Today, my oldest offspring exits childhood and enters adolescence. That’s right: I am the father of a teenager. To be perfectly honest, this terrifies me. It is like the opening scene of a horror movie. At least I would assume it is like the opening scene of a horror movie, not ever watching horror movies or ever having a teenager before. I just know that the teen years are often characterized by people as very combative. There is a lot of arguing, repeating yourself, wondering where your child’s brain went, arguing, teaching, praying, worrying, arguing, and arguing. I’m not looking forward to that. We have always said that Josiah has a lot of similar characteristics to me. And I was a relatively easy teenager to deal with (compared to the stereotypical nightmare). So maybe we will be fortunate. Maybe all of that dread will end up being for naught.
Either way, to mark the exit of my dear Josiah from child to teenager, here are the thirteen things I absolutely love about my son.
1. He is unbelievably artistic.
Josiah has always had artistic ability. Those people who have known him for a long time have marveled at his talents since he was a little guy. And these have certainly never diminished. He is an incredible artist. There are certain styles he likes (Wimpy Kid, Lego, Mincecraft) and he can turn anything into those styles. It is quite cool to see. But he also can come up with his own stuff. I wrote a children’s book and I needed it illustrated. On a whim, sitting in carline one day, I asked him if he could draw me his version of the character. Two minutes later, he shows me a picture and asks, “How’s that?” It was perfect. It was better than I had imagined it, but exactly how I had imagined it. So he’s illustrating my book. I am constantly amazed at his art skills.
2. More than just artistic, he is unbelievably creative.
There is a difference between artistic and creative. One of the things I have always loved about Josiah is how he can create entire story lines and worlds out of nothing. He got a stuffed dog for his birthday years and years ago. Over the years, that dog has expanded to a whole group of stuffed dogs. Natalie and Gabe also have a large collection of dogs. Josiah came up with “Puppy World” for these dogs. It changes and grows. I will sit downstairs and listen to them playing the latest iteration of it and smile, impressed at how intricate everything is. Josiah does origami, writes, sculpts, draws, and creates games. I told him years ago that he has the creativity and brain power to create something on the level of Star Wars or Harry Potter. I think he could end up like George Lucas, JK Rowling, or James Cameron - crafting a massive universe out of just his own creative mind.
3. His sense of humor
For a long time, I bemoaned that my son had no sense of humor. I am generally considered a humorous guy. So it vexed me a great deal that Josiah didn’t get my jokes. And when he did joke, it wasn’t funny and was often inappropriate (not dirty, just not appropriate for the situation or conversation). But, as he has gotten older, he has become extremely witty and funny. Example - I recently purchased a waterproof bluetooth speaker for in the shower because, you know, dancing on a wet surface is a great plan. I told the kids that it also could do phone calls. Josiah chirped in, “And it can Face Time. ‘Hey, AHH! Why am I talking to you in the shower?’”
4. How he plays with Gabe
There is six years between Gabe and Josiah. That is a pretty big gap. My brother and I were five years apart, so I know that there can be difficulties between brothers with that kind of difference. But Josiah and Gabe play together a LOT. It may not always be smooth sailing, but it is really neat to see how they play together. Minecraft, Angry Birds, MarioKart, Puppy World. There are some days where they play all day together. Of course, there are some days where they fight seemingly non-stop. But we’ll focus on the good stuff for today.
5. His sweet heart
Josiah undeniably has a very sweet heart. He deeply loves the people in his world. Actually, that love also extends to animals, too. We have been boarding a dog for on of Heather’s cousins. The dog had been with us for four months. He got picked up last weekend by his family so he could be closer to them down in Florida. Josiah cried for two hours after Jaskee left. He has that level of affection for things. I remember when we would go and visit my mom or Heather’s parents. When we left, Josiah would be despondent. He missed them so badly. He knows that Natalie has a hard time sleeping, so he will let her sleep in the top bunk of his room whenever she needs to. I love the fact that he loves so deeply. It will make him a great husband and father.
6. He puts up with me
Years ago, my kids came up with the word “funnoying” to describe me. I was fun and annoying. Josiah knows this better than most. I mess with him a lot. It isn’t a mean thing. I think it is my way to connect with him and keep a level of closeness without the overt affection that a teenaged boy isn’t fond of from his dad. Josiah puts up with me and, being honest, I think likes knowing that I care enough about him to be silly with him. We actually have a very good time together in our silliness.
