I never write on Friday evening. It’s 7:15 and just starting to get dark. I ought to go downstairs and make the dinner. My children are patient. We get home late from school and it’s been a long day and I’ve been learning to take a break before cooking.

I’ve become a mother to teens. Somehow it happened. This weekend my boy will be off both days with friends. My gal is packing her things for a trip to Florida with her stepmom and cousin. Somehow it all feels very normal and at the same time surprising. They need me so little. Our life is in many ways so quiet. We can eat dinner at 8 or 9 and we can all cope. The kids are awfully independent, can spend hours in their rooms doing their own thing. I could read a book or mess around on the computer, even take a nap, and they would be fine. I can leave for hours to run errands, just let them know where I’ll be and when I’ll return. I hardly do that, though. Being a mother to teens for me is about being around, so that when they come and go, I’ll be here. I suppose another stage will follow, but for now, this is where I am, their backup crew, cook, conversation partner, dinner companion, chore sharer. It gets to be more and more like housemates, in a way, dividing up the chores, living our lives a bit more separately than I had imagined, each of us taking more and more responsibility for ourselves.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to parent kids who were not at Sudbury Valley and who had not grown up in our family day care, who lived with me all the time with their father. But mostly I don’t. This life feels normal, which is perhaps the surprising thing to me. I didn’t imagine life with teens, or life as a single mom, or choosing to raise my kids this way, yet all these things came to be, and they now feel normal. What the heck?

It turns out that kids without preschool, without formal school academics, without traditional school structure, are very easy companions, and very easy to parent, at least for me. When I think about the times we used to struggle with  homework, about the pressure of staying organized and on task at school and the effort I put in as a parent to help my kids in traditional school, I can remember, but mostly now this way makes sense and in our day to day I don’t think too much about the other ways we might have lived. After so much of my personal and professional life spent advocating for change in the larger worlds, now we’re just living another way, and putting very little energy into making change for anyone outside our small worlds.

Feels like there is more to say. Whatever it is is so far below the surface, I wasn’t sure I ought to write. Perhaps in the morning when I wake up I will have had a dream that will guide me to figure out what is on my mind. Now it’s time for Friday night dinner, midlife single mom with teens style, served between 8 and 9 to children I’ll have to call from their rooms to eat, who will talk and laugh with me, bring me into their worlds and share mine, then retreat again to where they live while I am left on my own. Funny thing parenting. There are many more stages than those for which I was prepared.

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