I know Alec Baldwin has had some parenting problems with his own daughter, but I never expected him to cause much of an issue for me. But that changed last weekend when, in search of some holiday-themed escapism, I took a carload of kids to check out his latest role as the voice of "North", aka Santa Claus, in DreamWorks new release, Rise of the Guardians.
For those of you unfamiliar with the premise of this computer-animated fantasy, it's the story of a partnership forged to save the world, much like the Justice League or the Avengers. But instead of traditional superheroes fighting crime, the film features familiar childhood characters like E. Aster Bunnymund (an Easter Bunny from Down Under), the Tooth Fairy, Sandman, Jack Frost, and their intrepid Red Suited (and, in the film, tattooed) leader, North, joining forces to prevent Pitch (the Boogeyman) from engulfing the world in darkness.
I will not get in to any more plot specifics here. Nor will I attempt to review the film in any way. I will though offer one piece of critical advice. Don't take a kid teetering on the edge of the "I believe in Santa" cliff. Because seeing this film has pushed my daughter right over.
At our house, the shine came off the Easter Bunny long ago when my middle son, probably eight or nine at the time, found a receipt for faux grass and Cadbury eggs treats at the bottom of a Walgreens bag on Easter morning. Exhausted from egg hiding, I didn't have the heart or energy to lie to him. I quickly spilled the (jelly) beans. No, son, the pastel M&Ms and Skittles you look forward to every year are not stuffed into those cheap plastic eggs by a floppy eared rabbit. Instead, it's always been just your dad and me sweating out the proper ratio of foil wrapped bunnies to marshmallow Peeps that you find carefully arranged in your basket.
It's actually kind of shocking the Tooth Fairy ruse lasted as long as it did at our place. Because regardless of whether the bagged bicuspid was placed under a pillow, on top of a pillow or even taped to the freaking door with a powerfully worded note to the Matriarch of Molars, my husband I were pathologically unable to promptly remove the goods and leave the requisite payment.For some generous reason though, our kids cut us a lot of slack on this one. They willingly believed (or pretended to believe that) the Tooth Fairy assigned to our house was regularly held up at the home of some kid who had lost both front teeth in a freak hockey accident. Or that she had fallen victim to the fairy flu that had plagued Tinkerbell and Cinderella's godmother earlier in the week.
But we eventually ran out of excuses. And they ran out of the desire to excuse us. And we all agreed that nothing needed to be placed under pillows anymore. Just yank out the incisor and call mom or dad. The financial exchange, at our house at least, could take place in broad daylight.Jack Frost, to my kids, is just a song lyric that follows chestnuts roasting on an open fire. And I'm not sure Sandman or the Boogeyman has ever been mentioned in our home.
But Santa was something different. Because while my youngest, a logical type, had wrestled with the plausibility of an overweight bearded man fitting down our chimney, with a sack full of toys no less, she'd held on to her belief. She even told me not long ago that Santa must be real because, given the mess we'd made of the whole Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy thing, it was absolutely impossible that her Dad and I could pull Christmas off without him. It was a very sweet--though simultaneously insulting -- thing to say.
But the Santa myth went up in a cloud of fairy dust while watching "Rise of the Guardians". To her, the movie was the equivalent of remaking Spinal Tap with Mick Jagger playing the lead singer instead of the guy from Laverne and Shirley. It was just too weird a mixing of fact and fiction. If, she reasoned, Santa is actually in cahoots with the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and this Sandman guy she'd never heard of, he, alas, must be a legend, as well.
But don't worry. I am not too sad. And neither is she. The holidays and presents, she realizes, will go on without elves, flying reindeer or a ho-ho-ho.
And it's nice to have her believe -- in this stage of her life at least -- that the only "Guardians" she really needs are her hard working, but ever flawed, parents.comments powered by Disqus
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.
It may be a bigger waste of breath than electricity to ask my kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room. If I've nagged them once, I've nagged them a thousand times. No, I've never noticed anything amiss with their fingers. But it appears they are physically incapable of flipping a switch to the "off" position.
I want to say thank you to the Board of Education for allowing Maia to return to class, unquestionably the place she belongs, as well as to thank them for adopting the new policies. But just as importantly, I also want to thank Maia and her family for their willingness to come forward with their story.