Robert Downey Jr.: I Was Filled with "Trepidation" Before My Son's Birth

The Avengers star opens up about the fears and excitement of welcoming his son Exton 18 years after his first child

Robert Downey Jr. might be playing a superhero in the upcoming Marvel film The Avengers, but at home he's got an even more daunting role: new dad.

The 47-year-old actor and his wife, producer Susan Downey, welcomed new son Exton Elias into the world on Feb. 7. Just a few weeks later, RDJ sat down for an interview with Esquire to promote the May 4 release of The Avengers, but ended up mostly talking about his son.

"There was all this trepidation, all this projection, all this anticipation and goodwill and a good vibe about it," he tells the magazine of the time right before Exton was born. "But what you're squeezing to the side -- or what's in the glove box -- is these thousands of forms of fear. And then he was born and they've all just kind of scattered now. It seems like he's always been here."

Although Downey already has an 18-year-old son, Indio (with his ex-wife Deborah Falconer), he still feels like a newcomer to parenting. He admits that the "anticipation and fear" he felt as a first-time dad are already coming back to him, and he just needs to re-learn how to handle them.

"Am I going to know what to do with them? Does any new parent, even if you're not a first-time parent, ever really know what to do?" he says. "Only thing you have to do, the only requirement, if you can hack it, is to not transfer your own discomfort in the moment to this fresh soul, right? You got to be mindful."

For Downey, the trick is staying right in that middle area between cautious and cocky. "I don't want to be so confident in myself," he says. "It's that balance between being relaxed enough to not be communicating anxiety and present enough to not be creating the very thing that you were anxious about by being so relaxed -- because I've seen that parenting style, too."

That being said, Downey doesn't want his son to see him as a superhero -- even if he does play Iron Man on the big screen. Instead, he wants Exton to see him as "a very real human being."

"Every dad casts a shadow, you know? And that shadow is you're disappointed, you're resentful, or you feel so supported and loved you don't understand why life is so hard anyway. Or, you know, it's so long and so dark that you can never step out of it, so you might as well not even try. Right? So hero to me is not applicable to the human experience," Downey says. "I think that we all do heroic things, but hero is not a noun, it's a verb."

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