Most parents I know were counting the minutes until their children came home from school last Friday. The news about the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut was just too much for them to bear and they needed, as soon as possible, to hug their little, and even not so little, ones out of sheer emotional desperation--to know, rational or not, that they were safe.
But all three of my kids had planned to go friends' houses after school that day, and while a small part of me wanted to spend the remainder of Friday afternoon curled up on the couch with them, the rest of me was more than a little relieved that I had a few more hours alone to spend roving the internet, refreshing every news site and social media channel I had available. I was desperate for information on how this could have possibly happened. Again. This time, in an elementary school, in a peaceful New England town.
I didn't turn on the TV--I couldn't bear to see any live images of horrified children--but remained glued to my laptop screen, nonetheless. And realized that as much as I felt sad, I also felt numb. I was glad my kids weren't home. I didn't really feel like talking. And besides, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to say to them. Or to anyone, in person, or virtually, for that matter.
I am not a scholar of Constitutional Law, although I have my doubts that a home arsenal of semi-automatic weapons was what James Madison and his congressional colleagues were thinking about when drafting the Second Amendment. I am not a trained psychologist and can't genuinely offer anything other than anecdotal advice on how to talk to children in the aftermath of a tragedy. I know nothing about best practices in school security. I haven't studied all the data on whether continued exposure to savage images in the media and in first person shooter video games should be held partially accountable for the culture of violence in this country. And, perhaps most painfully, I have no idea what it would be like to be the parent of mentally ill child, running up against roadblock after roadblock in the search for treatment for her son.
No, I was something that is rare for me last Friday. I was silent. I left the talking to the experts.
But it's a new week--the one in which the days will once again begin to get longer. And in this increased light of day, it is my sincere hope that the experts, the politicians, and perhaps just some regular parents,will speak up and come to the table to figure this out. To figure out how to implement common sense gun control. To figure out how to make access to mental health care easier and more affordable. To figure out if now's the time to toss out that Call of Duty disc in the basement; shouldn't the excitement of the Madden Football be enough for a 15-year-old?
As I heard President Obama work his way through the list of children murdered during his televised remarks at the Newtown interfaith vigil, I recognized familiar first names--Charlotte, Noah, Jack and Olivia. These are also the names of my kid's friends--their cohort--as well. These names, so fashionable among kids born in the last decades, shouldn't be being etched, en masse, into gravestones yet.
The president asked, "Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?"
I don't think we are, Mr. President. So take the lead. I am hopeful all of America, like me, is finally ready to talk.comments powered by Disqus
I'm having trouble enjoying the season, because I can't keep myself from thinking about the miserable weather that's sure to be following close on the heels of the crisp, pleasant fall we've been having. I am not at all emotionally prepared to be the parent of two toddlers during a Wisconsin winter.
I've always been a supporter of companies that empower women and girls, and when the creator of such a company is a fellow Wisconsinite, I get even more excited. When Melissa Wardy of Janesville got fed up with stereotypes found in clothing for girls, she started her own company.
Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.
At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.
Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"
After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?
As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?"
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.
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.
"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.
"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.