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Slices of Life: Tucking in is family's heritage
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It's Friday night at 11 p.m. - the end of a particularly hectic week and I am tired. But it is okay, because I can go to bed, thank goodness. They don't need me to tuck them in anymore, at least not on Fridays, when they outlast me and sometimes end up tucking me in because it's been a long week and they are usually kind to their mom.

This tucking, while sweet, is by no means guaranteed. They have places to go and things to do most Friday nights. Such is the life when you are a teenager or slightly beyond.

On the best nights (my viewpoint, not theirs) they are all home under one roof, but that doesn't happen often. It wasn't long ago that was the norm. They'd be home, in their beds, tucked in by 8 p.m. because they were little and tired. Looking back I suppose I took it for granted.

I took lots of things for granted. Them being home and in their beds. Having dinner together every night. Sitting with them over a bowl of cereal in the morning or ice cream in the evening. The security of car seats. Snuggling together on the couch watching Nemo. Reading "Go Dog Go," over and over. Little things. Everyday things that seemed everyday until they weren't anymore.

I asked a friend about this recently. Did she take the everyday for granted, too? Without hesitation she gave a knowing nod and I felt some sense of relief, I guess, at not being the only one.

She didn't have to say a word. Her nod and expression could have filled pages. They were the actions of someone who toiled for years at parenting only to discover that once the job starts to get a little easier your duties are outsourced and your skills no longer needed. At least not on a daily (or hourly) basis.

It is bittersweet, their continually increasing independence - that they are growing up and away. I thought I'd forever be buying clothing from the children's section. That toys would always be a part of Christmas. That chocolate milk would always be a mainstay in our fridge and sippy cups would forever prevail. All things change.

I should be celebrating. Some days I do. Other days, I see Barney or Big Bird on TV and remember when we used to watch and those sing-songy melodies got locked into my brain: "I love you; you love me."

It is Friday night and I have the ability to go to bed when I am tired. I appreciate this freedom. I went years without sleep and know the realities of deprivation. Still, I look forward to next weekend when they will all be home and we will share a meal at the kitchen table, watch some football and stay up too late talking and laughing. I am glad they want to come home at all. I'm sure there are people and places and parties much more interesting than good old mom and dad.

But at least for now, they return home. Maybe because they know we want them to. Maybe because they want to themselves. Maybe because they need groceries and gas and a hot meal in their bellies. Probably a little of each, but for sure the latter.

And that's okay. They still need a few things from mom and dad. Thank goodness. And we still want them to come home. Thank goodness.

In the simplest of terms, it's what being a family is all about - along with tucking each other in at night. Thank goodness.

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