Since we only get a limited number of years to live, explore, discover, change, improve and love, I feel like I'll never meet my own expectations in time to reap the fruits of my efforts. I frequently feel inadequate for what I've failed to accomplish this far, and each memory serves to remind me of how little I've affected the lives of those I hold dearly.

Aubrey says my fears are unfounded and that, as an example, I've been a great father. But my vision is riddled with regret and my heart cries for wisdom. My premise was to leave enough room for each child to grow in their own space at their own rate. So I purposely overlooked, ignored, observed from a distance and suggested only when silence exploded. There were boundaries that shifted with each new experiment and even time-outs for regrouping, reconsideration and regeneration; but distance was the rule. Now I view that distance as an unnecessary gap created intentionally yet beyond bridging.

Whose idea was it to stop snuggling together or sharing the dinner hour or holding hands when we cross the street? They learned autonomy, problem solving, individualism and, most importantly, how to be alone without feeling lonely.

According to Aubrey, I should feel proud, and I do. But I miss the sound of little feet running across the kitchen floor, and I miss their playing spy with me while I wash the dishes, and their falling asleep on three sides of me, and rolling down grassy hills, posing for photos, bedtime stories that were often exaggerated to the point of ridiculous from partially true experiences, mimes and puppets, and taking turns sleeping in my bed, which I later suspected was done more for my sake than theirs.

Don't hand me that "empty nest syndrome" speech either, not while I'm talking about memories that I cherish. I don't want to get over them. I'll keep them with me, along with the sorrow and laughter, anguish and mirth, and I'll refer to them randomly as I attempt to make sense of goodbyes.


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