I sit in my rocking chair in my living room listening to the sounds of 15 playing a video game and 17 laughing at videos in his room. The ceiling fan above me turns slowly, making shadows in the plastic cover on my library book. For a second I think 17 has emerged from the cave he calls a room and is standing over me. No, it’s just the ceiling fan.

No one talks to me unless I speak first. No one acknowledges me. I get up, make tea, sit back down with my book and we three continue in our separate existences. I debate calling into work and letting them skip school tomorrow. Doing something fun. We could sit in bed, I could read them a story, we could bond and I’d feel like a better mother than I have been in the past few months. But I know they are too invested in their studies this year. I may have been able to get away with it when they were in middle school but now they know the value of not skipping classes. They know the work will be twice as hard if they miss a day. 17 has mentioned he will not stay home unless he’s puking this year.

They are not five any more. I miss when they were littler suddenly. It hits me like a slap and I can’t breathe. I stare at the back of 15’s head and wonder if I could have swallowed my own self more to make them have a calmer (better?) childhood. I was in school most of it, too wrapped up in trying to better myself, too wrapped up in trying to get through the next thing that I never appreciated them when they were tiny. I did read them books. I did take them to the zoo and on adventures. I did try to instill in them a sense of Gd and religion and a higher power. But now they are 15 and 17. This may be my last year with both of them at home. This may be my last chance to plan a family vacation before they have their own lives that get in the way of having fun. I sit and stare and listen.

I hear 17 giggle furiously at whatever he’s watching.It’s amazing what they both find and share with me. Stories about how planes are made, countries they’d like to visit, cars they’d like to drive, ridiculous videos they have found that make them laugh with abandon. Make me smile. Make me laugh. Give me memories to cling to once they have moved on.

I sit and wonder what I can cram into a year. Another vacation. More movies. Life lessons. Oh god, don’t leave yet. You’re not ready. I need to teach you more before you venture out. The world sucks. Let me protect you. I sit and try to breathe.

They are smart. They have plans. They know what to do. They won’t make the mistakes I did. My head hurts. I try to breathe.

I should probably make more tea. I should take something for my head. I should take out these contacts because now they’re scratchy and feel awful.

15 goes to do their homework. The cat stares out the window. I’m left alone in the living room listening to 17’s intermittent laughter and 15’s computer clicking. I wonder if I should get another cat.

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