I became a dad when I was 40 years old. FORTY! My first son arrived pretty much at the same time as my zimmer frame and I got to hear his first cries only with the help of my ear trumpet.
But holding him for the first time was THE greatest moment of my entire life. At least I think it was – 10 years on, my memory isn't quite what it was!
Seriously, though, the birth of my son (and his brother) changed my life – and me – forever.
But for the better? Hmm, that depends on your perspective.
So I've been chatting with some fellow dads, about the things we've learned since we became fathers.
And here are 40 things we came up with...
1. Work REALLY matters. Before fatherhood, work was a means to earn money to spend on getting trollied or holidays with your mates. Now it's what feeds and clothes your children and gives them a roof over their heads.
2. A hole you never knew existed has been filled. We're not talking about that pothole in your street that has buckled your car wheel, either.
3. You now feel EVERYTHING more acutely than before. Which is fine when those feelings are joy, but really, really inconvenient when you 'have a moment' because your kid's scraped his knee in the playground.
4. You do try to be better organised. We men aren't known for our multi-tasking abilities, and fatherhood comes with A LOT of multiple tasks. Thus, an addiction to making lists is born, especially for the housedad of the species:
Child 1: Hockey kit, French homework, dinner money.
Child 2: Hand in school project, guitar lesson, swimming kit.
Child 3: Spelling test, packed lunch and £1 for art gallery class trip, after school football kit.
All three: Wash hockey, swimming and football kits.
Tea time: Chinese sticky ribs.
5. It's a great excuse to be a big kid. It means you can do the stuff you loved to do when you were little – and get as much joy out of it as your own child does now. Try flying a kite and see for yourself.
6. Laziness is a distant
7. You feel guilt, loads and loads of guilt, even when you genuinely haven't done anything wrong, as in lying on the sofa for 10 minutes while the kids are in the bath (what if they drown?) or sending them to school with nits (despite the fact you de-nitted them the night before) or letting them have a bag of crisps before bedtime (even though they had chicken salad for tea).
8. You become adept at domestic skills you never knew existed. Case in point: ironing! Yes, it's pointless, but many wives, it is said, like their children to look smart for school. And to have smart underpants, too.
9. You have a glassy-eyed appraisal of your own father. He was always an embarrassing knob, but now we can see why: he had us as sons.
10. You become hopelessly nostalgic, looking back with affection at all those places our parents took for holidays when we were kids – Blackpool, Scarborough, Minehead etc – which seemed hideous at the time, but now we want to take our kids to the places we holidayed (if only to show them how bloody lucky they are with their Spanish fortnights).
11. Despite what we read in the papers, childbirth is a doddle (just don't tell the wife).
12. Babies aren't made of porcelain. We thought they were; thought we had to hold them like hand grenades with the pins pulled out. But, they're really, really robust. You can even put them under your arm and take them to the pub.
13. Fatherhood is easier than they tell you. It's just in our interests to make it seem like it's hard.
14. Being a dad isn't an achievement. But being a good dad is.
15. Your children's mum is just as important as your kids. After all, you'll be stuck with her when the kids leave home (God willing).
16. Crying babies on buses, trains, planes and in pubs don't bother you one iota. In fact, you're more likely to offer a cuddle than to tell its parent to make it shut the f*** up.
17. Boys are just as soft as girls. They love a cuddle, even if they're pretending to be tough guys in front of their mates.
19. The idea of sharing your bed with your children is much better than the reality. Sooooo much wriggling. 20. Beer, wine and spirits are both God's and the Devil's brew. Pre-dadhood, they were merely a drink to imbibe while talking rubbish after work and at weekends. Now it feels like the Lord's medicine after a hard week at the fatherhood face – and Lucifer's poison the morning after when the kids kick down the bedroom door at 6am.
21. Punishing your children hurts you more than them.
22. Taking two weeks' paternity leave when your baby is born is utterly futile. Save it for when the fuss dies down, the in-laws have departed and your partner needs some sleep.
23. Other dads don't love their kids with anywhere near the intensity with which you love yours. End of.
24. Saturday morning rumpy pumpy just feels wrong when the kids are downstairs watching Cbeebies.
25. There are few greater joys in life than the moment your child learns how to make a cup of tea and brings it to you in bed. Even more reason for number 24.
26. All that stuff – squiggly paintings and hats made of paper plates – that they bring home from school and you swear you'll cherish forever? You'll be piling it into bin bags in fives years time when their bedrooms resemble landfill sites.
27. Other parents' children are undisciplined monsters, but you have to tolerate them because you don't want your child to be lonely or bullied.
28. There is no smell quite so soothing as the back of your sleeping child's neck when you nuzzle them in the morning.
29. Snot, sick and shit don't disgust you (though did they ever? We were boys once!).
30. Other children's parents aren't your friends: they just want you to look after their spawn so they can have a night out (though it works both ways).
31. Never try to match a non-dad pint-for-pint. He has days to get over the horror hangover; you have a few hours at best.
32. The novelty of knowing your 'boys can swim' wears off by about the 14th sleepless night in a row.
33. The definition of pride is finding out your son stood up to a bully – and won.
34. For the first 11 years of your son's life you're a God; for the next 11, you're a knob. And then you become mates.
35. Your daughter will never, ever, EVER have a boyfriend. Over your dead body.
36. Your heart swells with pride when people say your son looks just like you. Until you look in the mirror.
37. No matter how much you want your son to have high self-esteem, you can never let him beat you at football, cricket or bowling.
38. But he always beats you on the Xbox, no matter how hard you try (but that doesn't stop you saying you let him win!)
39. The worst thing about being an older dad is...living with the fearful knowledge that it's highly unlikely you'll live to see your children have children of their own.
40. But the best is...living in the moment and knowing for an absolute 100 per cent fact that the grass isn't greener on the other side because you lived a life of squandered pleasure before you became a dad and would never, ever want to go there again.
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