What dads really expect


The male "father figure" has not been portrayed as the brightest by Hollywood lately. We've seen Ward Cleaver evolve into Al Bundy, Homer Simpson and most recently, Modern Family's Phil Dunphy. The latter three, despite what may be deemed as subpar IQs, seem not only to put food on the table, but to surround that table with a massive home. Not bad.

A trailer for the new film "What to Expect When You're Expecting" shows a group of dads razzing a new dad on his assumptions vs. reality.

That got me thinking: Why not round up a few dads to talk about our "expectations" and how the reality turned out.

The answers follow.


<strong>What was it like that first moment you realized you were going to be a dad?</strong>

President Obama had just been inaugurated earlier in the day. He promised change, and boy, did I get one. My wife had not been feeling well, so I told her to see her doctor. When I got home she was waiting for me in tears. She was helping me take my bag off, so I knew something was up. I immediately thought the worst. "Cancer?" She replied in a crying trembling voice, "NOOOOOOOOOO." I immediately followed up with "Are you pregnant?" She replied, "Yeeeessssss." She bawled even harder. I burst into laughter, gave my wife a huge hug and kiss and said, "Holy sh%$, I'm going to be a daddy."

Sean Leonard, Chicago

I was cautiously joyful. We had been trying for a few months, and we were already in our mid-30s. We were excited, but we were in a state of disbelief, too. The reality is still setting in, and the more it does, the happier I become.

I would say the immediate, more drastic change for us, was that we lived in a one-bedroom condo downtown. So we jumped right into buy house/sell condo mode.

Jeff Garretson, Orland Park

For some reason my mind reverted back to adolescence and all I could think about was "How am I going to tell my parents?" Then after realizing that I was, in fact, a grown man, I came to the conclusions that a) I did not have enough cash on hand to run off to Mexico, and b) we could handle this.

Ryan Salzwedel


<bold>Did you ever pick up one of your partner's parenting books?</bold>

I totally got into What to Expect When You're Expecting. I always wanted to be a dad, so I was totally gung-ho about it. I even knew how many weeks we were into our pregnancy, down to the day. I remember meeting a good friend of mine's mom and she asked us when we were due, I burst out with, "We are in week 32 and heading into the final trimester and everything is going smoothly; we have passed all of the tests and just registered with the hospital." I felt like a chick.

Sean Leonard

I think I was in denial the first six months of Pascale's (my partner's) pregnancy. I must have been an awful partner at the time. But would it kill a company to put a dad on the cover of one of those books so we know it's OK to pick up?

Ryan Salzwedel


<bold>What were the first few nights like when the new baby came home?</bold>

We made a ton of mistakes, but luckily nothing too awful. I remember the first couple of nights when my in-laws left us to be with our son for the first time. We both looked at each other and said: "Are you as scared as I am?" I think any new parent is going to be scared a little bit. I think we remain a little scared for the rest of our lives because we want our children never to get hurt or do anything wrong, that's why we get on these, "No, don't do that!" or "Stop jumping on that!" I think you have to allow the notion that no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to completely protect them. It gets a tad bit easier when you start to have more children.

Sean Leonard

It was a surreal feeling, driving home from the hospital with my new family. I was able to take some time from work and other daily responsibilities. This was a good thing, because sleep was not in the cards for a while. I think my biggest mistake was anticipating that during paternity leave, I'd have all this time to catch up on projects and DVRed shows.

Jeff Garretson

I remember that first night home with Leo. We put him to bed around 9 p.m. and thought, "OK, we will see you in the morning!" Yeah right! He was up every hour, on the hour, blaring. We fed him, changed him and rocked him, the whole nine yards. We were spent. At some ungodly hour, I woke up to Leo crying. His diaper was around his ankles. I remember yelling to Pascale, "What kind of half-a#% parenting is this?!" Needless to say, we got the hang of it. Eventually.

Ryan Salzwedel


<bold>What has come easy for you as a parent and what is harder than you imagined?</bold>

Loving my children with all my heart and soul has been the easiest part of this journey. The hardest part is the beginning of their lives. Those first 3-6 months are an absolute beast on you and your partner. Sleep deprivation and patience are tested beyond belief. I knew it would be hard, but jeez Louise, it is challenging.

Sean Leonard

I can stomach the smell of poop better than I thought I would. Also I am better at sharing my time than I thought I would be. I've always been a pretty selfish in terms of how I spend my time. As it turns out, we really enjoy that kid. What's harder now is being modest. I've become one of those Facebook parents that posts pictures and updates that annoy everyone else.

Jeff Garretson

Loving my child has been the easiest. It's amazing how natural it is. There is a bond that can never be broken … unlike everything of value in our house since he was born. The hardest part is staying consistent on discipline. My son is a negotiator and will WEAR ME DOWN. He knows it, too. It took awhile for Pascale and me to get on the same book, let alone the same page.

Ryan Salzwedel


<bold>When all is said and done and all the kids are grown and out of the house, what is the one thing you are looking forward to the most?<bold>

Going on a long-awaited vacation with my wife.

Sean Leonard

Grandchildren. Yup. That's another thing I get now!

Jeff Garretson

Sleeping in. Why is it on the weekdays you have to drag them out of bed to get ready for school, but on the weekends they are up at the crack of dawn?

Ryan Salzwedel

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