Friday, December 19, 2008

Home for The Holidays: Take One

Close your eyes and picture the Budweiser Holiday commercial with the carriage and the Clydesdale horses and the snow-covered paths and the jiggle bells ringing. The group of the carriage are arriving for what looks like the perfect holiday break, gifts in tact and smiles on their faces. (I know your humming that song right now, aren't you..)

Now open your eyes and bring yourself to Arizona, 2008:

It's 55 degrees (a little chilly to us) and we are sitting in the airport cell lot waiting for a call from a child returning for Christmas break from college. You pick him up curbside and you notice that he has a giant bag just like that seen in the commercial, only you recognize that it's his dirty laundry bag. Ho, Ho, HO!

Immediately he starts fiddling with the car radio and the Holiday music is gone, in a blink of an eye. His eyes are blurry (finals?) and his nose is red like a cherry (it's cold in Ohio?) and talks a mile a minute about his life at school.

The minute he gets in the door he's on the floor messing around with the puppy. Wrigley loves the attention and asks for more. They run around the house, knocking beautifully set-up Christmas displays down until they collapse in the kitchen. Wrigley is lopping up water from his bowl and Jonathan is asking for a soft drink. Welcome home, JB.

He moves swiftly to Laura's room where he screams loudly to scare her. The laughter that follows rings all through the house.

Big brother Andy and girlfriend Kim arrive. The house begins to rattle. A basketball game is turned on.....every one's hungry. When is dinner, Ma? It's time for boys to tease and question Laura about her social life. I listen carefully....

Presents are scarce but they few still sparkle under the tree. Wrigley wants that fuzzy snowball placed on the biggest package and plans his strategy to get it while we aren't looking. We make a fire in the fireplace and may open the french doors if it gets the house too warm.

I am watching this scene and am filled with love and joy and wish that I could slow down time, if only for a week.

My family commercial may not work for TV but it works just fine for me. Hmmmmm, hmmmm, hmm...hmm.hmm; la,la,la,la..da.da.da.da..da.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Bucking The System, Being The Problem Parent

While there are some sad parts to being an empty nest Mom, I don't miss the fundraising "opportunities" we had during their high school years at all.

My children each played three sports a year during high school. They did so because they have an abundance of energy and my house would never have survived if they had come home right after school. And they were talented and gifted in their abilities to run fast and score goals so the coaches encouraged and recruited them to join the teams. It all seemed like such a perfect set-up until I attended the first parent-student-coach meeting and learned how they must also excel in salesmanship.

The Team Mom announced that for this year the kids will be “selling coupon books for fast food restaurants that everyone truly needs, but don’t worry, going door-to-door only to the people they already know”. My son groans but we reluctantly took our minimum allotment of coupon books with the promise to the coach that we will have these sold in no time. Two weeks passed and the coupons rested comfortably on the kitchen counter. Andy came home from practice and said that he needed to bring the money from his sales in tomorrow. I don’t want him to bother the neighbors and he has no desire to be a fast food coupon salesman. I buy all ten $20 coupon books and that Christmas, the mailman, the 5 community guards and the newspaper delivery man all feasted on fast food thanks to our family.

After several sports seasons, I decided that we’re not going to take it anymore and my budget could not handle this added expense either. I practiced in the mirror my eloquent speech, hoping not to offend the Team Mom who was doing such a great job organizing the team or to anger the coach who might decide not to play my son due to his crazy mother.

The meeting began as always, they announced that this year “we are so excited about buying the kids these amazingly plush warm-ups for the kids that will only require selling 45 calendars at $30/each”. They pass around a sample of the sweatpants and I swear, they put Ralph Lauren sweatpants to shame. “Oh, I almost forgot”, the Team Mom gushes, “if they sell 50 calendars then their names will be engraved on the back pockets!” That was my cue. I politely raise my hand and suggest that perhaps a less expensive and thinner weight pant would work better seeing that we live in Arizona where it is ungodly hot most of the year. Everyone turned around and stared at me. Did I not love my athlete/son? Don’t I want my son to have this amazing sales experience and be a team player? Silence filled the room for what felt like an hour, but without skipping a beat, the Team Mom stood up and started passing out 50 calendars each, telling the kids that “they have an extra week to sell because she knows they all really want their names on the pants”.

Behind closed doors of the Team Moms and the Coaching staff, I became known as the ‘Problem Parent’ but I had gained a new level of respect from my children and their teammates who really just wanted to run, jump and score and could care less about anything else.