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A valentine for my children

I was prepared for how difficult being a parent would be. When we talk of parenting these days, it's about the sacrifice, burden and hassle. I could not anticipate what a joy parenting really turned out to be.

I recently stumbled across some of my journals from when my son and daughter were babies, writings that are now priceless chronicles of a passionate infatuation.

'My son smiled at me today,' I scrawled effusively more than 30 years ago. 'Nothing in my life has ever made me happier.' Reading those words, I remember the day as if it were hours ago. Through a crisply curtained window, sunlight poured in like butterscotch, and this tiny being whose name was still strange on my lips looked me straight in the eyes and smiled the shyest, sweetest smile I'd ever seen. I felt honored, humbled. I knew my heart would never again be completely my own.

So bewitched was I that I recorded, verbatim, conversations about such important topics as why the potty doesn't have batteries and if ants ever sleep. I kept baby teeth, crayon scrawls on the backs of envelopes, and curls from each first haircut.

Some might call these articles clutter. I see them as artifacts, tracings of that most ancient of necessities - a passionate parental love.

Ironically, though, it's this same intensity that sometimes created the most distance between my children and me. From time to time, I resisted my love for them out of a superstition that they would be yanked away from me. I worried I'd harm them by loving too much or loving them in the wrong way.

Rather than driving me crazy, though, I find my children drove me sane. Because of them, I worked through problems I would otherwise have ignored. They kept me young, interested and enthusiastic just because so much of them rubbed off on me.

They're both adults now, with successful lives of their own. But truly, I'm as enamored of them today as I was the first time the doctor held them up to my view. They still hold my heart always in their sway.

To Austin and Ariel, my best sweethearts, happy Valentine's Day. I love you more than tongue can tell.

Kathryn Compton