Your kids are easier to deal with if you homeschool them

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.


21 replies
  1. Sadya
    Sadya says:

    This line “practice is practice focusing”. This is why you are such a good career coach. Insightful and so non-cliched.

  2. Commenter
    Commenter says:

    Do you think any of this is motivated by jealousy? If cello is Z’s life, what is Y’s life? Has he found it yet?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I’ve tried it. Yefet hates the drive (who wouldn’t?) and he hates the running around we do for all the lessons and performances. Also, Yefet loves the farm, and the city is a lot for anyone who lives on a farm. I read that peoples’ brains change living in a city – the brain adjusts to the intense amount of people and sounds. I’m sure it works the other way as well.


      • Sallie @ A Quiet Simple Life
        Sallie @ A Quiet Simple Life says:

        I completely believe this. We moved from an older home in an older neighborhood in a good-sized city a few years ago. Few trees, cars going by regularly, houses so close you could look into your neighbor;s home with zero effort. Couldn’t see a sunrise or a sunset.

        We moved to a small town. We’re in a development, but we have trees and brush along the back of our property. Huge sky out our front door. We live on a quiet cul de sac in the very back of the development. Stars everywhere at night. And so quiet.

        Within two weeks of moving here my stress level was significantly lower. Just being around trees and huge sky made a tremendous difference.

        Now I’ve adapted to living in a cute little town where we literally drive a mile or less to everything (shopping, library, farm market, credit unions, etc.). I hate going back into the city. Hate it. Dread it. Do whatever I have to do to avoid it. And the thought of going to Chicago? Ugh. There is nothing there I want to see badly enough to put up with the stress of going there. Nothing. Not even the museums and so on.

        Small town life is so much healthier.

        • Commenter
          Commenter says:

          It’s partly a matter of taste. Although I spent my entire childhood in small towns, nothing could induce me to move back to the country.

          I’ve lived in one city or another for the past twenty-five years.
          I suppose my brain is thoroughly city-rewritten now. A busy street is about ten feet from my bedroom window. Ambulances drive by all night. The subway is ten minute walk away. And I love it.

          I love being able to walk or take the subway to just about everything we do. All the things you listed – shopping, library, farm market, credit unions – I can walk to in ten minutes pushing a stroller. I can go days without getting in a car.

          I love having homeschooled friends within easy walking distance, so my boy can go over there himself. I love it that in a couple of years my boy will be able to take the subway to the conservatory by himself. I loving having every activity my son enjoys close enough to ride a bicycle or take the subway. I love knowing that my spouse can easily switch jobs without us having to move house, let alone cities. I love knowing that my kids can go to the best colleges in the world with a subway ride, and can stay in our city for professional careers.

          The reasons I moved to the city as a young man are the reasons I stay in the city and find the city ideal for homeschooling.

          • Shaniqua
            Shaniqua says:

            You must live in NYC. I’m jealous! I’m a native transplant to a small country town & while I love it here. I will always miss the buzz :-)

  3. Darah
    Darah says:

    I cannot believe how true this is. I quit working last July and we started homeschooling in the fall. I mean it’s not like they’re not constantly up in my face, but the intense anxiety-induced clinging and whining has stopped — until we have a change in our schedule like you had. So much easier to deal with though on a non-daily, and even non-weekly basis (for both the kids and parents). And so much more pleasant, and healthy, for everyone!

  4. karelys
    karelys says:

    This is really sweet and interesting.

    I struggle between showing my son (ok, he’s only 8 months but for the future) compassion and empathy when he’s crying. I don’t want to always be weary that if I indulge him in crying he’ll cry more.

    I have to remind myself that people who are secure and know for sure that someone cares enough to satisfy their needs don’t resort to manipulation because they don’t have to. So ignoring the crying will just translate to “I don’t care for your distress.”

    Ridiculous but true: if I was your older son I’d be happy to never leave the farm but jealous that your younger son has something so important going on in his life! Like I am jealous that my husband has different passions that are just for fun but I don’t want to pay the price, like leaving my house after work. Makes me feel so immature!

  5. Jana @ 333 Hand Lettering Project
    Jana @ 333 Hand Lettering Project says:

    I think it’s wonderful that your son is so attached to you. It’s as it should be. Some people worry so much about homeschool kids being too attached. I disagree.

    And honestly, by the time they leave for college, you will have both had enough of each other! No regrets from this homeschool mom.

  6. Francesco
    Francesco says:

    For some reason, children really enjoy spending time with their parents; they seem to reap some benefits as well: they’re more balanced, grounded, mature, calm, responsible, and caring.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yes. There may be nothing in the world worth doing that is easy. So then the only thing worth discussing is easier.


  7. Heather Sanders
    Heather Sanders says:

    My kids are at their grandparents. They check in with me every day, throughout the day. They will text me, send me a video, send me an audio feed, or tag me on Instagram and/or Twitter. They are used to interacting with me throughout the day, and even away from home they continue the pattern.

  8. Lizarino
    Lizarino says:

    I was going to comment and say how sweet your little boy is… then I switched over to my LinkedIn tab and saw your article (don’t go to grad school) is featured!!! Just wanted to let you know…if you didn’t already. Good job!

  9. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    That’s quite a different perspective…I’ve always thought my kids were easier to deal with because we homeschool, yes, but because they don’t get the negative influences that public school exposes them to…

  10. John Bird
    John Bird says:

    When my three sons were upset I DID hold them and comfort them, and listen to them talk about what was upsetting them. I didn’t try to fix things that couldn’t be fixed, but listened and empathized. I don’t know if there is a direct cause-effect relationship, but my boys were never clingy or whiny. I travelled a lot for work, but they always knew I was coming back, and seemed comfortable in themselves. They’re all adults now, and I’m proud of them, but of course, have loved them through thick and thin. And so did their mother.

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