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Day By Day: Hit me - they're 21

As the deadline for this column quickly approaches I am reminded of one of the few times in my life I did something ahead of a due date - the birth of our children 21 years ago May 5. And as I probably have already said to many of you reading this, it is also one of the last things I did efficiently - have two babies at once and a boy and a girl at that. I would never go through all that for just one baby.

Life as Kevin and I knew it changed that day forever, like it does for all parents. He and I had been married for 17 years, didn't think we could have our own children and started the adoption process. A couple of months later we found out we had hit double coupon day and were having twins - and life started to fast forward.

I don't think parenting is instinctual. It wasn't for me even though I had grown up one of eight kids and had been around babies and little children. The kids arrived very premature and spent the first two months of their lives in a neonatal intensive care unit - the most expensive daycare around. That might have been where they got their taste for expensive accommodations. The thing is, once they were home, there was no time to worry about whether I was doing things right. I just did them.

That was the first big lesson of parenting. Your kids don't care what happened yesterday or what is supposed to happen tomorrow or what you planned that didn't work out. It is about the moment you are in with them, and it pretty much stays that way as they grow up. I hadn't realized how really insignificant all my cares and concerns were until I found them up to their elbows in cold ashes from the fireplace or struggling to ride a two-wheeler or waiting for the results of their driver's test. And as far as anything going on with Dad or me, well, we just had to "deal," didn't we?

"Dealing" is a parent's full-time job. While the kids are all about the moment and insist you join them there, we have to be sure the bigger picture stays intact. We've been lucky over the years. Moving to Hudson was the smartest thing we did. The house is great, the schools are greater and my job and boss have always been "kid-friendly."

Even as we take the unemployment hit so many other families are facing, we are "dealing." It might just be the most important lesson we teach them. Life just comes with setbacks and challenges, no matter who you are or what you have. Dad is the best teacher around, and they are quick and sensitive learners.

There have been great moments over the years -- some touching, a lot embarrassing, some surprises. I remember despairing that Cory would ever get the hang of the using the toilet until he called me in the bathroom after being duct-taped to the seat and told me, "I think you're gonna love it."

And there was the time when Kevin was about to punish Cory for using crayons on the coffee table despite his emphatic denial when Katie burst into tears and admitted it was her. She has always hated to disappoint but couldn't let her brother take the rap.

A lot of the fun of parenting isn't about us at all but about watching them grow up together. Like all siblings, they have their ups and downs. When Cory played trucks with his friend John, Katie never quite caught on that her special job in Siberia just kept her out of the way. And nobody can end a conversation quicker or slam a door better than our Kate. But nothing has made me happier over the years than to hear them with each other - whether it is in the back seat of the car on a long road trip playing "Beanie Babies on Ice" or last week's discussion about the apartment they will share in River Falls next year.

I could go on - I already have in countless columns over the years, and they have tolerated it. I've ratted them out on everything from locking me out of the house when they were 2 to whining about post-adolescent temper tantrums. But the truth is, for all of their lives, my son and daughter have been great company and good people. I couldn't have imagined my life today all those years ago waiting for them to be born. And as much as I miss those babies and toddlers and teenagers, if experience is any indication, the best is yet to come.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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