It’s been 40 years since my wife quietly whispered a certain little something in my ear, two tiny words that caused me to exclaim, “You’re what?”     
Life’s biggest changes arrive not with a clap of thunder or a pillar of fire but with a soft murmur. That and the sound of your jaw thudding onto the floor.      
There are any number of guys out there who could soon be getting the news that they are about to become fathers. As such, I thought it would be good to pass along some fatherly advice regarding the challenges of fatherhood.      
– Don’t jump to conclusions.
For example, I clearly recall the first night our firstborn son spent with us. My wife had placed his crib just outside the doorway of our bedroom. She did this not only to keep the baby close at hand, but mainly because the crib thus sat next to the furnace vent. This was a highly coveted spot in the cold and drafty old farmhouse we were renting at the time.
Shortly after retiring for the evening, a stream of strange noises began to issue from just outside our bedroom. These noises consisted of random squeaks and squawks intermingled with some weird, otherworldly trilling.
I immediately leapt into action. Grabbing the baseball bat I kept handy for such situations, I said to my wife, “Stay here, it sounds like some varmint got into the house. I’ll handle this.”      
But, there was no varmint, only the crib and our sleeping newborn son. Good gosh. All of those hideous noises were coming from him.     
“I think the hospital owes us a refund,” I told my wife. “It sounds like they sent us home with a gremlin.”      
Good thing I had a firm grip on that baseball bat, or my injuries would likely have been much more serious.      
– Give your children the gift of poverty.      
Living in poverty is a grand tradition that has been passed down through our family for innumerable generations. Poverty has worked well for us, so we decided to keep the practice going.
Poverty is infinitely useful when it comes to raising kids. Say your youngest son has a chum whose father is as rich as Warren Buffett. The friend’s father purchases a fancy new four-wheeler for your son’s pal, and your son is now begging you to buy something similar for him.      
Thanks to poverty, you can truthfully tell the lad you can’t afford to buy him any such thing. But, if he wants to work hard and save up the cash to make a purchase of his own, why, he can just go right ahead and do so.      
He quickly discovers that few 11-year-olds have the earning capacity to acquire the coveted four-wheeler. By the time he reaches the point where he does make that sort of dough, he will have outgrown his want for the toy. His parents are thus spared a load of worry, they save on their expenses and the boy learns it isn’t much fun to spend willy-nilly when you have to earn the money yourself. Everybody wins.
– Be prepared to have your world completely and utterly transformed.
Nothing – not even installing that flatscreen TV in your mancave – changes a guy’s life more than becoming a dad.
For instance, the time will come when you’ll hear an infant crying in the night. As its father, you know you must be a man and do your duty. And so, gathering every last ounce of your strength and fortitude, you wake the child’s mother and alert her to the situation.      
Modern dads are expected to change soiled diapers, the most gut-churning and odoriferous task known to mankind. I have two words of advice regarding this loathsome chore: car wash. I have found that the super scrub option works best.      
One day you will be walking with your child and the tot will reach up for your hand. A tiny paw will wrap itself around one of your fingers and squeeze it tight.     
You will realize the child isn’t doing this because he or she needs help walking. Your hand is being held because you are dad, and the child simply wants to be with you.      
Several things will happen in this moment. For one, you’ll feel the weight of the entire world settle upon your shoulders. For another, your heart will swell with such happiness that it nearly bursts.      
And that’s when you will realize a deep and abiding truth: Any guy can father a child. But, it takes a real man to be a dad.

Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for Dairy Star as a staff writer and ad salesman. Feel free to email him at jerry.n@dairystar.com.