As parents of teens, the hubby and I have become accustomed to being embarrassingly uncool and have learned to take their appreciation when and where we can get it. And sometimes that is in the most unpredictable of places.

As we sat around the living room with two of our kids the other night, hubby mentioned that we had received a renewal notice for his Sports Illustrated subscription. Once an avid reader of the weekly magazine, he no longer has much spare time, so he asked me not to renew it.

Almost-13-year-old son then jokingly asked what he'd do without the swimsuit issue.

Little did the kids know that a nerve had been touched. We parents have an ongoing "battle" over the annual issue of scantily clad women. For years, if I knew it would be in the mailbox, I would do everything in my power to hide it before he could get his hands on it. I always eventually handed it over, along with a few choice words about my feelings toward not only the mag but also him, as a "reader" of it. (Rooted, I'm sure, in my own insecurities.)

As it turned out, Dad's interest in the latest swimsuit fashions for women (isn't that the purpose of that issue, after all?) actually predated me. In fact, I think there's a trunk somewhere in our garage with swimsuit issues going back to the 1970s, when he was not much older than our own children are now. I think he even has the controversial 1978 issue with Cheryl Tiegs in a revealing fishnet swimsuit (340-some people canceled their subscriptions as a result).

Over the years, SI has tried many new tactics to pique men's interest in the annual issue. In 2000, it came with a pair of 3-D glasses.

My beloved responded by writing a Letter to the Editor of the magazine:

"How about a pair of X-ray vision glasses next year?"

The letter, which I learned of after the fact, was printed not only a couple of weeks after the swimsuit issue, when reaction letters were printed, but also in a later "Best of" swimsuit issue. I was so proud (read "embarrassed"). So now, in our living room, Dad produced the "Best of," flipped through it and showed his older son a page. The 15-year-old's first response was, "Where does Dad keep these magazines?" Then he put his eyes back in his head and looked past the photo of the sunbather to his Dad's name in print.

There was a moment of silence as he read it and registered the significance. And then it happened.

"My dad's the coolest!" he proclaimed, for the first time probably since he graduated from elementary school. Pulling his cell phone out of his pocket as he left the room, he called back to us, "I've got to tell Daniel about this!"

And so it was that the man who is in so many ways a great role model for his sons, gained respect from his man-child when we least expected it.