With my family scattered all over--I started a tiny mantra for us one day. I had picked up a few great looking rocks at the park- one for each of us. They came in all the shapes and sizes that reflected each one of us. Even though I am suddenly the runt in the fam-- my daughter Aidan's is the smallest rock. She'll always be the baby - no matter how tall. And although both of my boys passed up their old man-- Daddy will always be the 'lead rock'. I keep them out-- one set in my bedroom-- one set on the desk in the den-- a third in the family room. When I walk by, I think about who is having a big day and I'll maneuver the group so that rock sits on top. When Michael is on top-- all of our smaller rocks look so vulnerable-- like any minute we might collapse-- but we never do. We hold him up-- sometimes for days/weeks (I don't always walk by) and when I return, there we all are- a united front, strong because we are together, a distributed balance of support. When Aidan is on top, it looks like she could conquer the world and some day -- I think she might. I always try to get a shot of the assortment for the archives. Looking at them as a group, I can pretty much remember what was happening.The structures have become very intimate treasures of our scattered years. Sometimes, we all huddle together around one rock. I guess that is when one of us is 'on their own' and all we can do is 'be there'. Sometimes, it's up to one person to hold the other one up. That is usually Aidan with one of her bros. Sometimes, as parents-- you gotta stay out. Sometimes, one of them is setting out on a new course and all we can do is line up and either a. follow or b. be there when all hell breaks loose. These little rocks-- they speak so clearly of our places in the family. We could learn so much from them and to be honest, there are times that I do-- especially when it comes to pulling my rock away. I always start out in a lead role in the rock pile-- but then I think about it-- think about what's best for them, rather than what makes me feel best. It is then that I restructure and either take on a supporting role or just watch. When I walk away, I feel like I've done something good. As if somehow -- wherever they are, they can feel their placement and importance in the pile up. To date, my favorite is the one where we all lean into each other. To me, it says, 'everyone is okay'. It reminds me of morning cartoons and father's day brunches. Long drives to the Jersey Shore and late nights singing in the den. Those simple memories where there was nothing riding on the day. No wins, No losses, No grades. No goodbyes. We take those days for granted when we are in the middle of them. Those days that build the foundation of the family. At the end of the day, you hope you taught them well about family life and love. You hope that the rocks that make up your little fam serve to anchor as they paddle through the ever changing tides of their lives.