When the columnist and author David Brooks’ son was born, a friend sent him an email that just said, “Welcome to the world of unavoidable reality.”
Every Dad knows what that means. It captures being a parent perfectly. The biggest change that comes from having a kid isn’t financial, it’s not the sleep deprivation, it’s not even needing to take care of another person or the stress it puts on your relationships. It’s that it rudely introduces you to the unavoidable reality that you are no longer the center of your own world—something you had been, despite what you thought, utterly ignorant of.
As an adult, you did what you wanted. Things operated on normal timelines. You made decisions and commitments and that was it. The world was logical and in your control. Now and for the rest of their lives, reality is different. What time are you going to get to the party? When your daughter wakes up from her nap, that’s when. They’re sick with the flu? You’re sick with the flu. They feel like having a tough morning or are reeling from teenage hormones? Looks like you are too! Unavoidable reality as a father means that you’re not in control. It means you’re going to sit and play in the sandbox for the next ninety minutes because god knows you’re not going to risk a tantrum. Unavoidable reality is weekends of soccer games and evening school plays and carpooling and school pickups. It means you can’t just skip dinner or grab something on the go—life doesn’t work that way anymore.
That’s who you are now. That is the unavoidable reality. And guess what? It’s wonderful. Get used to it.