Mama Madison: Role models

Q: What adults are less polite than children? A: Politicians.

My kids have been enrolled in Manners 101 since the day they were born. I am optimistic that, with enough maternal hounding, my oldest may actually chew with his mouth closed by the time he goes to prom. And given the tremendous progress she's made this year, it is likely my 8-year-old will have mastered the unprompted "carpool-drop-off-thank you" by the end of third grade. It's not like I'm a freak for formal etiquette--when you have cereal for dinner as often as we do, it's hard to master the whole "salad vs. dinner fork" thing. But I would be miserably failing the motherhood test if I didn't insist on "Golden Rule"-style common courtesy from my offspring.

I also expect good manners from adults, elected officials notwithstanding. But I was more than sorely disappointed -- actually a little shocked -- by some of the rude behavior I witnessed while sitting in on hearings in front of the Senate Committee on Education last week. Public testimony was being conducted on, among other issues, SB 22 [PDF], a bill that would significantly increase the expansion of charter schools across the state. I knew things would likely get heated. But call me naive, I figured all the state senators would have, at minimum, an underlying current of respect for the constituents who took the time to give public testimony.

I am pretty sure Emily Post was doing cartwheels in her grave over the embarrassing behavior of Senator Glenn Grothman, in particular. He spent much of the morning with his head buried in his iPhone, paying little, if any attention to whomever was testifying. I don't care how important those emails were that he may have been checking, he could have at least pretended he was listening to what the citizens of Wisconsin had to say.

And his sole public question for the teacher who had gotten up early to travel I-94 to voice her heartfelt concern over proposed legislation that would change the residency requirement for public school teachers in Milwaukee? A disdainful "And what health insurance do you have?" If he was my kid, he would have been pulled from the room, grounded for a week and made to write a handwritten note of apology to every person he had slighted.

I don't write this post as an exercise in partisanship. Senator Luther Olsen, a Republican and chair of the committee, was respectful, dignified and statesman-like. Alberta Darling, while unable to resist an occasional snide barb and the desire to chat during testimony, seemed generally cordial to the gallery. But Grothman? He was a piece of work -- in the worst possible way imaginable. I left the hearings early that afternoon, feeling saddened that perhaps adult-like behavior was just too much to ask.

The day got better though; I was able to attend my son's middle school Follies later that evening. From a spectacular guitar improv solo, to a couple of well-choreographed breakdance routines, to a 14-year old's poignant rendition of Taylor Swift's "Fifteen," it really was a talent-rich talent show. But far more impressive was how amazingly respectful and supportive of each other the kids were. They listened attentively to each performance, shouted spirited choruses of "way to go" whether the song was Green Day or John Denver and made every performer feel appreciated regardless of off-notes or missed cues.

After a week adrift in Supreme Court race name-calling, legislative bullying and senate committee crassness, it's tempting to say there are a lot of folks at the Capitol who are acting like children. But based on my middle-school experience, I am not sure this is an entirely fair accusation.

Kids, I am happy to report, might actually behave a whole lot better. Perhaps I should round up a carload of 8th graders, take them to witness the next public hearing, and allow them to demonstrate, by example, what Manners 101 looks like.

comments powered by Disqus

More to read

Loading More Articles
No More Articles

Mama Madison: Does back-to-school really mean a whole new wardrobe?

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?"

Mama Madison: Next generation of bloggers

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.

Mama Madison: Returning to the workforce

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.

Triathlons raise money to teach kids healthy habits

"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.

Mama Madison: Kids will find their own passions in their own ways

"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."

Vital work is being done at the Lussier Community Education Center, from community-building to STEM skills

"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."

Mama Madison: Parental dice rolls?

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."

Mama Madison: What constitutes a keepsake?

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.

Mama Madison: Young love

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.

Mama Madison: What a mother fears most

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.

Operation Fresh Start's Youth Conservation Corps helps kids, and kids help parks

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.

Mama Madison: Summer stress solved by yoga

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.

Mama Madison: The greatest fans of road repair

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.

Mama Madison: The alarm sounds

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.

Mama Madison: My summer book list

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.

Make Music Madison gives young artists a chance to perform

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.

Mama Madison: Watching talent grow

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.

Mama Madison: Writing time at Olbrich

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.

Mama Madison: When UW-Madison's semester is over, the kids want out too

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.

Mama Madison: Another amazing talent show

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.


Emails from Isthmus Parents feature event highlights, story links, site updates, and occasional special offers from trusted sources. Name and email address are required. Thanks!