We could have just as easily chosen to see Turner and Hooch on our first date back in 1989. But for some reason my now-husband and I ended up seeing Ron Howard's Parenthood--a daring, and in our case auspicious, choice for a couple who barely knew each other. At first we tried to play it cool, attempting to limit our post-cinema banter to Ron Howard's acting and directorial career.
But conversations about Mayberry and mermaids can only take you so far, especially if you think you might be interested in seeing the other person again. So prompted by a second glass of wine, we wandered into the much more emotionally charged arena of family dynamics. Not childrearing per se, we were only in our early 20s and neither wanted the other to think we had actual "parenthood" on our mind. Instead we talked for hours about the other main theme of the movie"the influence of siblings in our lives.
Every year I think back fondly on that first date conversation as all the kids in my family get together for the holidays. My parents had four of us, a boy followed by three girls, none more than two and half years apart. Growing up as daughter number one, I probably took on the traditional characteristics of an oldest child"studious, socially authoritative, a parent pleaser. The in-between sister was classically middle "quieter, shy and often falling through her own perceived (or created) cracks. The baby was textbook youngest--gregarious, confident and popular. She hosted her first boy-girl party in sixth grade. I wasn't even invited to one until tenth. And my poor older operated as an only child in a sea of estrogen. He pretty much kept to himself, his only means of preserving sanity.
At the time of our "Parenthood" conversation, I had just finished my first year living the "Working Girl" dream"commuting to a "responsible" big city job wearing nude hose with tennis shoes and carrying a briefcase. That night I told my husband-to-be of my loner brother, now living as far away from the sorority house of his birth as possible, working in film and wearing grunge before it hit mainstream. I "introduced" him to my middle sister who was still living at home, taking a few community college courses and struggling against becoming the family black sheep. And I told stories of the hyper-social youngest, never much of a student in the k-12 years, who appeared to be majoring in dormitory romance during her freshman year of college.
But fast forward 20-plus years and my siblings and I are now comfortably settled into our 40s. And in many ways we are not recognizable. My brother, the weird family separatist, is now a dad with two little boys (his reward for having endured all the sisters). He is always the first to jump at a chance to get the whole clan together. Our middle sister, the quiet one, literally found her (singing) voice in her mid 20s, ended up getting a conservatory education and sings professionally. And the youngest, uncharacteristic of her party-girl start, has become a college professor. One never would have guessed back then that I'd be the one writing about motherhood and minivans while she is tackling Emerson and Nietzsche.
Spending time with my siblings again reminds me that who my own kids are now is not necessarily reflective of who they might be in 30 years. The sixth-grade dreamer may become the scientist. The ninth grade historian could easily become the Hell's Angel member. And my 9-year-old daughter might really make good on her promise to live alone in the country with 100 cats.
But I hope, regardless of what surprises they have in store, that they'll all return home as my siblings and I do at least once each year, to revive their childhood roles. I will want them to fight over who gets to sit next to me at dinner and about who's turn it is to empty the dishwasher. I will enjoy hearing them argue about who got the short end of the stick growing up and who was actually mom's favorite. It's inevitable that there is still one major family blow-up every time all my siblings are all together. And I have to believe the arguments sound like music to my mom's ears. These are the sounds of family -- even when painfully off-key.
To this day I still wonder where my husband and I might be had we wandered instead in to Turner and Hooch. But I'm awfully glad we didn't. Because while I'm not sure I believe movie choice is providential, I am really glad I have my family, both siblings and offspring, instead of a slobbery French mastiff.At least on most days. comments powered by Disqus
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.
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.
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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.
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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.