The boys are both in high school now. Riley does the driving; our daily pickups and dropoffs have come to an end.

The first morning they left I watched from the window and thought about how absolutely insane it felt to have one teenage child solo-transporting the other, just motoring off in a 5500-lb machine that definitely has no self-driving capabilities. It’s a milestone that I personally think delivers strong coming-home-from-the-hospital-with-a-newborn vibes: how is this even LEGAL?

Our new morning routine is fairly pleasant: John makes breakfast, everyone does their various getting-ready things, and when it’s time for the kids to leave for school we all hug goodbye.

I guess I can recognize now when we are breathing rarefied air: that goodbye hug is everything. You know how sometimes when you hug your kids you’re trying to communicate so many different things at once? I love you, be safe, I hope you’re happy, I can’t believe how grown you are, I wish this wasn’t all going by so fast. I feel like every morning I get the chance to imprint my love-notes onto them as best I can, my arms around their too-big shoulders.

Parenting continues to be a never-ending series of firsts, even seventeen years in, except now there are so many memories mixed into everything. I get soggy with perspective sometimes: like, wait, I still remember holding a tiny starfish hand as we walked to the first day of kindergarten.

But onward we go. Learning along the way, all of us.

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17

There’s nothing that makes me feel the brutal nature of time’s passing quite like seeing an update from a person I know but don’t hear from very frequently and their small child has somehow morphed into an adult-shaped human and it makes absolutely no fucking sense whatsoever because THAT was a BABY like FIVE MINUTES AGO.

Anyway, guess what? Riley is seventeen now!

He drives now. He’s a straight-A student gearing up for a challenging year of AP courses. He’s an avid track athlete who’s focused on the triple jump. He’s hilariously snarky and loves animals, basketball, having one AirPod in at all times, and weightlifting. He still makes a giant mess when he eats crackers.

It feels like it’s been 17 years, it feels like it’s been 17 minutes.

We’re down to the final months of having him at home, and I realize that’s what it was all about from day one but I can’t think about it for too long or it takes my breath away.

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