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
This post will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage. 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. There is no question I completely enjoyed my break from the kids. But my biggest discovery this past weekend was that it was the kids, perhaps, who needed a break even more.
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.