Sheryl and Sons

Sheryl and Sons
I told you they were big.

Monday, March 26, 2012

My Best Parenting Idea EVER

When my son Rob unwrapped his birthday gift and pulled his first cell phone out of the box, my younger son, Jesse, immediately wanted one too.  Really, really wanted one.  

Jesse explained that he didn't just want a cell phone, but he needed one!  What if he had to stay after school to get tutoring for a very important math test?  What if the coach didn't show up for basketball practice and there were no grown ups to help them?  What if he was hit by a car while riding his bike and was bleeding to death on the sidewalk and no one stopped, and even though he was about to die he had the energy to make one phone call to 911 and an ambulance came and SAVED HIS LIFE??? Jesse was suddenly obsessed with getting a cell phone, and he could not think or talk about anything else.

I told him that I would consider getting him a cell phone for his 12th birthday, but that was nine months away.  We could NOT have this conversation every minute of every day for the next nine months, and I told him that we could talk about it again one month before his birthday.

All was quiet for a day or two, but then he slipped and brought it up again.  And then another time. And several more.  I lost my temper and told him that was enough, but he broke into tears and said, "But Mom, I'm thinking of it ALL THE TIME!"  I didn't know what to do.

The next day I picked up Jesse and a teammate from basketball practice, and drove to the other boy's house  to drop him off.  Jesse asked if he could stay and play.  I didn't object to the play date, but would not be able to come back later to pick Jesse up.  The boy didn't live too far from us, and it was a nice day, so I told Jesse he could stay but he would have to get himself home.

Jesse nearly jumped over the seat and screamed, "WHAT??"

I was confused.  I didn't think this play date was such a big deal.  I repeated myself. "You can play, but you need to get yourself home."

"OH MOM!" Jesse wailed, sounding like a wounded animal. "I thought you said, 'You need to get your CELL PHONE!'"

He really was thinking of it all the time, and we needed to work something out.  It was unrealistic to imagine that he was going to keep quiet about this for eight months.

I had an idea that I thought might work.  I told him that he could not keep begging me for a cell phone because it made me angry, but if he was thinking about it, and he wanted to tell me, we could have a secret password.  We decided he would say to me, "Mom, you look so beautiful and skinny today!" and I would know what was on his mind.

This turned out to be the perfect solution.  By the time his birthday arrived nine months later, I was happy to buy that sweet child whatever he wanted.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Break

I have been saving chairs at the pool (guilty!) all morning, waiting for my boys to wake up and join me.  I use the house phone near the elevators to call their cabin again but get no answer.

I hear Mike, the cruise director, announce that the synchronized swimming competition is about to begin, and as long as I am out of my lounge chair, I walk over to check it out.  I’m expecting a group of 10-year-old girls who have worked up a “routine” while becoming new best friends this week on the cruise.  Instead I see my sons, aged 18 and 22, standing at the side of the pool with huge grins on their faces.

I’m trying to process this—didn’t he say synchronized swimming?  My sons are neither synchronized nor swimmers.  They’ve been here the whole time? I thought they were still sleeping.  I look carefully at these two impostors and wonder what they’ve done with my real sons.

Before I can get their attention, the Chariots of Fire theme song starts to play.   My boys raise their hands over their heads, and first Jesse, then Rob, do a sideways dive into the pool, followed in turn by three other college aged boys. The crowd starts to laugh and cheer.  The five boys form a circle and do a handstand with their unbelievably long legs sticking out of the water.  They emerge, put their hands on each other’s shoulders, and spit water in great arcs like the Buckingham Fountain.  Then they move clockwise and spin like ballerinas with their hands above their heads. 

For the grand finale, the boys lift Jesse high into the air and throw all 6’5” of him into the water with a huge splash.  They get out of the pool and take a big bow to the whistles and cheers of the crowd. 

They receive their medals while the crowd applauds, and I get in line behind a group of girls in bikinis waiting to talk to them.  I finally get to the front of the line and literally don’t know what question to ask first.

The story of how they joined the Pool Olympics Synchronized Swim Team sounds much like the story of how most of their “plans” get made: someone met someone somewhere who needed two more guys for a team, and my boys looked at each other and said, “Why not?”

