I like to think that they'll always be down the hall from me, tucked not-so-tightly into their beds, those damn nighttime monsters single-handedly raising our electric bill a solid $100 every month.
It's our job as good, responsible parents to raise them so that they get the hell out and come home every now and then with several gigantic bags of dirty laundry and an empty stomach - just long enough for me to fold their socks, stuff them with food, and send them on their merry way, feeling lucky if they actually sit down at the table long enough to suck down their meal before gallavanting off with friends.
We're supposed to arm them with survival skills so that the big bad bright world doesn't chew them up and spit them out.
And we will. Parent's oath.
But not without a gigantic lump in our throat. That knowledge that we refuse to swallow - the window into the future where our chairs are no longer occupied by booster seats and sauce stains, the toys have long been donated or passed along, and their rooms -- the bright pink-walled masterpiece that she begged and pleaded for -- now changed to a dull tan office.
The scraps of paper have long been picked up, the crayon artwork scrubbed off our walls, and the once treasured macaroni necklaces crumbled and tossed.
We all know it's coming.
We laugh about being anxious for them to haul their butts off to college. We joke about when they'll visit for holidays and we'll embarrass them in front of their significant others with their naked baby pictures.
We smile at the thought of bouncing their own kids on our knees.
And we secretly cry at the thought of having to beg, borrow, and beg some more just to get them all in one place. Together.
They will leave - maybe one by one or two at a time - and it will never be like it is right now.
Go look. Take a snapshot in your mind. File it away. Carefully.
I watch them, all my children all together, sometimes staring at the big bright screen from the couch shoving cookies not so squarely into their mouths, other times fighting and screaming over the deflated balloon and flattened box while the big, brand new, battery operated piece of crap toy sits alone in the corner.
I dance recklessly with them as the radio blasts inappropriate club music through our basement. I sit with them, all crammed in a bathtub, while they wash my feet and make me bubble tea and soup.
And I try to soak in every single second of them being together.
All my children. All in one place.
Because I know.
I know it so hard that I can't even say it out loud.