Dadding ain’t easy! To raise a glass to the man who always knows the right time to have breakfast for dinner, we talked to a bunch of dads -- grandads, old dads, young dads -- and asked them what they think is the hardest thing about raising kids. Time to ring up your old man and ask him yourself -- if you can handle it.

Bronwyn Gruet/Thrillist

Waking up to an empty house

One minute you’re driving their little league team to get pizza and telling them to turn off the light in the hallway for the 8 millionth time, and the next you’re standing in their empty childhood bedroom feeling vaguely abandoned. You’ll always be a dad, but dadding from afar is inevitable and (mostly) unavoidable. You suddenly have most of your free time back, but it’s just not the same.

“It’s hard when they grow up and move away. You want them around you, to watch them succeed, help them when they fail, and just enjoy life with them and your grandchildren.” - Louis, 85

“I think the hardest thing about being a dad is slowly loosening the control grip, and letting him begin to make more decisions on his own and watching him become his own person.  We look at our kids and think, "How will they ever do life on their own without us?"  We want to be needed. We want to be involved. So the realization that they need us less and less is bittersweet.” - Chester, 44

Realizing small, defenseless people are depending on you to keep them alive

How many times can the kid fall over and hurt himself while learning how to ride a bike before you feel like a terrible father? Does the doctor need to take that much blood from a 5-year-old during a checkup? Because it feels like a lot of blood. Dads just want to make sure their kid is ok without being really weird and suffocating about it, but it’s hard to deal with thoughts like that.

“I think the hardest thing is when they get sick. You come home from work and then stay up all night trying to bring the kid’s fever down, trying to figure out what to do to help them before you can take them to the doctor. I feel pretty lost, when they get sick.” Paul, 41

“The hardest part of raising them is trusting people to babysit them. Outside of my wife and my mothers (including mother-in-law), I don't trust anyone with them. This always gets in the way of getting enough sleep and enjoying hobbies, but their safety and my peace of mind is more important.” Igor, 33

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Bronwyn Gruet/Thrillist

No longer having any time to yourself

Even when they stop needing someone to feed and bathe them, you’re still living your life filtered through a prism of “I have a kid”. You can’t just drop everything and go faffing about in California for two weeks without sending back word. Do you care that the new job would uproot the kid from his whole life? If you’re short on time between just eating, sleeping, and working, will that half hour of vegging out in front of the TV be better spent talking to junior about his day? Considering these things is what being a dad is all about.

“All of your time from now until forever is accounted for. Every hour of your life in one way or another is dedicated to making your child a better person, making yourself a better person to be a better role model for your child, making your relationship better for your child. Never mind the practical considerations of less sleep, less leisure time, less time to do anything you might have possibly thought of as a bucket list. In the same way that your life is no longer really your own, your time is no longer really your own either.” - Jesse, 32

“I find that hardest part of being a dad to a 5 year old and a 7 month old is the constant constraint on my time. I feel like I'm always a couple days behind where I want to be with work, yet always a bit behind on the amount of time that I'm seeing my wife and my boys as well. I'm 36 and wish there were an extra hour or two in the day... or that I could realistically get by on 4 hours of sleep a night.” - Mark, 36

Bronwyn Gruet/Thrillist

Wrangling your existential thoughts about life as they apply to your kid

There are some days you’ll feel like you don’t deserve that #1 Dad mug. You’ll have dark irrational thoughts where you chastise yourself for spending so much time watching HBO instead of like, spelunking or volunteering at a shelter for one-legged puppies because for some reason you feel as though that would have made you a better role model or something. Every Dad wants his children to succeed (except John Lennon) and you start to wonder “Did I impart on my kids the life skills they needed to be independent decision makers? Should I tell my kid to follow her dreams, or are her dreams actually really stupid and it’s up to me to tell her? What if I’m wrong?”

“My parents both are extremely hardworking people who never really seemed to have to tell their kids what they inspired to be. Personally I want Tristan to do everything and find new stuff and I don't want him to grow up thinking life is just working and trying make sure the bills are paid on time. I guess I never want him to think his dreams are something he could never achieve.” - Eric, 25

Realizing that your progeny is going to be a selfish poop machine for some time

Babies are selfish, but they’re basically lumpy, slightly sentient potatoes so it’s ok. Toddlers? Just sentient enough to be annoying about it. How many times can one man be subjected to Frozen in a single lifetime? (Tangled was better.) Just keep holding on until they’re old enough to be assigned chores.

“He will bust out and dance to the Spongebob Squarepants theme song whenever it’s on, and then all of us have to dance and sing with him. It's like his baby version of every Adele song.” - Eric, 25

“Babies poop a lot and preferably on you if you're not on your guard. I wish I had known how much work caring for another person was.” - Sammy, 24

Dealing with teenagers

Do you think back and laugh at all the stupid crap you did when you were a teenager? Well your dad probably does too, except instead of laughter, his nostalgia manifests itself in nightmares reliving that terrible time he waited up for you in the living room, thinking you were lying in a ditch somewhere when you were really just hanging out in front of the 7-11 until 2am. (Why do they always assume it’s a ditch? Our infrastructure isn’t THAT bad to have so many ditches about.)

“Every time my teenaged sons would go out with one of the cars that they borrowed from us, we'd worry about whether they were going to come back in one piece, or if the car was going to come back in one piece.” - Robert, 76

“The teenaged years were probably the toughest. Before you're a teenager, you're kind of doing what your parents want you to do, but as you go through those teenage years, you listen less and less to your parents and for Dad that becomes a tougher thing. I think I got into probably the most serious discussions and battles with my sons when they were teenagers.” - George, 55

Coming to terms with the constant, crushing anxiety

With every phase a child enters in life comes a new onslaught anxious thoughts, and it doesn’t stop when they get older and have their own kids. Is the baby breathing? Isn’t he supposed to be talking by now? Why is that gap-toothed kid down the block is picking on her? Please don’t let him text while driving. Is she going to get into college? Why can’t he find a job? How will the kid ever pay back those loans? Oh my god, they’re moving where? Are they ready to be parents?

“At first I thought it was the sleepless nights, midnight feedings, and diaper changes. Later I thought it was helping with homework, teaching them to ride bikes, and boyfriend advice. But I’ve come to realize that the hardest thing about being a father is worry. Worrying if they will find a career that they will enjoy and prosper at. Worrying if they will find a man someday who will treat them with love & respect. But mostly just worrying if they will be healthy & happy in their adult lives.” - Mark, 60

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