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Here we are, my love.

I’m in the kitchen, re-reading this recipe for what feels like the hundredth time, relieved because you’re finally home and taking over their questions and interruptions and requests. You did it without me having to ask because it’s what we do every day. It’s where we fall, where we settle into our roles for the final hours of the day.

Here we are, my love.

You are there, and I am here.

I clean up after dinner while you bathe them and get them ready for bed. During this part of the day, we’re often in separate rooms, doing separate things that converge towards the same ultimate goal.

It hits me, suddenly, that we haven’t had a proper conversation in a few days. There’s that story you started to tell me yesterday, or that idea I was excited to share with you, but they inevitably turn into cliffhangers these days because someone needs a diaper change, or someone needs to tell you about the new friend they made at school, or someone wants to show you how good they’ve gotten at hopping; and because we need – we want – to listen, we have become experts at exchanging a wordless look that promises, “Later, when they’re asleep.”

Do you remember those telephone conversations we used to have for hours on end? We’d feel like we could stay there forever – forever – just listening to each others’ voices, with hearts so full and so much to say. In the place of distractions and interruptions and refereeing was the abundance of time and undivided attention.

It didn’t matter that we’d be up well into the early hours of the morning. Sleep was no big deal.

And now, here we are, my love, where sometimes, when they are finally asleep, we’re both too drained to get into an in-depth conversation, and the lure of the mutual, silent, agreement to crumble in a heap onto the couch, mindlessly decompressing by watching a show or reading a book, is too great to resist.

Sometimes they sleep so soundly that we do get to discuss life’s big decisions, or what’s in our hearts, right after they’ve been bathed, read to, kissed goodnight and tucked in. But more often than not, we can only manage to talk in the nooks, crannies and fringes of our day, while they paint in the bathtub, while they pull out every single book from the bookshelf, while they forget about our presence for a moment and create their own game. We are theirs, but in some moments – some precious moments – we are only each other’s.

Here we are, my love, where the things that used to make our hearts race are replaced by the bursts of emotion when they do something funny, or unbelievably smart, or cheeky, and our eyes dart across the table, quicker than lightning, and we say everything in a smirk or an eyebrow raise. They’re replaced by a ten-second pause in the midst of all the chaos when you look at me that little bit longer or I smile at you, just you, for no reason other than that I’m happy I’m with you in this craziness. And just like that, we are caught back in the wave of belonging to little ones, of being looked up to with adoring eyes and curious faces, of having our clothes pulled by small, but strong, hands to make sure they get our attention, and all of it, of heavy heads buried into our shoulders when they are hurt, of being the ones they need for everything – everything – all the time.

Here we are, my love, making the memories we will one day look back on, with laughter, with nostalgia, maybe with relief, but maybe with aching hearts.

We’ll look back on them when we have the things we now crave: independence, time, energy, vacations, late nights and sleep-ins, hot meals and coffees, the freedom to do whatever we please, whenever we please.

And there we’ll be, my love, not wanting to intrude but eagerly awaiting their next phone call because they’re so busy with their own lives now, jokingly threatening to buy them the house next door to ours because we miss them and the grandkids so desperately, hinting that we’re free for the foreseeable future in the hope they have time to come and visit.

They will be there, and we will be here.

You sometimes say to me, “They’ll never be this small again.” And when you say it, I tell you to stop, because every time you do, I feel the tiniest of fractures splitting through my heart. It reminds me that time can be merciless, that moments become memories, that today becomes way back when.

So although here we are, my love, approaching another evening of uneaten dinners and pajama choice negotiations and passing out 20 minutes into a movie, with the anticipation of a 6 a.m. alarm in the form of soft hands on our faces and bubbly, squealing voices calling out “Mama! Papa!” and the expectation of breakfast made just how they each like it, I know it looks different than how it used to be—maybe even to how we thought it would be.

But right now, here we are, and here they are, my love. And I wouldn’t want to be here, all of us together, with anyone but you.

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