Like so many others, I remember exactly what I was doing when I heard about the terrorist attacks of 9-11. I was about to walk into the 9 a.m. class I was teaching when a colleague told me about the collapse of Tower 2. Many of my students that semester were from New York City and were panicked about contacting their families. I spent our class time helping them to make phone calls home while glued to the TV in the J-School lounge. Call it maternal instinct or just human nature; I needed to make sure my classroom "kids" felt safe.
My oldest two children were just four and one during this time of crisis. My simple story in explaining the attacks to my eldest was that some very bad men flew their airplanes into big buildings in New York City. He didn't seem too worried (he's never been wired for angst) and I saw no reason to discuss it further or have the TV on in the background at home. None of us needed to see the image of the towers tumbling again and again -" it was just too much.
Then came the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. With both, I could still comfort my little ones with the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, Madison never had or could have a tsunami or hurricane. While I have no idea if this is factually true, it seemed to allay any fears.
The kids were much older for Haiti - 12, 10 and seven. This time there was no avoiding the news reports, photographs and "We Are the World" remake. We talked about the earthquake at dinner and donated as a family to telethons. And while I am proud of my children for their willingness to bust open their piggy banks to help, the whole experience still felt somewhat remote and abstract. The kids were trying to empathize with victims, but with emotional distance; Haiti may as well have been on the other side of the world, not just 600 miles off the U.S. shore.
The earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated northeast Japan almost two weeks ago was much further away in actual miles, but hit a lot closer to home for us. This school year, one of my now 11-year-old's closest friends is spending his mom's sabbatical living in Tokyo.
When I wandered downstairs early Friday morning, March 11, I was expecting to catch up on protests and Facebook, not to confront another frightful disaster. Upon reading the news, all I could think about was my selfish need to know that my son's friend was ok, not just for his families sake, but also for mine. It was bad enough that our family breakfast conversation was going to be about yet another devastating earthquake. I just couldn't imagine having to send my son off to school without the knowledge that his buddy and family were fine.
I fired off an email right away to our friend in Japan and, amazingly, she got back to me within minutes. She and her son had been home at the time of the earthquake, felt the movement, but were fine. Both her husband and eighth grade daughter had been out of the house, he at the doctor, and she at school. They were on route using a very crowded, crazy and panicked public transportation system.
I wasn't more than a few seconds into telling my kids about the disaster that morning when my son asked, "And what about Anthony?" I told him that I'd heard from his mom and that everything seemed to be ok. I had mixed emotions as I sent my 11 year old off to school a bowl of cereal later. I was, of course, elated that we both knew his friend was fine. I also felt guilty knowing that so many moms, especially in Japan, couldn't say the same thing. Was it ok to be feeling relieved, when so many families were still in pain?
I recognize how important it is to manage kids' fears in these types of situations; two of mine are prone to nervousness and I'd never knowingly want to burden them with increased anxiety. But at the same time, it is hard for me to soften the fact that over 8,000 people so far have died in Japan and that, given the radiation situation, many of the long term effects of the disaster will not be known for years. It's a bitter pill, but is it one I should be having them swallow?
How do you balance wanting to be truthful with your kids about these types of crises without scaring them too much? How has your family discussed the devastation in Japan?comments powered by Disqus
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (Near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.
Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.
If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.
There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.
My passion for the talent show clearly runs deep, but I'm more than just a fangirl. This year marked my second as one of the "Ziegfelds" of the Follies, Hamilton's annual showcase for singers, musicians, dancers and other varied forms of entertainment. Trust me, when you are part of the spectacle's "producing/directing" team you get a new-found appreciation for how hard the kids worked to get up on stage.
My daughter, who turned twelve just this past week, is not legally "of age" when it comes to social media. But I guess, in many respects, especially in those that involve screens, I am a permissive pushover. I've allowed her join some networks.
What adults love about camping -- sleeping under the stars, getting away from it all, the sounds of nature -- can be scary for children. It's dark in a tent. Nothing is familiar. Of course, camping with kids is more work for adults, too. Stay cool, live in the moment. Forget about that lost fork. Making s'mores, spotting wildlife, that's what kids will remember.
I have just returned from a whirlwind, five-day, four-city college tour with my son. You know those "101 Things to Know Before Visiting Disney World" guidebooks that experienced theme park travelers have written to help the uninitiated? I think I am now officially seasoned enough in information sessions and campus tours to give some serious thought to penning a similar "insiders guide" for the junior-year parent.
This past week, against both my will and better judgement, I accompanied 50 or so middle school kids to the Future Problem Solvers Wisconsin State Bowl, a popular academic and skit-writing competition.
It may be a bigger waste of breath than electricity to ask my kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room. If I've nagged them once, I've nagged them a thousand times. No, I've never noticed anything amiss with their fingers. But it appears they are physically incapable of flipping a switch to the "off" position.
I want to say thank you to the Board of Education for allowing Maia to return to class, unquestionably the place she belongs, as well as to thank them for adopting the new policies. But just as importantly, I also want to thank Maia and her family for their willingness to come forward with their story.