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
This post will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage. 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. There is no question I completely enjoyed my break from the kids. But my biggest discovery this past weekend was that it was the kids, perhaps, who needed a break even more.
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.