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.

Ryan Salzwedel thinks dads are getting a bad rap in popular culture these days. So he asked a few dads what they expected parenthood to be like, and whether it turned out differently.

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

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 ina state of disbelief, too. The reality is still setting in, and themore it does, the happier I become.

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

Jeff Garretson, Orland Park

For some reason my mind reverted back to adolescence and all Icould think about was “How am I going to tell my parents?” Thenafter realizing that I was, in fact, a grown man, I came to theconclusions that a) I did not have enough cash on hand to run offto Mexico, and b) we could handle this.

Ryan Salzwedel

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

I totally got into What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Ialways wanted to be a dad, so I was totally gung-ho about it. Ieven knew how many weeks we were into our pregnancy, down to theday. I remember meeting a good friend of mine’s mom and she askedus when we were due, I burst out with, “We are in week 32 andheading into the final trimester and everything is going smoothly;we have passed all of the tests and just registered with thehospital.” I felt like a chick.

Sean Leonard

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

Ryan Salzwedel

Did you ever pick up one of your partner’s parenting books?

We made a ton of mistakes, but luckily nothing too awful. Iremember the first couple of nights when my in-laws left us to bewith our son for the first time. We both looked at each other andsaid: “Are you as scared as I am?” I think any new parent is goingto be scared a little bit. I think we remain a little scared forthe rest of our lives because we want our children never to gethurt or do anything wrong, that’s why we get on these, “No, don’tdo that!” or “Stop jumping on that!” I think you have to allow thenotion that no matter how hard you try, you will never be able tocompletely protect them. It gets a tad bit easier when you start tohave more children.

Sean Leonard

It was a surreal feeling, driving home from the hospital with mynew family. I was able to take some time from work and other dailyresponsibilities. This was a good thing, because sleep was not inthe cards for a while. I think my biggest mistake was anticipatingthat during paternity leave, I’d have all this time to catch up onprojects and DVRed shows.

Jeff Garretson

I remember that first night home with Leo. We put him to bedaround 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. Atsome ungodly hour, I woke up to Leo crying. His diaper was aroundhis 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

What were the first few nights like when the new baby came home?

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

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’vealways been a pretty selfish in terms of how I spend my time. As itturns out, we really enjoy that kid. What’s harder now is beingmodest. I’ve become one of those Facebook parents that postspictures and updates that annoy everyone else.

Jeff Garretson

Loving my child has been the easiest. It’s amazing how naturalit is. There is a bond that can never be broken … unlike everythingof value in our house since he was born. The hardest part isstaying consistent on discipline. My son is a negotiator and willWEAR ME DOWN. He knows it, too. It took awhile for Pascale and meto get on the same book, let alone the same page.

Ryan Salzwedel

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

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 outof bed to get ready for school, but on the weekends they are up atthe crack of dawn?

Ryan Salzwedel

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?

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