Monthly Archives: January 2014

Jailbreak – Just What The Doctor Ordered

My dad loved baseball. He played in college and for the army in the 40s and 50s. He tried out for the Yankees but didn’t make it. I loved hearing these stories about his life. My favorite happened when he was a little kid. His dad showed up at school and took him out to his first baseball game. I don’t know if his lifelong love of baseball came from seeing this first game. Perhaps his dad knew he loved baseball so much, that he took time off from work and money out of the shallow family coffers to break him out of school and bring him to the game.

My dad didn’t mention his childhood with four sisters, a mom and police-officer-dad too often but he did tell us this story on occasion. I’ve always wondered if this was one of those formative experiences that shaped who he was. He loved to spring surprises on us, last minute family vacations, coming home to a hole in the backyard that soon became a pool. He was always making things fun for us. You know what, it worked. I have nothing but happy memories of my dad and the fun things he did.

After having been a mother for about fifteen years, it finally occurred to me that I could channel my dad and play hooky with my kids. I could break them out of school with impunity! Three years running, I took my daughter and a slew of friends out of school to bring them to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s yearly fashion show. It was fun and artsy. To legitimize the outing in my mind, I gave them a quick tour of the college

Last fall, one of my kids felt gipped on his birthday. I thought, I can fix this. I felt like Super Woman! I drove up, with his older brother in tow and broke him out of school. I justified this outing because it was 98 degrees out and his school had no air conditioning. I spirited him off to a cool movie theater to see an R-rated movie I had told him he couldn’t see. After the movie, we dropped him at school and no one was the wiser. But he went back to school with a skip in his step and a smile on his face.

At the writing of this piece, I’m planning my next jailbreak with my youngest son. His older brother, who he’s tight with, is leaving for three months and I thought it would be fun for them to have some special, illegal time together. Also, the same older brother never got any jailbreak days, so I am trying to make it up to him by letting him break his siblings out of school.

Being the responsible parent that I am, I did a little research on playing hooky with my children, just to be sure I was doing the right thing. I am of the generation who needs to confirm our childrearing with experts. I stopped reading after the third article. They all said it was okay to play hooky for a once in a lifetime event such as a family reunion, a family vacation or an inauguration. What the heck? How about just to have some fun? They mentioned the very adverse impact on the schools, catching kids up, etc. Is the three hours he will be gone going to disrupt the class? Is he going to fall behind in fifth grade? Come on, really?

Well, I’m the parent, this is my kid and I know what’s best for him. Three hours watching a funny movie with his big brother is just what Dr. Mom ordered. Another jailbreak, another inappropriate movie, another fabulous memory.

Playing Hooky

Playing Hooky

Turning Your Liability Into An Asset

Jumping Off A Bridge

Jumping Off A Bridge

I will admit it. I do often make life changes based on ideas I get from reading fiction. After reading the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins I realized my children were living in the Capitol. I felt they needed to be trained to be able to survive in a place like District 12. I started making my 5th grader ride his bike two miles to his Jujitsu class. His journey involved riding across the train tracks and two towns away, sometimes coming home in the dark. It was a remarkable enough situation that people in town were commenting on it. Now in eighth grade, he is no worse for wear and I believe is more independent and capable because of that experience. That being said, I would never let my youngest, who is now in fifth grade ,do the same thing. Different kid, different expectations.

I was a big fan of Robert Ludlum’s books when I was a teenager. An idea from one of his books stuck with me over the years. It is the notion of turn your liability into an asset, from The Holcroft Covenant. This nugget guided me when dealing with my oldest child, Peter. He was a less-than-stellar student in middle school and high school. As we went through the college process, my husband and I were worried because he did not seem motivated, his grades were not great and we’d never heard of any of the colleges that he would be qualified to attend. We were also worried that if he went to college would he be able to handle the work and the social life? We couldn’t afford to waste tens of thousands of dollars on a failed first semester.

Turn you liability into an asset popped into my head. I thought there must be a way to turn this situation to our advantage. Someone had suggested a gap year and I discovered that there was a USA Gap Year Fair in Chicago. My son humored me and went to the event. He chatted with a young man at the Carpe Diem Education booth. This kid’s story was how I envisioned my son’s first semester of college. Too much partying, had to go home, his parents twenty grand in the hole. Peter listened to this guy’s story and said he wanted to go.

Fast forward one year later: My son is that kid at the Gap Year Fair, sitting on the panel, in front of an auditorium full of interested high school kids, his sister included. He spoke eloquently about his bad grades, lack of motivation and begrudgingly coming to the gap year fair a year ago. He told the group that he signed up for the Carpe Diem Latitudes Program. He described his travels through four different countries, how he is nearly fluent in Spanish and is looking forward to going back to Guatemala in a week to help build a school. He said he now feels ready and excited to go to college in the fall.

When he came home from the fair, I hugged him and told him how proud I am of all his accomplishments in the last year. Then I thanked him for being him. If not for his particular journey in life we would never have looked at other options for him. He would never have experienced the world as he has this year and grown to be such an amazing young man.


Another Year of Living Pinkly

When I turned fifty a year ago, I chose to wear only pink as a gift to myself. As far as pink is concerned, my year flew by.  As my fifty-first birthday approached I chose to continue wearing pink. My daughter asked me if I could wear other colors. “What if you want to wear blue or purple?” she asked. I told her I can wear whatever I want but will probably chose to wear pink. I’ve discovered that choosing is way easier and more powerful to do than deciding because nothing has to be cast aside when you choose.

I was excited to see that the 2014 Pantone color is Orchid which is a purply-pink. For my fifty-first birthday ,I did a little shopping and freshened up the wardrobe. I got a pink hair extension and threw myself a “girls-only” pink cocktail party. My bartenders wore pink shirts and mixed pink champagne cocktails and we ate luscious pink shrimp and yummy pink desserts.

Kathleen's-fifty-firstMy year of wearing pink has been a gift to others and myself. As you can see from the picture, Sunny, my pyredoodle puppy, couldn’t resist my pink birthday cake. Living pinkly has made shopping easier for my family members. I am sure to love that pink hat, those pink earrings and that little pink speaker for my iPhone. My sister was so excited to tell me that when she was shopping for my birthday gift, her twelve-year-old son, Will, spotted a sparkly pink Coach iPad case. “Aunt Kathleen will love this.” And I did.