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: Coping with toddlers in a Wisconsin winter

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.

Mama Madison: Melissa Wardy pushes positive messages

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.

Mama Madison: Three cheers for reading at the Wisconsin Book Festival

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.

Mama Madison: What's in a name?

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.

Mama Madison: Eugster's is more than just a visit to the farm

At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.

Help for home-schoolers at the Madison Mentor Center

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?"

Mama Madison: Yummy Sprout is a wonderful resource

After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?

Mama Madison: Tips and tricks for baby air travel

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.

Mama Madison: Apple-picking time

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.

Mama Madison: Baby feeding recommendations

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?

Heartland Farm Sanctuary helps animals that help kids

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.

Mama Madison: Back-to-school confidences

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.

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.