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
I'm having trouble enjoying the season, because I can't keep myself from thinking about the miserable weather that's sure to be following close on the heels of the crisp, pleasant fall we've been having. I am not at all emotionally prepared to be the parent of two toddlers during a Wisconsin winter.
I've always been a supporter of companies that empower women and girls, and when the creator of such a company is a fellow Wisconsinite, I get even more excited. When Melissa Wardy of Janesville got fed up with stereotypes found in clothing for girls, she started her own company.
Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.
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Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"
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As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
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.