Have you ever watched your child and very nearly exploded with the force of your pride? Weeks pass when that’s an hourly thing, other times it catches me off guard and I reel from the potency of it. I can honestly say it’s one of the sweetest gifts I have found as a parent. Watching— no ownership, no jealousy, just an all-consuming need to multiply the celebration, to unfurl each ribbon of triumph and alert every tower, ensuring that sirens and applause enough attend the momentous event.

Have you ever watched someone else’s child do something that deserves a cheer? Scaling a ladder or scrawling a name in dirt with a gnarly branch? I try not to judge, try not to compensate, but every once in a while I falter. I overstep or assume a role that is not mine. I wonder sometimes if I’d be grateful if someone did that for me, but a part of me knows that in every facet of gratitude there would be equal parts resentment. I don’t want you celebrating my child in my stead because it means I have failed. I want you celebrating with me.

What about when there isn’t one? A missing parent that you think should be seeing this? Busting with the wonder of it all?

His hands were moving, strong fingers and solid palms, keeping rhythm with the music. One hand using a shaker, the other a tambourine. I watched as his head moved along to the melody, eyes focused and mouth set in a line of concentration with bits of enjoyment lapping at the edges. I thought, “Did he know he’d do this? Did he know behind the scrapping and the chirping he had this?”

I lost myself in the concentration on his face and the delight in his eyes. My chest threatened to burst as I remembered the shapes of fingers, the tiny infant digits, the plump toddler fingers, and the budding big girl hands clasping pencils. Every iteration as piercing as the last, the babies I knew growing evermore distant and yet never really leaving.

He’s far from a baby, his accomplishments soar far beyond this playing of songs with friends, and yet as I watch him, knowing him*, I am overcome with thinking that this should be seen. Celebrated. His dad is gone, but his entitlement to celebration is no less. This man, the boy still inside, he deserves to send fissures through the heart of a grown man, to steal breath with the man he has become.

I ache for what isn’t being seen and feel privileged for being here to feel that sensation of awe. He is not my son and his dad is not a man I can bring to the room, but as sure as I am proud of my girls, I am proud of him and confident in what his dad would think.

Not a roar, a plea. Go watch yours, inhale them, celebrate them, cherish them. It isn’t guaranteed, but it’s damn sure a blessing. Don’t miss it.

Live it.

*I hope you’ll forgive me for writing this.