7. He is (mostly) patient with my ignorance
Josiah is our first child. So that means he was our first toddler, our first kindergartener, our first teenager… I don’t know what to do in each of these seasons of life. I try my best, but I am still learning on the job. I make mistakes. Josiah seems to understand that, which is awesome. When I mess up, I apologize and we talk about it. He knows that I am doing my best. I know that he is doing his best. That doesn’t make everything easy, but it means we still love each other through it all.
8. He’s my movie buddy
Every dad needs a movie buddy. Josiah is more than happy to go with me. We have very similar movie tastes, so we look forward to the same films. Marvel, Hobbit, Pixar. My brother was my dad’s movie buddy. I remember how much I wanted to be able to go with them. It was the coolest thing when I was old enough to finally go and see Hunt for Red October and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. As a dad, I couldn’t wait until he was old enough to go with me.
9. He is a great kid
There are times I wonder where Josiah’s brain went. I mean, he is a teenager. But the fact is that Josiah is a GREAT kid. The stuff that we wrestle with is so minor compare to so many kids. He wants to do the right things. He doesn’t rebel or openly defy us (most of the time). He stays out of trouble at school. He doesn’t like it when the kids at school are acting up. That is a priceless quality to have.
10. His compassion
Going beyond his sweet heart, Josiah also has great compassion for others. If he knows someone is hurting, it hurts him. He empathizes so deeply with them, it makes it hard for him to stay calm. There have been times where Natalie or Gabe have gotten hurt and Josiah has completely broken down. Sure, in the moment it makes it much harder to deal with two people in distress than just one. But I certainly would not want him to lose that compassion. On those instances where I have hurt myself or have had my RA flare up, he wants to make sure that I get taken care of too. This will pay off buckets when I am old and need a kid to feed me. :)
11. His candy hoard
Josiah doesn’t eat his candy. He hoards it. Easter, Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, End of the Year. When we moved from Orlando and packed up the boys’ room, there were buckets and bags of candy stashed different places. What is so great about that? Well, if I am having a hankering for Skittles, I know right where to go. And, since he doesn’t have any clue how much candy he has, he never knows I just pilfered his stash. Now that I think about it, that’s a pretty selfish reason. I’ll try again.
11. His saving nature
Josiah doesn’t like to burn through things. He hangs onto stuff, like candy or money. He has saved up money on two different occasions to purchase something he wanted, putting off his immediate desires to get something better later on. First, he saved up a bunch of money to buy the Lego Death Star. But he instead used it to help buy our dog, Katie. Then he saved up enough money again to but the Lego Death Star. $400. He gave up birthday and Christmas presents to get enough money saved. Most kids that age won’t be that willing to save. This could bode well for his financial future.
12. He is his own person
Josiah doesn’t try to be someone else. He has his own personality and is content to be himself. There are times as a parent I am trying to show him how he should change something - comb his hair, wear nicer outfits when going places. But he is perfectly content to be himself. He doesn’t like sports. He knows I like sports. He wants to be with me, but he just doesn’t like sports. He likes t-shirts and shorts and tennis shoes. He doesn’t like my music and doesn’t feel like he has to. He is comfortable in his own skin. How valuable of a quality is that?
13. He brings me joy and always has
I’ve told this story before, so I won’t elaborate. One of the darkest days in US history was September 11, 2001. The world seemingly fell apart before our eyes. It was in that swirl of fear and uncertainty that Josiah was born. As terrified as we all felt, I had this beautiful baby boy that had become part of my life. It softened the pain and brought joy when there should have been none. There have been many times where I have found joy in my kids when things were tough. There are moments now when I am exhausted from work and weary in my body where I will sit on the couch and just watch the boys playing or look at some of Josiah’s artwork and smile. It is like an external battery charge. I love that I get to spend time alone with Josiah every afternoon as we wait in the carline for the elementary school to let out. I love talking to him. I have no doubt that God has big plans for him. He is going to have a big impact on the people around him. I can’t wait to see the man he becomes. I am honored to be his dad. Happy birthday, Josiah.