Dear Self in Twenty Years,

There’s a good chance you’re an empty nester now, since Finn is now twenty-two, Reed is twenty-five, and Tate is twenty-eight (I hope to heavens you’re an empty nester, actually).

You probably have a lot less laundry and still accidentally cook too much for dinner, as my mom said she’d do when my brother and I first left the nest. You may even get caught up on both the dishes and the laundry on the same day.

(That hasn’t happened to me yet since I became a mom, so I’m just guessing here on that one.)

I’m writing you a reminder when you look back on the days when the kids were little—these days I’m in right now as I write this—and to ask you to really remember.

To do your best not to put on your rose-colored glasses when you reminisce over the potty-training days or the sleepless nights or the learning-of-the-alphabet afternoons. Those gems are worth their weight in gold, but don’t beat yourself up that you didn’t recognize them as the golden years of parenting when you were in the thick of it. They were long, strengthening, arduous, monotonous days.

These three kids right now are precious, and you do happen to be in a sweet spot. You (I? We?) are enjoying this age more than the baby age, and they constantly say the funniest, most curious things.

You’ve forgotten most of them, I assume, since I currently forget them two hours after they happen. But they do, and those little moments are some of the highlights of my day right now.

That, and the snuggles. Oh, the snuggles… They probably don’t do that anymore for you. Do you remember them? They make the heart flutter. Remarkable, how happy they are just to sit by you.

paper airplanes

Raising little kids is hard, and you did a great job. But please remember when you see those young moms in the coffee shop who seem to be ignoring their children so they can finish their sentences…

Or the mom shushing and nursing and bouncing her screaming baby on the airplane…

Or the parent enjoying some time at the park with her phone (or whatever they have in twenty years—holograms or what-not) while her kids play…

Or the one who looks just. so. tired. and whose brood look like they could use a hair-brushing and a bath…

That it is real, exhausting—meaningful and rewarding, yes—but exhausting work, parenting. And saying, “Enjoy it when they’re little; it goes by so quickly!” is true but not always helpful, but saying, “I just want you to know you’re doing a good job” is almost always helpful. Sharing those eleven words could be magic to a tired parent’s day.

You would make the day of that young mama you’re getting to know if you slipped her a note of encouragement, wrapped it up in a coffee shop gift card, and offered to let her have time with a girlfriend while you watched the kids for a couple hours.

Oh, and also—call your kids to say hi, and if they have kids of their own, tell them you’d like your grandkids for the weekend. So that they could go do whatever.

And oh yes—you’re doing a good job. Keep at it.

Your Younger Self