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Slices of Life: A letter to me 20 years ago
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We all change a little each day. Our experiences mold us. I'm not the same person I was 20 years ago. Hardly - and I'm not just referring to my pants size.

It would be interesting (to say the least) if we could go back and talk to the person we were two decades ago. What advice and insight would we give? And, would the person we were then listen to us now - or not?

Dear me from 1995,

You are embroiled in the business and busyness of parenting. Two young children depend on you and you're about to top that off with a couple more in the coming years. I know. It sounds overwhelming, but you can do it. Sleep is overrated anyway and adult naps were invented for a reason.

You feel as though this stage and their neediness will never end. Believe me, it will. You might think you know it all at this point (that's one thing that hasn't changed about us during the last 20 years) but you don't. Not really. We never do. But I do have a few snippets of knowledge that might benefit you now and in the years to come.

First, I have some good news: they will grow up. You will sleep through the night on a regular basis and as an added bonus you won't have to set a substantial portion of your weekly spending toward diapers.

Next, I have some bad news: they will grow up. It will come more quickly than you ever could have imagined. And as you lie awake in bed at 2 a.m. you will recall their middle-of-the-night cries with fondness and longing. There will even be times when you wish for it to happen again, maybe just once, to be able to smell their baby breath and remind you that you are a young mama.

Even though you will delight in their growth, it will be a pain like you've never experienced before. Their dependence - and following independence - defines your being. That is okay. The eventual independence will feel good, after a time. You may even get back to some of the old hobbies that you nearly forgot you used to enjoy - gardening, crafting, your husband.

The toddler years are no match for the teenage ones. Having teenagers is much harder, and more fun, than you ever imagined. Enjoy them. At both stages and everything in between.

Don't worry if one of them has feet that grow so much that he needs another new pair of gym shoes mid-school year. In the big scheme of things it is no big deal.

Help them to prioritize. Being kind. The importance of family. Good friends. Good choices. Good grades. Worthwhile activities. Sports. In that order.

Teach them to take responsibility for their actions. I fear responsibility is getting lost in our age of entitlement. "I was wrong," and "I'm sorry," are important phrases for them to practice and master.

Talk to them. Keep an open dialogue. Answer their questions and they will answer yours. Often this will be at midnight when you are beyond tired or when you have a work deadline that's overdue. Kids are lots of things, but convenient isn't one of them. Take the time on their time. It's all you've got.

Keep loving their dad, even when he seems a little irritating, and he will continue to love you when you are a lot more than a little irritating.

Keep loving them, even when they are the opposite of easy to love, which kids and teenagers can be on occasion. Don't judge them or expect them to be what you think they should be. Let them define themselves and I promise you'll be satisfied with the finished product.

Finally, don't be too hard on yourself. You're doing the best you can. You've always got tomorrow to be the perfect parent.

Thanks for listening. Sincerely,

Me from 2015.

- Jill Pertler's column appears Thursdays in the Times. She can be reached at