I still remember the day roughly 13 years and 8-ish months ago. I was sitting at my desk in our basement doing our taxes. My wife simply placed a pregnancy test strip on the desk in front of me. Because I’m color blind and pregnancy test challenged, I didn’t know what it meant. She had to explain it. When she did, I was literally speechless (which doesn’t happen often). We were going to be parents. Whoa. Since I was doing the taxes, I was wondering if I could attach the test to the forms as an exemption. No dice.

On October 6, 2000 to say my life forever changed is a huge understatement. Life got real. I had no idea what I was doing, how I would do it, or what raising a son meant, but they don’t qualify you at the hospital. They just deliver the child and send you off a few days later with a healthy bill and cool ski cap for the baby. No instruction manual. There’s no app for that.

Over the last 13 years, I’ve stumbled and fumbled my way through raising the child that on Sunday celebrates his birthday. I can’t begin to take an ounce of credit for who this child is and how proud I am of him. I am both wise and quick to defer all of that to my wife. She deserves all of that credit. Every last bit. But I’m still his dad. Together we figure this thing out. From playing sports to “the talk” we dialog our way through these years together. Forgive me if I get a bit sentimental on October 6th each year, but he’s our first. He’s our only son. He’s a visual reminder of the day my life forever changed.

I grew up in church. We were there Sundays and every time the doors were open. I went to a Nazarene University. You would think that somewhere along the way, I would have figured out my faith. There were moments and emotional highs, but it wasn’t until I held a child that I would die that very moment for, that I understood what life with our Creator is all about. Time and life have only proved to make that understanding deeper and that love stronger. I have three children now and I would take a bullet before I would let one of them be harmed.

For 13 years, I have had the blessing of “the boy” nearly always by my side. We’ve seen so much, done so much and lived so much and each moment we did that together. Our lessons have come together as an internship more than in a classroom. It’s challenged me to live a life that is being viewed by the one just a few steps away. Children learn with their eyes not with their ears. I sure hope what I’ve lived has spoken the right words.

I can’t say I’ve gotten it right. On several occasions, I’ve been at the edge of his bed and apologized for something I’ve done wrong. I regularly remind him that we are doing this for the first time together. While there are always jokes about the first child having all of the pictures and all of the safeguards, they also get the “honor” of parents learning on the job. His sisters have been able to benefit from the times I have realized “I got that one wrong” with him. He’s never complained. He’s never argued.

Today I reflect that son is just a blink away from leaving the nest. When I turn around once he’ll be in college. When I turn around again he’ll be doing his taxes and find out he’s a dad too. Life moves so fast. Today I want to live in today. I want to honor a child that I honestly could not be more proud of. From his steady, quiet confidence to his thirst for knowledge and drive for being good at whatever he puts his mind and body to, I could not be more proud. For the grace he’s given me as his father to fall more times than I rise. For allowing me to walk not ahead of him, not behind him, but right beside him through this life, I am forever grateful. He’s taught me to love well. He’s taught me more than I could possibly teach him. He’s my only son but he’s so much more.

Thank you Austin. Thank you for bearing the weight of being our first child. I love you son.