This was originally posted by the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub here.

I had no idea how difficult being a parent could be. I mean, I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I didn’t realize how hard it could be until I actually experienced it. Being a parent is exhausting. It can be overwhelming; it’s often very frustrating.

Questions I frequently find myself asking include: “Why did he do that? Is he getting enough sleep at night? Am I treating my daughter differently than I treated my son at this age? Is she going to wake up multiple times again tonight? Is my son ready for school in a couple years? Am I ready for him to be ready for school?”

Thinking about these things just clouds my mind with worry and self-doubt. I ask myself: “Am I being a good dad?” In these moments I try to remind myself of a few things:

I am my child’s first teacher. That can be good and bad, but mostly it’s an incredible opportunity and responsibility to really set them up on a great path.

I don’t have to be perfect, and actually learning from and admitting my mistakes can be really beneficial for them.

I don’t have to know everything and can’t protect them from everything either.

I try to remind myself to let them go for a bit, to challenge them to find or look for the answer rather than just giving it to them straightaway. I also try really hard to find a chance to play and laugh and have fun with my kids. Nothing melts away the worries of the world like a smile from my daughter. Nothing lifts my spirits like a belly laugh from my son. The beauty of just playing and enjoying being with my kids helps ease the stress and frustration of everyday parenting.

It can be really easy to get lost in the overwhelming parts of being a parent. Frustrations come quickly and often. However, I’ve found I’m much better able to manage the low points when I look for little things to improve and focus on, and when I consciously take time to block out everything else and play and laugh with my kids. This helps me remember that the most prevalent thought and question going through their mind is “Daddy will you play with me?”

This is fatherhood…