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
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 Verona resident Melissa Wardy got fed up with stereotypes found in clothing for girls, she started her own company.
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.
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.
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.
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?"
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?"
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.
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.
"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.
"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."
"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."
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."
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.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.