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
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.
Some clever-clogs is playing Rachmaninoff on the piano at a party, and there it is again, that oft-heard adult lament of lost opportunity from a dejected onlooker: "I wish I could play. I wish my parents hadn't let me quit music lessons. I was just a kid -- how was I to know?" It's a reasonable complaint.
If you're checking out summer camps for your child, there are many issues -- some obvious, some less so -- to keep in mind. Here's a list to keep handy when you contact camps and camp directors, looking for the perfect spot for your kids to have fun, relax, and learn this summer.
I know, in the grand scheme of things, that my kid issues, when it comes to dining out, absolutely pale in comparison to those of parents whose kids have special needs. Many kids, especially those who are on the autism spectrum, are disturbed by changes in their routine, or anxious around noisy places. They may not be able tolerate waiting for a table or standing in line. So unfortunately, many of these families just avoid eating out at restaurants altogether.