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.
My oldest attended her first sleepover party this weekend and when I picked Quinlan up, the lovely host mentioned that they had watched a Tinkerbell movies, and then apologized.
This after my kid had just made a treasure box, created her own pizza, slept on their floor, enjoyed chocolate chip pancakes, had a real dress-up tea party "WITH REAL TEA MOM!," and constructed a massive pillow castle in her living room.
Um, yeah. How dare you give yourself a moment's peace between corraling nine screeching 6-year-old girls and let my daughter watch THE EVIL TELEVISION!!!!
And then last night during my own nightly sleepover with Margot, I thought of about 1000 worse things I could have heard on the way home.
Here are a few of my faves:
1. "I won this extra goody bag playing Blackjack."
2. "We got to dress up like barmaids and serve drinks to the mommies and daddies."
3. "We made a nuclear bomb shelter out of pillows."
4. "Instead of a cake, they just gave us vats of icing to eat with a spoon."
5. "Why does that Dexter guy kill people?"
So yeah, um, Tinkerbell movies? That's called "good parenting" around these parts.
So I made the mistake of purchasing my Halloween candy a month early, telling myself that I was just being uber prepared. Except I bought everything I love and surprise... I've been eating 100 Grands for breakfast.
However, my house is super organized, though I'm afraid that's due more to the super duper pregnant hormones and less to the 976 calorie chocolate bars I'm consuming.
If you read my blog regularly and haven't stumbled here looking for tips on nipple piercing (oh wait, that's this site that's tops for that search), you know my girl can draw. Well, she's come a loooong way (as in, about 400 times better than me), and you have to see her fashion designs.
And I'm not sure if it's bad luck, karma, or that asshole Murphy's law, but I sort of annoyed that I publish a tech blog for moms and currently all my computers are about to bite the dust. And it really sucks to try to do anything more than check email on a netbook. Meanwhile, this also means I can't set up my iPad. Um, for work. Ahem.
Now off to decorate, organize, and dust off my breast pump. Wheeeee!
If I could condense how I'll measure my success as a parent down to a simple phrase it would be this:
I know who you are.
Well, that and "You may think you know, but you have no idea." But I refuse to have an MTV show tagline as my parenting mantra.
This whole cliche' business about raising them right or wanting them to be successful and happy -- well that's all amorphous.
Heck if I know how she'll define "right" or "successful" or "happy."
Heck if I know how I even define those things.
But what I can give her, what I can most definitely promise to her, is that I will know her well.
I will watch and listen. I'll observe and hear.
I will know her like the back of my own hand.
I will advocate and fight and stand up for her.
We spend so much time trying to figure out who are kids are like and how they're like whom and we sometimes forget that they're completely and utterly their own person.
Maybe she's cautious, or afraid of failure, or a people pleaser - like me. But those qualities don't have to manifest and stifle her life experiences or her relationships.
Because she's not me.
And I'm not my own mother.
I firmly believe that if we take the time to know our kids then everything will fall into place.
Don't get me wrong. It's not an easy mathematical problem. We're complex humans after all - and we're more than the sum of a bunch of actions and reactions, causes and effects, feelings and emotions.
But everything she does tells her story.
I'm not so much her guide or her mentor. I don't yet know enough about her to be that for her.
Rather, I'm a student - a researcher placed here to observe, document, and learn so that I can become her guide and mentor.
So when we take the time to put all those pieces together, those cryptic notes in our minds that contain all the seemingly insignificant but yet incredibly revealing information about our children, then the paths we should choose for them, the road to which we should guide them - well, it should be clear.
Parenting is not knowing who you think they should be.
It's intimately and sometimes uncomfortably knowing who they really are.