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Lessons from Superman

Connie Schultz

Connie Schultz

Superman came by for another visit last week. This time, he even spent the night.

Whenever he’s with us, I tune out technology. No checking emails or sending text messages, and definitely no surfing the Internet. There’s no World Wide Web rival for the real-life miracle standing right in front of me. I promised him a while ago that I’d try never to forget that.

I did sneak in a few furtive snaps with my digital camera. He is, after all, a superhero, and it’s not every day you find Superman’s boots tucked under your bench.

My favorite picture from this most recent batch captured him standing on his special stool — he’s barely 3 feet tall, so the sink’s a little high — and grimacing into the bathroom mirror as he took on plaque.

To answer the obvious question: Yes, Superman brushes his teeth in uniform.

And get this: He sleeps in it, too.

I stood in the doorway and just stared until he caught a glimpse of me in the mirror and shook his head.

Superman was photographed while fighting to keep plaque away.

Superman was photographed while fighting to keep plaque away.

“Grandma,” he said, shooting a foamy grin. “You’re doing it again.”

“Doing what again?” I said in my best innocent-grandma voice.

“You’re watching me.”

Memorizing you, I thought.

My 3- year- old grandson doesn’t know it, but he has been reteaching me what it means to live in the moment. I used to be pretty good at that, or at least I thought I was. But that was when his daddy was little, and the only web we ever talked about was the one Charlotte wove for Wilbur.

I sound ancient when I say I remember a time when we didn’t have computers or cell phones. But it’s true, and though I’m not about to surrender any of my hightech gear, I increasingly wonder whether my life wasn’t richer — and gentler — without it.

This is not to condemn today’s tech-savvy parents. Parenting always has been hard work and prone to distractions. Too often as a young mother, I got lost in daydreams or caught up in gabfests during play group. The first time I ever heard my toddler daughter swear was when she was imitating Mommy tapping the keyboard of her Smith Corona. There never will be a Perfect Mother Award gathering dust on the mantel in our home.

But I am glad I wasn’t talking on a cell phone the first time my baby girl pointed her little finger toward the sky and said, “Leaf.” And I cherish the funny memories from times when I paid attention, such as the day my 10-year-old son tripped over his own feet during a soccer match and tried to turn his mishap into a battlefield ambush.

His teammates surrounded his fallen body, and the coach yelled, “Andy’s mom! We need you!”

Dutifully, I ran out to my fallen warrior.

“Just…” Andy said in a whisper. “Just…”

“Spit it out, honey,” I said.

“Just leave me here to die.”

Had I been yakking on a cell phone or typing on my BlackBerry, he might have gotten away with that one.

“Up, mister!” I said, perhaps a bit loudly. “You get up right now!”

Miraculously, Andy leapt to his feet and lived to become the father of the little guy who is now quick to remind me of a promise I made to him as soon as he was old enough to talk.

“Grandma,” he said during a recent breakfast. “You said no cell phones. You weren’t listening.”

I looked up from the gadget in my palm and saw Clark Kent — he was dressed for school, you understand — looking sadder than a basset hound.

In the short time it took me to type a message to his parents, I had not even heard my grandson speak.

“I’m sorry, buddy,” I said, setting down my phone. “Please tell me again.”

“OK, Grandma,” he said, patting my hand.

We talked about birds and where he will fly just as soon as he grows his own set of wings.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and an essayist for Parade magazine. ©2011 Creators

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