I remember the first time as a child that I really thought about death. Weirdly enough, it was an episode of The Jeffersons that brought on my existential moment. I can't remember the exact plot details - I think George had to give the eulogy at a friend's funeral - but it made a significant impression. It was not the expected emotions of sadness, or even fear, that the storyline conjured up. No, all I could think about was the all-encompassing inevitably of dying.
I was the kind of kid who could always talk her way out of unpleasant predicaments. But that night, long after the TV turned to the test pattern, I lay awake pondering how I could possibly get out of "going gentle into that good night." Around 3 a.m., reality sunk in. Since I had been born, eventually I would die and there was nothing I could do about it.
But I was exceedingly fortunate as a child. I didn't really have to deal with the actual death of a loved one until my freshman year at college, when my grandfather died after an extended battle with kidney disease. Incredibly sad, absolutely, but I was prepared and able to accept it.
I wish could say the same for my own kids. They had come to terms with the unexpected death of their beloved Grandma Ruby about five years ago, following a brief illness. I was the parent at home who had to deliver the news to my oldest, nine at the time. It was August and a major swim meet was starting the next day. I will never forget his response upon hearing that we were leaving in the morning for Oklahoma City to say goodbye because Grandma wasn't expected to make it through the weekend.
First, there were the expected tears, and then poignant display of childhood sadness: "Mom, I am so mad I have to have to miss All-City, and for the saddest thing I can imagine." His ability to articulate both anger and grief in one truthful utterance will always stay with me. It was the first time he realized that life could really suck. Nine, seven and five just seemed way too young to have to deal with this heavy stuff.
Two all-too-short years later Granddad Billy, died--another major loss; a one-two punch. But he was significantly older than Grandma, so it made logical sense to them somehow. And the kids truly seemed to get the concept that one could die, albeit rather slowly, from a broken heart. But it was still hard, nonetheless, to know just what to say to the kids. As a parent, all you want to do is make it easier.
I have no idea how you soften this blow for children, especially if the person lost is a parent. Just this past summer, two dads in our elementary school community passed on. One died very suddenly, a few short months after what was, according to all accounts, a successful heart transplant. I did my best, in the immediate days after his death, to help with arrangements and offer support. But I was at loss for what to do in the longer term. This was unfamiliar territory -- not just grief, but trauma, the kind of death that has little forewarning?
The second dad passed on after many years of living life to the fullest with brain cancer. This story was so different. Time to prepare, perhaps, but also time to live with the overwhelming heaviness that must come from knowing that death is imminent.
And if the loss is a peer, as is the case for the third grade friends of Christina Taylor Green in Arizona, what do you say? How do you help them make any sense of the brutal, tragic death of someone whose death so upends the natural order of things? I wish I had a clue.
HospiceCare, Inc., I have heard from many, is an amazing support to those who have a loved one with a life-limiting condition. On January 20, 2011, HospiceCare starts a three-week group for kids who have a loved one whose death is anticipated.
Death. It isn't something you get over. My kids, especially the youngest, still experience waves of grief, often bought on by the weirdest triggers. But we also have our pictures, mementos and nightly discussions about Grandma Ruby's uncanny ability to make a recipe off the back of a Hershey's Cocoa can all her own.
Memories, they are our greatest, and perhaps only, defense.comments powered by Disqus
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.
I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.
My 11th-grade and 8th-grade sons have heard "the chant" for years. You know which one I'm talking about -- the ESFY (U?) chant (I'm not sure what the parenting post rules are for writing two of the more forbidden four-letter words in the English language) that appears to have both Barry Alvarez and Chancellor Blank quite concerned.
There are many different criteria parents use when evaluating which pre-school programs will be right for their children. Some parents might be looking for an educational philosophy that stresses creativity and community. Others may desire an option that revolves around learning through play or is more academic in approach.
We spent hours poring over name books and checking for inappropriate initial combinations. We looked at meanings, variant spellings and popularity charts. And, as I am sure every parent does, we thought we'd hit the name jackpot with each of our kids. But there are always surprises.
A generation or two ago, the pediatrician was the guy (yes, they were mostly guys) who gave your kids shots and prescribed big bottles of antibiotics for every sniffle. Madison's Dipesh Navsaria is a different breed of pediatrician.
Gamehole Con will be the premier tabletop gaming convention in the region. And with Wisconsin being the birthplace of Dungeons and Dragons, as well as the nation's leader in gaming stores per capita, it kind of makes sense that the convention's organizers want the Dairy State to be known for more than just cheese, beer and bratwurst.
This year I will also try to ease up some of my previous costume concerns. Sure, the world is rife with inappropriate dress up choices for our kids; there is no parent out there that is keen on his or her child dressing like a pint-sized prostitute, even for one night.
This past Saturday, I took my youngest to hear Caldecott award-winning author/illustrator Kevin Henkes read from his latest work, The Year of Billy Miller, a short novel for the early elementary grades.
I was greeted at the door by Tom Moen, who has served as executive director of what he likes to call "Madison's best kept secret", for the past 39 of the center's 47 years. Located in the middle of the subsidized Truax Park apartment complex, EMCC, with its vast array of offerings for kids, seniors and everyone in between, is unquestionably the heart of the neighborhood.
Madison's Kashmira Sheth has written four award-winning novels for middle grade and teen readers, and a popular chapter book for six- to nine-year-olds, but right now her picture books are what she's excited to talk about.
A few summers back, my daughter, maybe 8 or 9 at the time, decided to take part in our swimming pool's annual water ballet show. I'm not really sure what initially piqued her interest in the somewhat under-the-radar, very much under-the-water sport of synchronized swimming.
We rarely included a stop at the Central Library as part of our regular outing. For those of you who've been in Madison for a while, I'm sure you'd agree that the old building was pretty run down. Not to mention, dark, cavernous and depressing. Libraries, at their best, should be portals to discovery, right?
My eleven-year-old daughter spent most of last weekend alone in her room, door shut. It wasn't a temper tantrum or an overwhelming need for tween privacy that led to her self-induced isolation, though. Instead, I didn't see her (except for meals) for two days because she was, in her words, "going through her closet."
Yes, the 2004 classic comedy Mean Girls is an absolutely delightful movie. But it's definitely not the smartest mother/daughter viewing as your child is about to enter her inaugural year of middle school.
Despite celebrating 30 years in business this year, Knowledge Unlimited Inc. remains relatively unknown in the community. Those concerned with closing the achievement gap in Madison's schools, however, may want to take note. This award-winning educational-materials producer, based in Middleton, is unique in emphasizing multiculturalism throughout its lines of educational posters, DVDs and children's books.