Sheryl and Sons

Sheryl and Sons
I told you they were big.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Secret to Being A Good Mother

     My husband is planning a trip with my oldest son to Las Vegas, and I can't help but recall the first time we took him there.
     He was four months old.
     In my defense, I had nothing to do with planning this trip.  While plane tickets were being purchased and hotel reservations were made, I was busy giving birth.  My husband arranged for us to spend our baby's first Christmas in Sin City.  We're Jewish but still.
     Air travel from Chicago in the month of December was predictably awful. It was below zero, snow was blowing, and runways were icy.  Upon boarding the plane, we were told that they had to de-ice before taking off.  Then we waited.  We waited so long that they had to de-ice again.  Then we waited some more.  The crew was changed, they added passengers from a cancelled flight, and de-iced again.  We were prisoners on the plane for nine hours and still faced a four hour flight.
     All of this activity may have distracted you from remembering that I was traveling with a four-month old baby.  It did not, however, distract me.
     I was facing thirteen hours in an enclosed public space with an infant.
     In their defense, the flight attendants were as nice as they could be.  They offered blankets, magazines, and peanuts galore.  However, when they came around with the drink cart, baby formula was not one of the choices.
     In those days, thirteen hours translated into at least four feedings and five diaper changes.  My husband, who was in charge of carrying the luggage, had told me many times with a smirk on his face that they did, in fact, sell baby formula and diapers in Las Vegas.
     Luckily, I had ignored him completely.
     The baby and I could have stayed on that airplane for three days.  I was prepared.  I pointed this out to my husband many times over the thirteen hours, and many, many times since.
     That experience taught me the simple secret of being a good mother, and I am glad to share it with you: Think of Everything.

Monday, September 17, 2012

My Teachable Moment

     I was all about the Teachable Moment.  I read in one of my parenting books that I should find opportunities in our daily lives to point out good and bad examples of behavior.  When the boys were young, I used every opening to offer my valuable advice.  
     "See that man chewing with his mouth open?  Yuck!  I'm glad I'm eating with my handsome son who chews with his mouth closed!"
     "I saw Justin didn't wear a jacket to school today.  I bet he was really cold at recess!  I'm so glad you were smart enough to dress warmly!"
     "That was a great home run that Tommy hit today!  I think he's seeing the ball so much better since he got a haircut!"
     I thought I was so clever.  By pointing out other people's behavior, I was secretly indoctrinating my children.  It seemed far better than constantly repeating, "Close your mouth when you chew. Wear a jacket. Get a haircut."
     I thought the boys were unaware of my sneaky tactics, until one day when we drove our neighbor  home from Hebrew school.  When the boy opened the door to get out, my son leaned over and whispered to him, "Make sure you say, 'Thank you' or my mom will talk about you behind your back."

Monday, September 10, 2012

Wait Til Next Year

     The first thing I thought when I woke up and looked outside was that I wanted to spend the day at Wrigley Field.  It was a Friday in late September of 2007, about 75 perfect degrees, and the wind was blowing out.  My beloved baseball team, the Chicago Cubs, was leading the division by one game over the Milwaukee Brewers.  The game started at 1:20, my children were at school, and I could get on the el train and take it right to Clark and Addison.  I had a cute top that was low cut and had a nice ruffle around the bust, and if I wore it I would certainly be able to scalp a single ticket in front of the park.
     There was only one thing holding me back.  That night was Kol Nidre.  It was my job to prepare our big meal before the fast—matzo ball soup, brisket, potatoes, kishke—the meal that was supposed to provide my family enough physical and emotional sustenance to get through the Yom Kippur fast.  If I went to the ballgame, my family would instead be eating Lou Malnati’s Pizza.
     I weighed the options.  I have a 6’4 husband and two equally large sons.  The only thing they are religious about is food.  They were not happy to be going to Temple.  My younger son did not understand why he couldn’t go out with his friends afterwards.  If we ate pizza, it would set a terrible example.  It would show that I didn’t think the holiday was very special either. (No disrespect to Lou Malnati.)
     On the other hand, my gang would understand.  They would love that I went to Wrigley instead of preparing for the holiday.  Forever after, my boys would tell the story that on the night of Kol Nidre, the beginning of the holiest of holy days, their mother served them takeout because she spent the day at the ballpark watching her beloved Cubbies.  My boys would love this story, and it would become my legacy.
     I know what you are thinking: Yom Kippur comes every year.  How often are the Cubs leading their division?  Go to the game!
     Everyone loves the tough old broad who says to hell with all that.  I wish I were that broad, but I’m not.
     I am a Cubs fan down to my bones, but in the marrow of my bones I’m a Jewish mother.  I had to cook for my guys.  You should know that I’m not a good cook.  In fact, I’m terrible.  But I do it, and it’s one of the ways that I show my family that I love them.  Over the summer my younger son was at camp, and I told him I was sending him some of my homemade chocolate chip cookies.  He wrote back that he’d rather have Pringles potato chips.  I thought about it, but in the end I told him it was too bad.  It wasn’t about him.  I was his mother, and I missed him, and there was no way for me to show my love in a can of Pringles.
     And so, I stayed home.  I watched the game on television while I prepared our holiday meal.  It was not without regret.  Alfonso Soriano hit a home run the very first pitch of the ballgame.  The Cubs scored four runs in the first inning.  But when my family came home for dinner, and I watched them load up their plates with my mediocre preparations, I was glad that I’d remembered who I was.  Yom Kippur was no time to fool around.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Which is Which

     My son was asked to the Turnabout Dance when he was a freshman in high school.  A girl from his English class had asked him, and when he found out that all he had to do was get dressed and show up, he said yes.
     On the night of the dance, all the couples in the group went to someone's house to take pictures.  Freshman year they were all pretty awkward.  When we arrived, the girls were on one side of the room and the boys were on the other.  My son was carrying a box containing a white rose corsage for his date, and I saw him looking around for her.
     He grabbed my arm and forcefully pulled me into the hallway.
     "What's the matter?" I asked.
     "I'm not sure which one she is," he said.
     My instinct was to laugh out loud, but he was frantic, so I restrained myself.
     "What do you mean?"
     "I don't know which one she is, Mom.  She's got an identical twin sister, and they are both here."
     I began to understand.  The girls were beautiful. But in dresses, high heels and make up, they didn't look anything like they did in English class.  It's hard enough to tell identical twins apart, but my son had lost all his markers.
     "Well," I said, hoping to devise a plan, "are they dressed alike?"
     "No. I don't know if my one is in the blue dress or the black dress."
     "What's your date's name?"  I asked.
     "Brittany," he said.  "Her sister is Brianna." (The names have been changed to protect the humiliated.)
     "Wait here, " I said.
     I walked back into the living room, hoping for a clue.  I approached a group of mothers and introduced myself.  Luckily, the twins' mother was in the group.
     "They are such beautiful girls!" I exclaimed.  "Which is which?"
     "Brittany is in the blue dress, Brianna is in the black."
     I wanted to ask if she was sure, but I decided not to.
     I repeated under my breath, "Brittany in blue, Brianna in black.  Brittany in blue, Brianna in black."  I'd forgotten which was my son's date.
     I pushed through the crowd and found my son in the hallway. He looked panicked, but I gave him a thumbs up.
     I said, "Brittany in blue, Brianna in black."
     He asked, "Are you sure?"
     I said, "I asked their mom."
     He looked mortified but I assured him it was fine.  "Get in there and give the girl the corsage."
     He smiled.  "Thanks, Mom."
     I watched him walk towards the girl in the blue dress, and I saw her face when she saw him.  Brittany in Blue.  Bingo.