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
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.
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.