Parenting is a hard gig no matter how you slice it, though some stages and phases are more challenging than others. In a new cover story for People — where actor Patrick Dempsey was crowned the Sexiest Man Alive — opened up about parenting and gave a scorching take on what he believes to be the most challenging era to raise kids that parents of babies may hate to hear.
Dempsey is dad to 21-year-old daughter Talula and 16-year-old twin boys Darby and Sullivan and admitted that he finds it “harder” to parent his teens now than it was to parent his kids when they were younger.
Specifically, Dempsey struggles with the fact that “you need to be around, but they don’t want you around because they’re fighting for their independence, which they should,” he explained. “They need to find out how they interact in the world, they need to learn those boundaries, they need to make mistakes,” he continued. “And you need to be there for them and allow them to learn from that.”
But wait, what about the newborn phase!? Or raising a toddler!? Or dealing with your very first big kid!?
It’s not as though he didn’t find other phases difficult. When his kids were younger, he struggled to deal “with the noise and clutter,” he said but learned patience as he parented.
Dempsey has a point. It can be challenging to sit back and let your kid make mistakes at any age — toddler or teen. But navigating that space of letting them know you’re there, but not intruding, is very different from trying to prevent your toddler from running face-first into the coffee table.
And just like the challenges that come in the newborn phase, where you’re trying to find your footing as a new parent, a similar thing happens when your kid becomes a teenager. You will need to redefine, again, what your role as “dad” or “parent” will be. It’s not always straightforward. But, like Dempsey said, it’s important to allow our teens to make those mistakes.
Last year, Dempsey opened up to Fatherly about navigating a newly diagnosed learning disability with one of his kids and the memories that diagnosis brought up from his own childhood. School wasn’t easy for Dempsey; he wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until “much later” in life, leaving his own experience of school as a child to be “very painful, very hard to deal with.”
And now, with one of his boys being given the same diagnosis, but much earlier, it brought back a flood of feelings for the dad of three. “It was really hard not to shut down and become overwhelmed emotionally because it just brought back everything that was so difficult from my childhood,” he admitted at the time.