We celebrated the third birthday of my youngest, Zachary, today. I spent hours decorating his Lightening McQueen cake, which was devoured in seconds. My wife, Sandra, and I devoted lots of time to the preparation of food for all the family who came to spend this special day with him. It, too, was consumed rapaciously. The day had no fewer tantrums than any other day with Zachary, but it was compensated for by at least a few more smiles. Later, as I reviewed photographs, it occurred to me that any outside observer would think I was never present for these milestone events. As the man behind the camera, I am conspicuously absent in the photographic record. Years from now, Zachary will possibly remember the people who surrounded him and the shiny toys he received and, maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll earn a place in the footnotes. But no matter: I console myself with my memories, and the privilege — yes, the privilege — of being able to play a role in the far too rapid growth of my willful, stubborn, frustrating, and also charming, adorable, and marvelous son, from infancy to adulthood, even if it is a sometimes invisible and thankless job.  Today, I am thankful for Zachary, and the sepia-toned days of his youth, fleeting though they may be.

If you are a parent, congratulations, thank-you, and good luck. If you’re not a parent, please send this on to your parent, or a parent you know, along with this message: the difference you make is immeasurable.