I often have no idea what day of the week it is. So please forgive me if I'm even less inclined to know which "awareness" month we are in. I guess, with the world bedecked in pink ribbons, it's kind of hard to miss that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But I had no idea it's also Auto Battery Safety Month and Talk About Prescriptions Month.
With all due respect to both issues though, I'm probably not racing out in search of the appropriate rubber, color-coded bracelet to honor either cause.
October, I just discovered, is also National Bullying Prevention Month. And I feel compelled to take notice. Because according to PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center, a leading nonprofit dedicated to the eradication of bullying, more than 160,000 U.S. students stay home from school each day out of fear of being picked on. That's a lot of kids. Kids who don't deserve to wake up each day with knots in their stomach caused by the dread of whom they are going to encounter in the halls between third and fourth period. That's a lot of kids being relentlessly gossiped about at lunchroom tables and on Facebook and Twitter. It's kids who have developed crippling cases of anxiety or depression because of the cruelty of other kids.
I've been a part of the problem. I'm guessing many of us have. Because while I can't remember the names of many of the kids I went to elementary school with, I can vividly remember those of two--one boy in my grade and another girl on the bus--who were mercilessly teased by classmates. Neither did anything at all to invite the torment. They became victims because they were quiet and wore what the third grade establishment had deemed "nerdy" clothing--"flood" pants and horn-rimmed glasses. As if the rest of us in our Toughskins and Marcia Brady mini-dresses were that much cooler.
No, I was never the one to call him "Buger Jeffrey" or move to a new seat when the girl, two years younger, sat down near me on the ride to school. But I regret never once saying anything, not even to my own parents, about the other kids who were outwardly acting like jerks. I guess I was inwardly acting like a jerk. I didn't want to jeopardize my own social standing, even if it meant turning a deaf ear to the name-calling and ridiculing.
The overt verbal teasing of elementary school was replaced by subtler stuff in middle school. Gossip and cliquishness replaced the taunts. But it was still about jockeying for power and perceived popularity. Reputations were tarnished and social hierarchies established. And someone always felt shunned. Who were the bullies and who were the victims changed places on a daily basis. It was a constant battle. And no one won.
There is no question my kids' schools today are far more sophisticated and in tune with how they approach bullying than any of my schools ever were. At the elementary level my daughter took part in her school's Unity Day last month, which focused on the importance of kindness and compassion. And in my son's middle school, just about every kid has signed a pledge to stand up to bullying and harassment. The pledge is displayed banner-style over the school's main staircase--a constant reminder that students there can do better.
Probably out of guilt for never having interceded, I just did a brief search for both of my bullied classmates online. I can't find the boy, probably because I never bothered to learn to spell his last name. But that "nerdy" girl who sat quietly at the back of the bus every day now holds three patents, has testified before Congress, is a world-renowned expert on cyber security, and is absolutely gorgeous.
I'm glad she turned out okay -- and then some. But it's not such a happy ending for so many victims of bullying.
So in her honor, and in honor of Jeffrey, I will wear orange on Wednesday, October 10, PACER's national Unity Day. Because just being aware of the need for a little more awareness--whether one day or the whole month -- might go a long way in making a whole year's worth of schooling easier for over 160,000 kids.comments powered by Disqus
"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.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.
Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.
If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.
There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.
My passion for the talent show clearly runs deep, but I'm more than just a fangirl. This year marked my second as one of the "Ziegfelds" of the Follies, Hamilton's annual showcase for singers, musicians, dancers and other varied forms of entertainment. Trust me, when you are part of the spectacle's "producing/directing" team you get a new-found appreciation for how hard the kids worked to get up on stage.
My daughter, who turned twelve just this past week, is not legally "of age" when it comes to social media. But I guess, in many respects, especially in those that involve screens, I am a permissive pushover. I've allowed her join some networks.
What adults love about camping -- sleeping under the stars, getting away from it all, the sounds of nature -- can be scary for children. It's dark in a tent. Nothing is familiar. Of course, camping with kids is more work for adults, too. Stay cool, live in the moment. Forget about that lost fork. Making s'mores, spotting wildlife, that's what kids will remember.
I have just returned from a whirlwind, five-day, four-city college tour with my son. You know those "101 Things to Know Before Visiting Disney World" guidebooks that experienced theme park travelers have written to help the uninitiated? I think I am now officially seasoned enough in information sessions and campus tours to give some serious thought to penning a similar "insiders guide" for the junior-year parent.
This past week, against both my will and better judgement, I accompanied 50 or so middle school kids to the Future Problem Solvers Wisconsin State Bowl, a popular academic and skit-writing competition.