Say What?

Some Parents Will Hate Patrick Dempsey's Hot Take On The Hardest Parenting Phase

He said what he said, and he meant it, and he might have a point.

Patrick Dempsey at the 80 Venice International Film Festival 2023.
Mondadori Portfolio/Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images

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 Peoplewhere actor Patrick Dempsey was crowned the Sexiest Man Alive — he opened up about parenting and gave a scorching take on what he believes to be the most challenging era to raise kids. And parents of babies may hate to hear it.

Dempsey is dad to 21-year-old daughter Talula and 16-year-old twin boys Darby and Sullivan, and he admitted that he finds it "harder" to parent his teens 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.

Check out our exclusive photo shoot and profile of, yeah, the sexiest dad alive.

And just like the challenges that come in the newborn phase, when you’re trying to find your footing as a new parent, a similar thing happens when your kid becomes a teenager. You need to define, 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. He said at the time, “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.”