We met more neighbors the first two hours living in our new Madison home than we had the whole time we lived in Chicago. Everyone came by to check out the moving van, say hello, and offer advice on parks, pre-schools and nearby restaurants. I especially remember my first encounter with the delightful woman from across the street. She was friendly and funny and came bearing brownies--totally my style. But I doubted we'd ever really strike up a much of a friendship. She was, how can I say it delicately, older.
Not older like Senior Center older, but more a "senior" mom with a high school daughter, and fifth and second grade sons. Her kids rode bikes, spoke in full sentences, and were toilet trained. I had just one child at the time, an 11-month-old, and couldn't see much beyond Good Night Gorilla and the Diaper Genie . Her life just seemed so foreign: a world away across the street.
I write this post almost 13 years later, on the eve of my 45th birthday. In some ways I certainly am worse for the wear. Fine lines and wrinkles really aren't that fine; all I want for my birthday is some obscenely high-priced face cream that likely won't deliver on its promise. And I am pretty sure I can no longer pass off my ever-increasing grey hairs as very "blonde" highlights.
But my advancing age has bought me one, somewhat unexpected, surprise. I love being an older mom"or at least the mom of older kids. The 11-month-old is now 14; my husband and I don't need babysitters anymore. We are free to be spontaneous"ducking out for a quick bite or a last minute movie just because we feel like it.
And this year I took that same 14 year old and a couple of his buddies out to Graze to celebrate his birthday. We talked about philosophy and politics. I don't recall that ever happening at Chuck E Cheese.
All three of my kids shower on their own, use the microwave and sleep soundly through the night. In some ways I feel younger"or at least better rested and better dressed. I still wear stained clothes, but at least the stains aren't spit-up anymore.
Parenting was so physical when they were little. It was a good day if no one bled, had a major meltdown in the grocery store or bit a pre-school classmate. It was a great day if any one took a nap, especially me. I can best summarize those as the hands-on years. Now I am working on the art of "hands-off" parenting"letting them make decisions, mistakes and dinner. It's a mental game.
Yes, I still have times when I catch a whiff of Johnson's Baby Powder passing by and I well up unexpectedly. It makes me just a bit melancholy to realize I will never again go to a kindergarten orientation. And all three of my children are now too heavy for me to carry up to bed. But I wouldn't go back for the world.
My next-door neighbors just put their house on the market. This past Sunday a young couple pulled up to the open house to take a look. I couldn't help but notice their infant son, fussing and bored, strapped in the back seat. I rushed up to greet (maybe scare) them, offering advice on parks, pre-schools and nearby restaurants. I probably should have mentioned that the best is yet to come.
And that older mom across the street, now an empty nester? We are great friends. Maybe I (they) just needed to grow up a little.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.