Last night my girl had her first sleepover with friends from her new school, where she’s been now just over a year. Last night my son was out til midnight with his girl, out of touch til nearly eleven. I was worried about him, driving home late through Boston without a cell phone, and also I wanted the girls to sleep. I slept curled on the new/old loveseat in the day care, shoes and glasses on, fully dressed, until the girls fell asleep and the boy came home apologetic. When I went upstairs to bed near one, I found my middle guy on the computer in his room, light coming through the crack under the door. I pulled the plug, literally, as he and I have been sharing a power cord between our two computers and my battery was nearly dead, and said good night.

This morning I woke up to my middle boy running the shower, a petite nine-year-old in a red velour dress outside the door asking me if I knew where the bathroom was, and my oldest guy offering to make omlettes for  the kitchen full of girls. They all refused. Instead they ate pasta, rice, cereal. They packed lunch, ate potato chips, organized their things, got dressed and in the van. My house was more orderly when they left than when they arrived.

Downstairs, the day care was filling with children as we left for school in my van, all seven seats filled again, after a year of not much carpool. In the day care there was a homeschooler in the doorway, dropping off his younger brother, a three coming to greet me, Liana and Jen welcoming families and preparing for the day, parents saying hello, Liana wondering if we had space for a sibling, as his mother had called about backup care. We did not. My house of kids was full up, just the way I love it. I always wish for space for more.

Last night one am, though, I lay in bed in worry. I woke up again near six, to wonder how I’d raise these many kids who had all gone to bed too late, after a long, full day. They surprised me as they often do, were up organizing their things in the day care after the sleepover without a wakeup call, showering on the second floor without being dragged from bed, offering omlettes from the goodness of his heart. And when I drop them off at school, not a one looks back. I don’t get my usual good bye hugs and kisses. The kids are fluid in their transition and it’s ok, because I’ll see them soon at the Spring Show, and later, when I drive them home. More importantly, it’s ok, because school to them feels like home, and that is what they need and I wish. As I drive the van of kids to and from school yesterday and today I fantasize about the life of a stay at home mom, who might do this every day, but I also love my life, love the house of kids, mine and others, love sharing our place with families and teachers who come and go each day, with friends from school who don’t expect too much of me, who are happy with pizza for dinner and for lunch, who clean up and get themselves together, who talk politely and mind their manners and tease and laugh and love my children, even when I’m not around.

The worry is eased. The sealed envelope from the last college for which we had held out hope, which I left on my son’s desk last evening when I brought in the mail, which he read in his room alone at midnight after he apologized for not letting me know where he was, for making me worry, which I read this morning as I got him up for school, after I asked what was in it and he had told me, “nothing good”, feels less important when I look in the rearview mirror of my van of kids and see him in the third row seat, squished up against my daughter’s friend from school, laughing as the small girl in the velour dress disses his music while simultaneously poking my middle boy who has claimed and been granted shotgun, pulling his hair and tossing insults back and forth, and my girl on the other side of the third row seat, surrounded by her three girlfriends, who are also friends of my boys, six kids from school, ages nine through seventeen, familiar, tender, at ease. It’s hard to imagine my boy leaving. I wonder if perhaps he’ll stay.