When my children were little, I would sometimes study their tiny faces and wonder what they would be like in 5 years, 10 years, as grown-ups. Would my daughter still flash a smile at moments that lit up her face? Would our son still tilt his head to the side as he listened to a new idea? Would the baby still throw his body around like he was indestructible?

I think it’s probably pretty normal for parents to do that. You can’t help but wonder.

Saturday afternoon, Maggie visited from Rochester, bringing a boyfriend home for her father and me to meet. With their sister home, both boys gave up Saturday night plans to hang at the house. Nick and his girlfriend headed over from their place, and Matt came straight home from work.

It was chaos, as usual, with everyone talking over everyone else, stories retold and major teasing the theme of the night. While we put the extra leaf in the table and hauled food in from the kitchen, laughter rang out as the kids picked on each other.

My husband Eric was right in the thick of things, telling tales and teasing his children, but for me, just sitting back and listening is the part I love. At 25, 20 and 18 years old, these three little people I raised are now so grown up, and it amazes me to watch them.

We finished out the evening with all seven of us, nine for a while when my parents stopped by, crowded into the living room. More stories were told, recent events were shared, theories were argued over and, through it all, they tumbled on top of each other like puppies.

More than once, I glanced at my husband and met his eyes, and we both smiled. A shared look of “Everyone is home and all is right with the world.”

This morning, I’ll make a huge breakfast, tripping over dogs and people the whole time, and the chaos will continue. But in the quiet morning hours, with no one up but Eric and me, it feels so still. Nick and Jess went home last night, Matt will head off to work this afternoon, and Maggie and Luke will go back to Rochester.

And Eric and I will sit back, exhausted, and wonder how we ever survived the chaos on a regular basis. The house will be virtually silent for a bit, and we’ll feel a little sad.

I guess that’s normal, too.

But the dog will still be underfoot, neighbors will wander in and out of the garage, Matt will come home and want food and life will go on.

Yes, Maggie’s smile still lights up a room, Nick still tilts his head as he listens and Matt still flings himself around with enthusiasm – some things never change.

Change is good. It keeps us from stagnating. But every now and then, I miss my little ones.

I still study their faces, wondering what the future holds for them. But I guess I’ll have to trust in them to take care of their own fates. After all, we raised them to be strong and independent, knowing we would only get to keep them for 18 years or so until we had to set them free.

Eighteen years seemed like such a long time back then. Now it seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye.