The three sisters are four years apart in age. So we stretched out the parenting thing over quite a few years. Reiley arrived on January 27th of 1989. I remember when the last person left the hospital room and handed her to me. Jeanene was in bed sleeping the way a woman needs to sleep after twelve hours of labor. The last person left and handed her to me. I looked around and was surprised to realize there was no one else to hand her to. That had never happened to me before. There was always someone more responsible than me to hand a child to.

I looked at her and said, “I guess it’s just you and me, kid.”

That was a long time ago.

Lilly, our youngest, left for college on August 17th of 2015. We had children living with us for 26 years, 6 months, and 21 days.

That’s a long time. When you’re in the middle of raising children I recommend that you don’t think about time. Instead just realize in your bones that being with children is your life. So be with them. Enjoy the fun and you’ll find ways to get through the hard stuff.

Now that I’m on the other side of that active sort of daily parenting, I want to share an observation with those of you with children at home.

While you are raising children you need to remember that your children are human beings born into this world. They are neither more or less important than you. You need to preserve an essential part of your personality and not lose yourself in the parenting role. There is a person inside you. You have an ongoing conversation with that person that takes place whenever you are alone. That’s who you need to hang onto. Take care of yourself. Make sure your needs are met too. Don’t let it all be about the kids. It’s pretty sloppy parenting to give your children the idea that the universe revolves around them.

Because, you see, one day they will go away. Actually they’re always going away, if you think about it. One small person is always leaving and a slightly larger and different person takes her place. But one day they leave and don’t come back. That’s the leaving I’m talking about.

On that day you’ll either go into mourning because your primary reason for being is gone, or you will be a little sad but also kind of happy to let that person you’ve been guarding inside you out to play again after all these years.

On August 18th, 2015 I gave Jeanene a hug and said, “I guess it’s just you and me, kid.”

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