This week my children are away. They’re with their dad in Texas. My friends and family envy or admire this time I have alone. To a person at many points in life, a break from mothering for a busy mother seems naturally to be a good thing. Partly, it is, but it’s a good thing for me that I have to come to slowly. I don’t relish living life half parted from my kids. It wasn’t the plan. No one I know goes into a divorce wishing to divorce the children, but in effect, half time, that’s the reality. If you allow and have the privilege of sharing custody, the kids aren’t with you half the time, and that means half the time you live a different life than you imagined when you conceived them, both in your dreams and in your body.

Why I choose this to start this piece, I’m not yet sure. I hope I’ll figure that out as I write. I’ve been forcing myself to do all kinds of things this afternoon other than writing an entry here, though that’s what I most want to do. Writing here for me is both a treat and a necessity. I have to discipline myself not to go overboard, not to pour too much emotion or time or energy into blogging. Surely that’s been discussed elsewhere. Fortunately, or not, I haven’t taken time to read about blog addiction on the web.

But back to age mixing. Today, I had a group of school age and younger kids on my own in the day care. I loved it..On the walk home from the park, for some reason I wish I could remember, because it was probably significant, we had a talk about the ages of the members of our group. I pointed out that we had representation from each year from 2 to 7, plus a forty four. Two, three, four, five, six, and seven-year-olds ringed the wagon. My four pointed out we had two two year olds. Yep, we do, I responded. My seven wondered if I was forty four. Yep, I am, I responded. Then he wanted to know the age of Liana, our other teacher. She turned fifty this year, I informed. The seven’s mom also turned fifty last year. Go figure. Then he wanted to know the age of our other teacher, Alice. She’s in her sixties, but you’d have to ask her for the exact age, I replied. Hmmm. Forty, fifty, sixty, I commented, thinking in my mind how lovely it is to be with such a wide age range of people, of all I had learned from this little crew throughout the morning, how to observe carefully, how to respond to distress, how to magnify and shrink a photo on the blog, how to be loving to a friend, how to remember the names of all the kids we were expecting that day, how to learn to read as a homeschooler, as a bilingual German speaker, as the sister of an older brother in a more traditional school, how to express independence and to move gracefully in and out of power struggle, how competently a four and six can peel and cut a cucumber, how carefully two twos can clean up a table full of playdough and toys and scrub it clean with sponges, how observant children from two to seven can be, how much fun running and helping and moving a trash can can be, how new learning to open a box of cheerios, to set a table, to pour milk into a cup, to take turns serving from a bowl at a table full of friends, how difficult or easy to ask for and accept help.

There’s barely a thing these kids can’t teach me which I don’t need to learn or relearn about life, every single day.

Which brings me back to the age mixing thing. In a new way this time, not the one I thought to write about when I started here. If I can learn from a group of little kids (and adults) each day, and I’m forty two years older than some, twenty years younger than others, why oh, why do we think kids from infants through college age need to learn or do learn best in single year groups?