The end of the school year is recital time for cello kids, which means that we can’t just go to Chicago twice a week for cello lessons because my younger son has all different kinds of recitals throughout the month; orchestra recital and chamber music recital and individual recitals and the list goes on.  So we ended up spending four days in a row in a hotel.

There were some nice parts to the trip.  For example, we bought a scooter at the indoor mall on Michigan Avenue, and then my son rode throughout the mall for an hour while I shopped. You’d be surprised how liberal J Crew’s scooter policy is.

But then mall security kicked him out. So he rode outside for a little bit and took a tour of Chicago, and for a small moment I felt like he was a lucky boy to spend four days in Chicago.

There were moments when I was so happy for him; how mature he looked waiting for his sound check.

And he looked so professionally serious, waiting for his time to go on stage. All those hours where I told him that practice is practice focusing: it seemed to pay off.

But it was a long four days. And when we got home, my older son was crying. He said it’s not fair that I’m gone so much.  He said he never gets to see me.

I could have said something like, “Are you kidding me?  If you went to school you would never get to see me.  You see me more than any other kid in the country gets to see their mom,” but I didn’t say that.

I also didn’t tell him that he’s a big whiner, and all the other times I go to Chicago he’s excited because my husband lets him watch scary movies at night.

I tried to play it cool because if you indulge a kid in their crying, they cry more. They think they’ve got you.

But playing it cool didn’t work. My older son was genuinely horrified that I had left for four days, and he can see that it’s going to be non-stop with the cello.

He told me I shouldn’t force my younger son to go to Chicago. He told me that cello is not his brother’s life.

My younger son said, “Yes, it is.”

Then my older son said my younger son is so good, he doesn’t need a teacher.  There is no one that can teach him.  “He should teach himself!” my older son said, as if finally, he came up with a solution we can all live with.

For the next three days my older son was clingy.  He said, “Mom, I love you,” 14 times a day.  He hugged me constantly and he asked me to watch him over and over again with anything he did.

I remember now the difference between a mom who’s home all the time and a mom who works.  Because I’ve been both. The mom who is home all the time is generally oblivious to what her kids are doing, and her kids are oblivious to what she’s doing because they’re so used to being around each other.

I inadvertently created the scenario of a working mom by leaving for four days, and my son became clingy and needy, and he developed a sense of urgency that maybe I’d leave again at any moment.  Which gave me flashbacks to what it was like to have a huge job, send my kids to school, and come home at 5:00 or maybe 7:00 every night.

I realized that my kids are a thousand times easier because they know I’m going to be around. And then I panicked that maybe my older son is right, and going to Chicago for four days in a row is going to be much worse than I imagined.