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
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.
I was greeted at the door by Tom Moen, who has served as executive director of what he likes to call "Madison's best kept secret", for the past 39 of the center's 47 years. Located in the middle of the subsidized Truax Park apartment complex, EMCC, with its vast array of offerings for kids, seniors and everyone in between, is unquestionably the heart of the neighborhood.
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.
We rarely included a stop at the Central Library as part of our regular outing. For those of you who've been in Madison for a while, I'm sure you'd agree that the old building was pretty run down. Not to mention, dark, cavernous and depressing. Libraries, at their best, should be portals to discovery, right?
My eleven-year-old daughter spent most of last weekend alone in her room, door shut. It wasn't a temper tantrum or an overwhelming need for tween privacy that led to her self-induced isolation, though. Instead, I didn't see her (except for meals) for two days because she was, in her words, "going through her closet."
Yes, the 2004 classic comedy Mean Girls is an absolutely delightful movie. But it's definitely not the smartest mother/daughter viewing as your child is about to enter her inaugural year of middle school.
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.