I am writing this post from a back row seat on the Van Galder bus (surprisingly swank, internet and all) as I return from my 25th college reunion in Chicago. And yes, I am very glad I went. It felt surprisingly terrific to be back on campus after all these years and check out everything that was different-a fancy new library, a state-of-the-art arts facility, and a gym equipped to train an athlete in just about any Olympic sport.
I also loved being able to revisit the familiar, like having a beer (okay, a couple) in the just-off campus bar where I spent an embarrassing number of hours playing quarters my junior and senior year. And I enjoyed savoring a mocha in the same coffee shop where I'd spent perhaps even more hours drinking regular coffee (I'm not sure mochas had been invented yet) while attempting to negate the effects of "losing" (maybe it was winning?) the drinking game.
But there is no question, the highlight of the reunion this past weekend was attending the official Class of '88 party and catching up with folks -- many close friends, others merely acquaintances and a handful, I'm pretty sure, I'd never before seen in my life--for even just a brief hug. We reminisced about "sleeping out" on the quads in order to be first in line to sign up for classes; these were the days long before on-line registration. We recalled elaborate pranks pulled our freshman year that involved mayonnaise and under garments (don't ask). Most of us could still recall the music we danced to (Frankie Goes to Hollywood, anyone?) on sticky floors at fraternity houses that should have been condemned at the time and are, remarkably enough, still standing.
And while chatting it up with my classmates it struck me why everyone makes such a big deal about the 25th reunion.
Most of us in that room, now in our late 40s, weren't just our same old selves but a little grayer and in need of reading glasses. We were also parents. And is true of so many parents pushing 50, we have kids that are just beginning the journey of choosing a college.
My oldest is sixteen, and assuming all goes according to plan with finals this week, will be a junior in high school next fall. He's entering the year of ACT vs. SAT or both. He needs to start thinking about big schools vs. small schools and urban vs. self-contained campuses. He needs to consider whether he wants to be able to easily come home for an occasional weekend (for hopefully more than just laundry) or whether this is his big chance to explore another part of the country.
As a parent, guiding your child through this process can be absolutely crazy-making. And I've made a promise I will try not to get too wrapped up in the applying-to-college hoopla. There are lots of great choices out there, I remind myself. Don't make this into something bigger than it needs to be.
But this weekend was a reminder that this decision really matters. And not just from an intellectual development or career potential standpoint.
Because while standing there with some of my dearest friends in the world, many that I met the very first week of my freshman year, I realized that in two short years my son will likely be moving onto a dorm floor and meeting the people he will still be laughing, crying and dancing with over 25 years later.
So I guess it's time to jump in to the zaniness. Discussions of college tours, prep classes and "Reach", "Match" and "Safety" schools" are sure to come.
But if I get too caught up, please, in the immortal words of Frankie (the one of "Goes to Hollywood" fame), remind me to, at least occasionally, "Relax."
Or maybe take me out for a game of quarters.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.