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'I Wish I Had More Time for My Son'

November 27, 1986|CELESTE DURANT | Durant is a producer for KCBS-TV and lives in Los Angeles. She has changed the names of the family at the school in this article

In every single parent's life there is a Margo Sheinbaum. I met mine at the Eagle Rock Montessori School. Leonard Sheinbaum is one of my son Colin's good friends. And it is no small comfort to me that my son is already gravitating to the kind of person Leonard will no doubt become. His mother, Margo, is a professional parent. If Leonard becomes a perfect human being, it is solely due to her commitment and unswerving devotion to her chosen career.

Let's face it. As a single parent, full-time attention to your child is an impossibility. At best, what you get is a constant juggling act; with job, financial woes, social life and dirty laundry all up in the air at the same time. And that's without including parenting, which is your first priority. Margo Sheinbaum has no such distractions. She is one of a dying breed (at least among my friends), a happily married housewife with only one child.

Mrs. Sheinbaum and I usually meet in the morning and I am not at my best. When I arrive at Eagle Rock Montessori at 8:15 a.m., I am a mess. I don't have to be at work until 11 a.m., so I arrive almost directly from bed. Hair uncombed, no makeup and wearing an ensemble from my threadbare collection of faded sweatsuits.

There in the glare of the morning sun is Mrs. Sheinbaum; neatly dressed, hair combed and eye makeup in place. I need not tell you how that makes me feel.

They Came Bearing Gifts

Two months ago, my son and I sat down to plan his birthday party and Leonard Sheinbaum was one of the first names out of my son's mouth when I asked who he wanted to invite. The big day arrived and the Sheinbaums came bearing gifts. First, there was a hand-painted sport shirt with "Colin" written on the back in Hebrew.

I was incredibly impressed. I actually knew a woman with time to hand-paint birthday presents for her son's friends. But there was more. Along with the shirt was a birthday card--a handmade, eight-page card complete with stickers, heart-shaped stamps and the words, "Happy Birthday Colin with love Leonard 1986." But the clincher was the cover--the paper was hand-painted in shades of pink and rose and laminated in plastic. On the inside cover was a green sticker that said, "hand made by Leonard 1 yr. 8 mos."

My mind reeled and my guilt-ridden, single parent fantasies took flight. I saw Mrs. Sheinbaum and her husband strolling through a warehouse holding hands. They were smiling as they passed huge stalls filled with their son's artwork. In his 5 years of life, Leonard must have produced volumes of paintings and scribbles and if the card was any indication, they must be as well catalogued as the Library of Congress.

I thought of my poor son. At age 4, he possessed not one laminated painting or file of his collected works. Oh sure, there was a motley collection of paintings and drawings on his bedroom walls, but nothing to match the collection I imagined at the Sheinbaum household.

As I sat at my dining room table writing Colin's thank-you notes one midnight, I felt defeat. Although I doubt I would ever take up laminating and cataloging, I wish I had more time for my son. I try to be content with the fact that I do have my moments of genius and many wonderful hours with him, but when I talk to Mrs. Sheinbaum, she can boast of the times she takes Leonard to the morning rehearsals of the L.A. Philharmonic. I envy that. While I try to soothe my conscience arguing that the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time, I live with the nagging doubt that quantity is really more important.

And the reason Mrs. Sheinbaum drives me crazy is that she has quantity time.

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