It’s 7:29am.

I’m reclining in our red easy chair, staring over the top of my Macbook Pro at my rustic brown “grandpa slippers.” Shauna is still sucking Zs. She worked late last night, so I volunteered to get up with the kids to help them get ready for school.

When I say “kids” I feel I should explain. My youngest, Joel, is ten. Glory, the modern-day princess, is twelve (but looks fifteen). Noah? He’s fourteen and stands just over six feet tall when his faux hawk is gelled into active duty.

All three of ’em dress themselves with reasonable success. They make their own breakfasts, and in theory at least, clean them up. They pack their own lunches, too. And brush their own teeth, wash their own faces, tie their own shoes, zip up their own flies. And get out the door two minutes late. All by themselves. As they should.

So why am I getting up with them, exactly? I asked Shauna that question recently. I truly wanted to know.

Her answer?

“To make sure they put veggies in their lunches.”

Really? That can’t be all. I press further.

“To make sure they don’t put too many chocolate chips in their oatmeal.”

Uh huh. That’s it. I’m giving up half an hour of sleep I’ll never get back for a few measly sticks of celery? To save eighty calories’ worth of No Name chocolate chips per day? I tell you what, I can think of a hundred better uses of my time than that.

But this morning, I think I get it. The celery is a thinly veiled excuse. The chocolate patrol is a smoke screen. The real reason I’m up, it turns out, is because I love them and won’t get to see them all day. I can send them on their way with a hug, a prayer, maybe a few calories of wisdom.

They’ve all gone, now. Out the door, off into the world without me. For the day. Just a day. But another day, a day just like this one… will soon come, come without my permission, come to take them away for good. A day will come, too soon for my liking, when I would trade every ounce of sleep for another morning like this one. A morning pocked with clunking and stomping, bickering and spilling and chocolate cheating. A morning will come when this nest is emptied of all but these glorious echoes and the cupboard will be full of chocolate chips with no one to steal them.

In the meantime I’ll get up with my monkeys. I’ll do my best to make sure the nest is warm when they leave, warm when they get back.

It’s a cold, hard world out there, after all.

I’m up because they need me.

And because I need them.