Although there are over 3000 people on this ship, my boys have achieved some level of notoriety. They have already won the Guest vs. Crew Volleyball Tournament and 3 on 3 Basketball. Jesse was a finalist in Cruise Karaoke Idol while Rob danced in the Michael Jackson Dance Contest. An older couple riding handicapped scooters wheeled up to me when the ship docked in St. Maarten and told me how much fun they have had playing Texas Hold ‘Em with my sons in the Casino.

My boys are gamers.  It is a lot of fun being their mother.  Over the course of their lives my husband and I have logged thousands of proud hours watching them and cheering them on. But since they went away to college, these opportunities to stare at them and marvel that such beautiful, talented and confident people came out of my own body have been rare.

And for that reason and many others, this vacation has been, for me, one of our best.  I have treasured every day with them.  Looming ahead is the reality that Rob is graduating college in a few weeks, and starting a new job, and I don’t know when the four of us will be able to vacation together again.

Certainly my boys will tease me at dinner tonight, joking that even synchronized swimming can make me cry. I cry at the pure pleasure and relief that my children are happy.  I cry because even though they are not perfect children, they are the perfect children for me. And as they dry themselves with the towels that I can’t help but run to find for them, I cry because the hard work of raising them is nearly done.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tales from the Laundry Room

My boys do not care what they wear.  Cleanliness is a plus but certainly not a necessity.  Clothing is regularly rescued from the floor and given the smell test.

My older son came home from college for the weekend with the requisite dirty laundry overflowing out of the trunk of his car.  He acted appropriately sheepish as he loaded up my laundry room, knowing that I would wash, dry and fold around ten loads.  But I was so happy to have him home that I really didn't mind.

I noticed many new t-shirts, each different, but all advertising "Kilroys on Kirkwood."

"It's a bar in Bloomington, Mom," he said.  "Thursday is $3 t-shirt night."

My son turned 21 at the beginning of the school year, so I was not surprised to hear that he was now patronizing a particular bar.

"It looks like you are quite a regular," I said, as non-judgementally as I could.

He rolled his eyes anyway.  "Mom, for a $3 cover you get a free t-shirt."

"That is a good deal," I admitted.

"I know!" exclaimed my son.  "I wish they had shorts and socks!"

Monday, March 5, 2012

Win Some, Lose Some

When my youngest son Jesse was five years old, he went to summer camp every day until noon at the JCC in Skokie.  This is where he first learned about Slurpees.

There was a 7-Eleven a block from the camp, and a couple of his new friends told him about the icy sweet goodness and the brain freeze.  One Friday afternoon, he asked if we could try one.  Since my older son didn't come home from camp til 3:00, the two of us made our way over.  Across the front of the store, a large banner advertised a $20 million dollar Lotto prize.  My son asked me about it.

While we checked out the Slurpee flavors and selected which enormous sized cup to fill, I explained the Illinois Lottery.  I told him about picking the numbers and the chance to win the big prize.  He asked me if we could play and so we did.  We decided on our numbers and the clerk printed our ticket.  We paid our dollar and walked out of the store.  As we headed back to our car, my young son asked me, "Mom, if we win the $20 million dollars, who are we going to give it to?"

I was overcome at the generosity of this small boy.  I asked him who he might like to help with the money.   That weekend I chaired a fundraiser at our synagogue, and I told this story.  I spoke about modeling charitable giving for our children, and the impact that it had.  I raised several thousand dollars from a speech featuring my son's innocent words.

I was pretty impressed with myself.  Forget the $20 million, I had won the Mothering Jackpot!  Clearly I was doing something right.

Of course my older son heard about the 7-Eleven experience, and what is good for the goose is good for his brother.  On Monday afternoon it was time for his Slurpee/Lotto experience.  We got our Slurpees, picked our numbers and paid our money.  On the way out of the store, I turned to my child and saw him gazing at the lottery ticket.  I knew he was dreaming about what would happen if we won.

Sure enough, he looked at me with his big brown eyes and said, "Mom, if we win the $20 million, do we have to share it with Jesse and Dad?"