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Ellen Seidman

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Ellen Seidman is a magazine editor, web content developer and award-winning writer. She blogs at 1000 Perplexing Things About Parenthood for Babble, as well as at Love That Max. Ellen lives in the New York area with her husband, two kids and assorted dustballs.

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Every Day, I Kiss My Kids Goodbye Like I’ll Never See Them Again

By Ellen Seidman |

dandelion-in-skyMy husband’s cell phone rang while we were out having dinner Saturday night. He picked up, and I watched his face freeze.

“What is it, honey?” I asked, my heart beating faster. “What’s wrong?”

He whispered, “Larry died.”

Larry is one of my husband’s best friends from childhood, a big-hearted guy with twin two-year-old boys. He’d been in a car accident. I burst into sobs, putting a napkin over my mouth so the people sitting nearby wouldn’t hear. We quickly paid the bill, went home, said good night to the babysitter. I tip-toed into my kids’ rooms, and planted long kisses on their foreheads. I thought about what would happen if I were never to see them again. But then, I think about that all the time.

I am not a morbid person. People tend to describe me as cheerful and upbeat; a friend in high school once joked I should be voted Most Likely To Smile.  Like many of us, I used to never really appreciate the good in life until some tragedy gave me perspective. But I’ve lived long enough now and seen enough death to know that every day is a gift. It’s the sort of earnest banality you might see emblazoned in needlepoint at an elderly relative’s house, but it’s so true. Thing is, it’s not something most of us take time to think about…unless something awful happens.

My morning kiss routine started when my friend Karen passed away four years ago. She was a mom of three kids under five. Karen had an autoimmune disease; she’d wanted those babies so badly, and got them through surrogacy. One day, while her family was in a park, Karen keeled over. Her heart had gone out. It was the first time a close friend had passed, and hugging my children was one of the only things that got me through the grief. It was also the first time I started thinking about not taking life for granted.

Pondering the thought of no longer being there for your children is both hard and awful. Heck, some days it’s hard to even find time to think, let alone juggle a job, the kids, school stuff, house stuff,  yada yada. It’s all too easy to get so sucked into your busy life that you never fully appreciate life itself, or how damn lucky you are to have two beautiful children.

After Karen’s death, I vowed to be more mindful when I kissed the kids goodbye before I headed to work—on a train, into New York City, where there would be daily terror alerts, typically yellow (elevated) but occasionally orange (high), a system that’s since been discontinued. I didn’t think, “I may never see them again,” which would have been a pretty downer way to start the day. I just kissed them with all of me. No quick pecks: Instead, I’d relish the feel of their cheeks against my lips, the smell of their skin. I’d tell them how much I loved them. If I were to never come home, they’d know how much of my heart they had.

In the ensuing years, when disaster and tragedy struck—the earthquakes in Japan and Haiti, the tsunami in Thailand, the shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut—I grieved. But I never got that overwhelming rush other parents talked about of urgently needing to hold their kids tighter, because I’d already cherished mine like there was no tomorrow.

The other day, I watched a live story on the local news—some guy had fired shots at the mall, and all hell had broken loose. On Facebook, a relative of Larry’s wife left an update with prayers for her and the kids, and reminders to others to hug and kiss their family a little extra.

I had. Oh, I had.

Image: Flickr/Kathleen Cavalaro

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About Ellen Seidman


Ellen Seidman

Ellen Seidman is a magazine editor, web content developer and award-winning writer. She blogs at 1000 Perplexing Things About Parenthood for Babble, as well as at Love That Max. Ellen lives in the New York area with her husband, two kids and assorted dustballs. Read bio and latest posts → Read Ellen's latest posts →

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4 thoughts on “Every Day, I Kiss My Kids Goodbye Like I’ll Never See Them Again

  1. Amanda C. says:

    This is so true. I hate to admit it, but I do and think the same. I hate that we have to worry about shooters too now. ugh. But I make sure never to part on unhappy terms. You never know.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I don’t have kids (YET) but I if I am on the phone or visiting with a loved one, I almost always end the conversation or visit with “I LOVE YOU”…never want something to happen and they not know how I feel about them.

  3. Diane says:

    I totally agree with you! My sons are grown now, 22 & 27, and I’ve been doing this forever. If anything happens to me I want them to remember that I loved them every day.

    And worse yet, if anything should happen to one of them I want to remember that they both know they are loved. We’ve always said “I love you” when leaving one another or getting off the phone, even if we planned to see each other in 10 minutes.

    I had an early introduction to sudden loss, as my dad died suddenly & unexpectedly when he was only 37 and I was 15. I’ve never taken anything or anyone for granted since that day…

    I’ve taken this a step further, and written a joint letter to my sons, which is stored in my lock box with the financial & life insurance papers. It it, I tell them how much I love them and recall some of the special times we’ve had shared over the years and my special memories of each of them. Somehow this gives me some peace of mind, that they will have this last gift, just in case…

  4. Caty says:

    My mother passed when I was 16. I was studying abroad in france for 2 weeks that summer. I remember giving my mom a hug when I got out of the car at the airport. I also spoke to her a week into the trip. She handed the phone to my dad, and right before I hung up with him I said, “wait, Dad, tell mom I love her.” My dad called to my mom, “Caty says she loves you!” and my mom called by “I love you too honey”. Those were the last words I heard from her. She had a heart attack the next night.

    I just had my first baby and every time I leave her, I give her a huge hug and make sure I say the same thing.

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