• Dear Tiger,

    I owe ya one.  You have given me the best holiday gift a mother of teenage boys could ask for. I take no pleasure from your suffering.  At the same time, I am grateful to you for screwing (up) so publicly.

    You went to Stanford because you could play a great round of golf.  Your link-ability got you famous.  That fame got you a thin Swedish supermodel wife and two perfect children. You got really really rich, earning a billion dollars between 1996 and November 27, 2009, when you had your car accident.  By then, we could get a Tiger Woods golfing watch (it’s really light and can withstand a big “G” spot, I mean force), and Gatorade Tiger (if you drink it, you, too, can really swing).  In short, you, dubbed “the world’s most marketable athlete,” schooled us all in the fine art of getting.

    I fear that the ones you schooled best are teenage boys.  Mine have grown up thinking that to be successful, their faces should grace ads for sporty cars, credit cards, and breakfast cereals. They’ve known that making it means not just getting a bunch of stuff but having the stuff named for them. And all for whacking a ball around country club green grass.

    Meanwhile, their dad has been commuting to his government job on a bicycle.  He comes home for dinner, makes bad jokes, and, when possible, attends their soccer games, tennis matches, and music concerts.  It has been clear for a very long time that they will not live to see a sports drink named for their pa.

    I never buy The New York Post, but I brought home a copy yesterday and left it on the kitchen table.  “Tiger’s Sex Texts” the headline trumpeted. “Another day, another bombshell!” The boys were standing over the tabloid cackling before I could ask them to empty the dishwasher.

    “Can you believe this?” one said.

    “Wait, is this real?” said the other.  “Or did someone just make this stuff up?”

    Essential questions about most everything having to do with you, Tiger.  So I offer my sincere thanks for creating this golden opportunity to talk to my boys about who, as high school juniors, they think they’re supposed to be and what it means, at the close of 2009, to be a successful American man.

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  • Thanksgiving has come and gone.  My kids are not quite half way through their junior year of high school.  PSAT scores are wending their way to the house.  If only Harry Potter’s Hedwig would deliver the College Board’s first official judgment, infusing a bit of fun and magic here at the starting gate of Upper Middle Class College Admissions Hysteria (to be followed later by Upper Middle Class Wedding Hysteria).   Anxiety has predictably been rising this autumn. Grades on tests and papers have seemed even more important than ever.  And I decided yesterday after a particularly awful week of UMCCAH that I am resigning from my role as Nagger-in-Chief.  I mean it.  I quit.

    I don’t want to compromise kids’ privacy, so I won’t tell you much about what’s been going on. Suffice it to say that I have reached a point where I am convinced that the best thing I can do is butt out. The supports are in place.  So are the consequences.  If I write here that I truly don’t care if the kids start college in 2011, will you believe me?  If I tell you that I honestly do not care where they go, will you think I’m just trying to sound a little boho chic?  It matters to me that they find something they can work hard at and that they find people who will love them.  I care that they are able to live independently and that they are physically and mentally sound.  It would be really nice if they’d love each other and want to come home for Thanksgiving.  And anything beyond that is, well, gravy.

    What does this mean on a practical level?  I haven’t been getting anyone out of bed in the mornings for almost a year. Best step I ever took. From here on out, I’m not going to ask when papers are due, if anyone has studied for a test, if they’ve got the poster board they need for an upcoming project.  Yesterday was the first day of my new life, and as soon as I’d made my resolve, I was able to sit down and write half a script for a radio piece.  My heart slowed a few beats.  I told my kids about my plan, and we had an honest discussion.  We sat down to supper — late.  They looked across the table at me and smiled.

    I’m getting the kids ready for college.  Not by writing essays for them (which I would never do anyway).  Not by reminding them to fill out forms.  Not by shoving SAT course prep books down their throats.  I’m getting them ready to assume responsibility for themselves and their actions. Of course, if they ask me for help, that’s a whole different matter.

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