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.">
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 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.