.T

6. The Fierce Pride

I can still remember it like it was yesterday. My son finished up his first year of Awanas (a kids program at our church) and was the only kid in his class to complete both the book and all the extra-curricular activities. Which, let's be honest - my wife should have been on that stage receiving the prize and not my son. She put in all the effort! But in that moment when he stood alone among his peers, a new, powerful emotion rose from deep within me and I almost shouted, "Take that all you other kids! He did what the rest of you couldn't do! That's my son!" I don’t know where that emotion came from and I’m grateful that I didn’t blurt it aloud, but I’m now aware of that intense emotion simmering under the surface, ready to break out whenever my kids succeed at something.

        7. The Fear

All kidding aside, I am terrified of what the future holds for my children. The world around us is growing more chaotic, and I am afraid of what my little boy and girl are going to be forced to deal with in the next 10, 20, 40 years. I'm afraid of the endless supply of bad choices that will parade in front of them and the escalating degree of consequences of those choices.  I fear that they won't experience a life with Jesus like I have. It's suffocating at times, but that's when I have to tell myself that I have to choose to trust my kids and their future to God. I have to remind myself that He is trustworthy. That He is Good. That His perfect love overshadows all the fear that I may have for my children.

        8. The Love

Before my eldest came along, I couldn't imagine having the capacity to love any more. But as my family has grown, so has my heart. And as my kids' capacity to love has grown, so has mine. It's such a very different kind of love than I have ever known - it's so incredibly not the same as the love I have for my friends, my family, or even my wife. It overwhelms me, and I know it's just a taste of the way our heavenly Father loves us, His children.


Nick Johnson serves with Reach Beyond at the Ministry Service Center in Colorado Springs as Helpdesk Administrator and of the email administrators in the IT Department.


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