what i do The Little Prince is beginning to fall into a school-morning routine, with only the usual and expected amount of teenage grumbling. The Princess, bright and shiny as a new penny, is settling into her first job.

That’s right, my baby is gainfully employed. It was a pretty painless process, since she’s fearsomely organized and cheerful. (No, I don’t know where she got that from. I am as mystified as anyone else.) I am still agog that the squalling bundle pulled out of me eighteen-ish years ago is a productive adult. For making it up as I go along, maybe I haven’t parented too badly. Of course, any credit goes to her for being a wonderful human being from the get-go. I’m just glad I didn’t mess everything up. When I was eighteen, I couldn’t wait to escape. It’s pleasant and wonderful that the Princess actively wants to stay home. To her, this is a safe place, and I am glad.

School has been such a thing for so many years now that it’s kind of weird not to be sending her off each day at the usual time. It’s also weird to be adding adult things to the relationship–things like her taking over some of her own filing and paperwork, or shifting communication protocols now that she doesn’t have to check in with me about her location as frequently. We’re both pretty conscious that these things are changing, and most days it’s easy enough to keep up. Every once in a while, though, one or both of us needs a hug and some deep breathing.

Who am I kidding? It’s mostly me. For so many years you guard your child’s every breath, and the process of easing up as they grow into an adult works against that habit something fierce. This is all new for her, taking her first steps into the world she’s hopefully pretty prepared to make some headway in. I have to remember to slow down and take things I’ve been doing for decades–balancing a checkbook, say, or knowing how to jockey a bureaucracy–and break them down into easily digestible components for her. I mean, I’ve always done that, but the process has accelerated a bit of late.

The Prince, of late, is also changing. He’s no longer the baby, being Fourteen and All Grown Up Now. Seeing his sister take on some of the trappings of adulthood means he needs to bump his nose against some boundaries just to be sure they’re still there, still cradling him. It would be frustrating if I didn’t understand how scary it is when you’re that age and things start changing rapidly. As it is, it’s damn hard to keep a straight face when he does the boundary testing.

Through it all, the writing flows, some days easier, other days harder. The book I’m working on now is taking its sweet time, and what began as a simple gift for my agent has turned into something I know I have to finish, just because. It was a method of saving my sanity between contracts, but now that I’m 30K in and there’s (still) no contract in sight, finishing is somewhat talismanic. My own version of a nervous tic. Each time life gets more complex, I turn to writing. Sometimes I think it’s to process, other times I’m pretty sure it’s an escape, and there are times I know the truth: that it’s a lifeline, and keeps me balanced when everything around me is shifting.

Now it’s time for a run, to sweat out the stress. Later it’ll be time to spin a whole world out of whole cloth, from my brain to my fingers and onto the page. Last but not least, to hug both my children, no matter how grown-up they are. “Mom hugs are the best hugs,” the Princess tells me.

“Even when you’re a legal adult?” I ask.

“Especially then,” says she. And hugs me harder.