Mama Madison: Politics for kids

Instilling civic-mindedness is a tough task

Sometimes I wonder whose children these actually are. Just last week my 15-year-old son had the opportunity, and my permission, to leave West High, walk east on Regent Street and head up to Bascom Hill for, perhaps, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a sitting president live and in person. He didn't take it. This came on the heels of the same kid attempting to turn the channel during last week's presidential debate to watch the final day of regular-season major league baseball. Really? Months of all-family discussions about rights and recalls, yet he'd rather listen to John Kruk babble on about Miguel Cabrera winning the Triple Crown?

But I guess in some ways a parent can't necessarily expect that their children will inherit an interest in politics. Sure, we can bring them to rallys, pin buttons on their backpacks and let them draw the lines to finish the arrows in voting booths. But I just haven't figured out how to force the excitement to go along with it.

I encouraged my 10-year-old daughter, for instance, to run for student council this year. It seemed like a great chance to gain a few leadership skills, feel empowered and get a taste for public service. I had loved student council, perhaps too much, when I was a kid -- you could argue I was the original Tracy Flick. But my daughter wanted nothing to do with it. "Mom," she said. "All the kids running will say things like 'If I'm elected I'll make sure recess is 20 minutes longer and will try to get Gatorade into all the water fountains.' It's not like a fifth grader in student government can actually make that stuff happen."

For her, the election felt like a bunch of empty promises. Kind of sad to be so jaded, if not right, while still in elementary school.

And sometimes I am reminded that there aren't even any guarantees on which way the pendulum will swing when it comes to a child's eventual political persuasion. A couple weekends back my middle son went clothes shopping with my mom. He didn't come back from the mall with a new hoodie, skinny jeans or whatever else 12-year-old boys are wearing these days. No, the only purchase he came home with was a pink necktie. A Donald Trump Signature necktie to be exact. If there is a clothing item that screams future conservative Republican more loudly, I have no idea what it is.

I guess I understand the apathy and disillusionment. They've seen Governor Walker withstand a recall despite just about every adult they know signing the petition. They don't understand why they can see back-to-back political ads for opposing candidates that completely contradict each other. They've heard me say, "Just let it go to voicemail" when the fifth fundraising call, in the span of an hour, shows up on Caller ID during dinnertime.

I asked my son why he didn't take me up on my offer to skip class and head downtown to catch a glimpse of the President. He told me that he didn't want to miss history, his favorite class.

I guess he'd rather study history than try to make it.

And he's only 15 he reminded me, still three more years until he's old enough to vote, anyway.

Which, come to think of it, is the next Presidential election. Yikes, I've got some work to do.

Are your kids manning phone banks and passing out flyers yet? Have they been engaged and involved in the upcoming election?

comments powered by Disqus

More to read

Loading More Articles
No More Articles

Mama Madison: Apple-picking time

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.

Mama Madison: Baby feeding recommendations

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?

Heartland Farm Sanctuary helps animals that help kids

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.

Mama Madison: Back-to-school confidences

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.

Mama Madison: Does back-to-school really mean a whole new wardrobe?

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?"

Mama Madison: Next generation of bloggers

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.

Mama Madison: Returning to the workforce

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.

Triathlons raise money to teach kids healthy habits

"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.

Mama Madison: Kids will find their own passions in their own ways

"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."

Vital work is being done at the Lussier Community Education Center, from community-building to STEM skills

"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."

Mama Madison: Parental dice rolls?

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."

Mama Madison: What constitutes a keepsake?

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.

Mama Madison: Young love

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.

Mama Madison: What a mother fears most

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.

Operation Fresh Start's Youth Conservation Corps helps kids, and kids help parks

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.

Mama Madison: Summer stress solved by yoga

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.

Mama Madison: The greatest fans of road repair

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.

Mama Madison: The alarm sounds

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.

Mama Madison: My summer book list

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.

Make Music Madison gives young artists a chance to perform

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.