I was 23.

I was 23.

Bleary eyed from a night of no sleep in a hospital room, staring at this tiny miracle with a light red hair covering his head, crying and seemingly unsure of this new, bright environment. He was turned away from me, looking at whatever was more interesting in the opposite direction.

The nursery was cold, except for the bright lights above the bassinettes, and the nurses had yet to swaddle him, so he was squirming. I whispered the name we had chosen - Aiden - and he didn’t respond. We’d agreed if his hair was light he’d be Aiden - “fiery one”, and if his hair was dark he’d be Josiah - “God heals”.

But he wasn’t responding to Aiden.

I tried again.

No response.

I gave up. I whispered. “Josiah?”

He turned, and looked right at me.

Even our best laid plans need to be flexible, I guess.

I was 23. He was newborn. And i had no idea what I was getting into.

I’m now 43.

The newborn is now 20.

He’s 20.

Somehow, despite all of my mistakes, every poor choice I have made, every misstep - we have survived. He has survived.

I wish that I could say there was a magic formula to raising kids. I know there are entire sections in libraries and bookstores dedicated to the topic. I would never be brave enough (or stupid enough?) to try and write a book on it myself.

Because I still haven’t figured out how to be a dad. It’s been trial and error, and will continue to be so for the time being.

I was talking to my kids about being a dad once. I joked that I had kids so there would be someone around to take care of me when I’m old. “I figure, one of you will forget the mistakes I’ve made and want to be around when I die.”

My younger son looked at me, and said “What mistakes are you talking about?”

That topic I could write a book about.

But I won’t.

Because despite the mistakes, despite the poor choices, despite the missteps, my oldest son is now 20.

And that’s a victory I’m going to celebrate. That no matter the storms, some things still grow. And he’s grown well. In spite of me.