Fatherhood will make you discover superpowers you never knew you had

You'll read like a master, sing like an angel, and handle filth without blinking. All because you're now a dad.

Father holding his baby girl

Before becoming dads, all of us no doubt had moments where we looked at fatherhood from afar and said, ‘there’s no way in Hell I can do that’.

Then one day you find out your partner is pregnant, D-Day approaches in a flash, and next minute you’re an actual dad.

The first few weeks are a bit of a manic blur, but after some time you will get a moment to look around you to reflect on your situation. And you’ll think, ‘Yeah, nah, I meant it the first time, I have no idea how to do this’.

All the books you read on the subject (OK, that one book you skimmed because your partner made you) and all the advice you’ve received helps a bit, but it can never prepare you for the thousands of decisions you have to make every day regarding your kid’s wellbeing.

Most of the time you feel like you’re just faking it, and probably making terrible choices for your child that will eventually result in them dropping out of school at age 13 to join a murderous cult in rural South Australia.

But as time goes by you gradually begin to forget that you’re a big, fat, fake-news father. Stuff that was once mystifying and terrifying is now just routine.

Most surprising of all, you’ll discover that you are in possession of a range of abilities, talents and character traits that you had never tapped into before – or even imagined were lingering, latent, in your pre-daddyhood self.

Take, for example, the ability to deal with shit. Actual human shit. Once my early childhood was over, for about 30 years I managed to almost totally avoid having to confront anyone else’s poo apart from my own.

I mean, there was the odd run-in with a floater at a public toilet, and that time a mate laid a cable on the street in front of a strip club that wouldn’t let him in, but even in those cases I had the option to keep a wide berth.

Yet now, every day, I deal with my baby’s shit. I inhale its putrid odour. I wipe it out of crevices. Occasionally it gets on my fingers. And aside from the odd particularly rank specimen, I barely even gag.

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You know something else that a few years ago I never imagined I’d be good at? Crazy Lucha Libre-style wrestling with a miniature, fragile person while managing not to injure them.

Or singing. I’ve always had a terrible singing voice. But in the last year or so I have reached domiciliary rock star status by mastering such numbers as ‘Take Me Home Country Roads’, ‘Row Row Row Your Boat’, a version of ‘Into My Arms’ as good as, or better than, Nick Cave’s original, and ‘The Watermelon Song’. Trust me, I am absolutely nailing these performances.

I also hadn’t had to read anything much out loud since high school, but these days I recite Wombat Big, Puggle Small like I’m f*cking Homer delivering The Iliad. It’s masterful.

These abilities would have been incomprehensible to the person I was five years ago.

What I don’t think you can ever fathom before it becomes your entire reality is the utter selflessness you are capable of. And unlike the blatant cock-a-doodle-dooing in the last few paragraphs, this isn’t even a boast, it’s just the way it happens.

In your pre-dad life you probably considered yourself a decent fella, who hands in lost wallets and helps old ladies with directions, but when it comes down to it you were really just the star of your own movie. You did things because you wanted to do them.

Once you have a kid, though, their welfare becomes your primary driving force. And that requires a complete reconfiguration of your hardware.

And the majority of dads – I mean, basically everyone who isn’t a complete narcissist or sociopath – just learn how to cope with this new world order.

There will be a few blips along the way, and I’m sure the lingering sense of missing out on fun stuff happening elsewhere will never completely go away, but it’s amazing how you are able to suddenly just cope with your own life being of secondary concern.

It’s probably the wildest and most impressive superpower of them all, if you think about it.


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