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
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders " 10 boys and six girls " enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists.
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. 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.
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.