No matter what was going on at work, I could never wait for the best part of my day: pulling into the driveway.

Living room curtains were shoved aside and teeny bodies jumped up and down on the couch cushions.

I knew all that enthusiasm was reserved for me.

I never managed to step one foot out of the car before little hands and feet and squeals filled every ounce of the front seat.

I could have stayed there forever.

Everyone talked over one another.

“Daddy, I made a blue octopus in school with 8 silver hands but Maggie ripped off one and now there’s only 7.”

“Daddy, Nathan was in time-out and I only got one yellow today.”

“Daddy, Did you bring home Rocky Road ice-cream?”

When I stepped out of the car I held a briefcase in my left hand, a sweet little Princess in my right arm and a Ninja Turtle on my back.

Everyone was deposited exactly where they began their greeting.

And there was more jumping and more squealing and somewhere along the way a kiss for my wife.

Those driveway welcomes could make any dad feel like a superhero.

One day, I noticed the curtains stayed perfectly still.

I figured that no one heard the car pulling in.

Or maybe the kids forgot to check the time.

Or maybe the next-door neighbor was playing in our backyard.

Or maybe my wife was upstairs doing homework with them.

Or maybe a thousand more ‘maybe’ scenarios.

Except, I was wrong.

Everyone was home.

Except no one ran to the driveway.

They greeted me warmly at the front door with hugs and kisses and crumpled up school projects.

I deposited myself where the excitement over my being home always used to start.

And there I sat.

No one noticed my glumness.

I noticed everyone else though doing fine.

Thankfully, my best friend is a therapist and I had a chance later that evening to talk to her about how hard it was to accept this abrupt change.

She gave me an answer that has stuck with me a lifetime:

“Driveway welcomes grow up into front-door hugs and kisses.

Eventually, they age into yelled-out greetings from behind bedroom doors.

And just when you think no one will ever be as excited to have you home as they were when they were young, someone pecks you on the cheek and someone else punches you in the arm, and you’ll know right then and there, that you’re still their superhero and always will be.”

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