Someone should really (actually, I'm sure many have) question a few of my back-to-school parenting decisions.
I've continued, for instance, to allow my younger kids to stay up past 10 p.m. even though their middle school bus schedule requires them to be out the door, teeth brushed and all, at 7 in the morning. And I am so over school supply shopping that I plan to just give my high school son some cash, drop him off at Office Depot, and tell him he is old enough to navigate the world of graphing calculators, composition books and number two pencils on his own. I know I am running the risk that lunch at Milios' and an iTunes gift card end up making a cameo appearance on the "approved" list of MMSD school supplies, but it's a risk I am willing to take in the name of parental errand reduction.
The maternal choice I regret most, though, over the past couple of weeks was persuading my 11-year-old daughter to let me choose the movie we'd watch during our regular mother-daughter "chick flick" night. She was angling for an encore performance of either Teen Beach Movie or Pitch Perfect. But I couldn't bear the thought of another go round of the not-quite-Annette-and-Frankie Disney Channel musical. And the "Cup Song" wore out it's welcome at our house months ago as far as I'm concerned.
Instead, I convinced her to watch a cherished film from my pre-parenting days. It's a movie that showcases my favorite non-Sarah Palin Tina Fey performance and has a killer soundtrack heavy on female artists. It's a film that makes me hopeful that the incredibly talented Lindsay Lohan can perhaps, someday, get her life and career back on track.
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. Because while the film's storyline takes place during the lead character's high school years, I am worried that less theatrical versions of the movie's bickering, backstabbing and girl-on-girl bullying begin to rear their ugly heads in grades 6 through 8.
My boys, one entering 11th grade, the other 13 and starting his "senior" year of middle school, appear to have made it through the tween/early teen years without any major social crises. Both made terrific friends early on in elementary school and still pal around, drama free, with the same buddies today. If there was ever a fight or fall out, I am unaware of it.
But at least according to the Rosalind Wiseman's 2002 bestseller Queen Bees and Wannabes (the book that inspired the movie), these next few years may very likely be an emotional minefield for my youngest. She'll need to learn to manage the potential heartbreak of shifting friendships as young ladies from four different elementary schools are thrust together.
She'll be forced to recognize the subtle differences between close friendships and exclusive cliques. She'll need to make sure some of the slumber party chitchat she so enjoys indulging in doesn't swerve off course and head toward ugly gossip. And now, with the advent of texting, Facebook and Instagram it seems it's become way too easy to share, or should I say over share, in ways that can permanently damage relationships.
I still though plan to remain hopeful, and hopefully not naive, that the next three years can be filled with positive social experiences, as well -- she seems to hang with a really terrific crowd of supportive friends right now. And just like I hate to give in to the old adage "boys will be boys" whenever my male children make a fairly reckless decision, I also refuse to believe that girls of this age always mean to be mean. I just need to take the time and be tuned in enough to prep my daughter on how to handle the inevitable social ups and downs that are likely headed her way.
But just the same, friends, when I mention I am considering a mother/daughter screening of another classic "alpha girl" movie of my youth, feel free to question my decision. Because while teenage girls are much more likely these days to be named Emma, Taylor, or Olivia, we are definitely not ready for Heathers.comments powered by Disqus
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.
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.