The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists. So in keeping with tradition, in no particular order, I offer my Parenthood Top 10 of 2013.
1. The Driver's License: About a month ago, my oldest son got his license. To be honest, he hasn't used it all that much since, as we live within walking distance of his school, his two best friends and his work. But there is absolutely no question that having three drivers in the house feels like we've reached a major milestone.
It also feels like reaching a major milestone to have someone to share grocery shopping and carpool runs with, as well.
2. Finishing Elementary School: My youngest graduated from Randall Elementary this past June. I know she was ready to move on the second that the fifth grade "Movin' On" ceremony was over. But I still haven't come to total terms with how much I miss those younger years. We used to walk to school together every morning, sometimes holding hands. She now often refuses to acknowledge my presence, much less hold my anything, if we are anywhere out in public.
Growing up can be hard, especially on the parents.
3. Younger Son's Bar Mitzvah: I'll probably never know whether he felt a heightened sense of spirituality while chanting Torah in front of his extended family and religious community, but there is no question he felt accomplished. He was absolutely beaming his whole time on the Bimah. He found out that hard work and hours of preparation really do pay off -- a pretty valuable lesson regardless of faith tradition.
And for that, I will forever be grateful to my Tribe and its centuries-old rituals.
4. Oldest Son Getting a Job: Sometimes I interpret my kids' reluctance to empty the dishwasher and inability to take out the trash unprompted as signs that they may end up living out the rest of their days in my basement. But this past summer, my oldest got a job as a back waiter at a local restaurant. Six months later, he's still on the payroll. I am relieved that someone has found him employable.
And thrilled he really does know how to clear dishes. Just not his own.
5. Daughter Starting Sixth Grade: I was a middle school girl once myself. I know it can be hell. But I also know it can be a wonderful time of self-discovery in a very Are You There God, It's Me Margaret kind of way. For my daughter, it's been "so far, so good." And just like Margaret, I will plan to rely on some carefully crafted conversations with God to make sure it stays that way. Prayer is probably the most powerful weapon in the mom-of-middle-school-girl's arsenal.
Frankly, it might be all we have.
6. The Fall of Fantasy Football: Historically, my younger son had not been the least bit interested in sports. Not in playing them, not in watching them. He wasn't even particularly interested in going to Badger games -- we had to bribe him with a promise of nachos. But somehow this fall he was turned on to the world of fantasy football. And he's since become the most avid pro fan I know. Every Sunday is spent with his buddies, hunkered down in the basement, watching game after pro game. They eat chips, drink soda and discuss the merits of trading various and sundry quarterbacks and tight ends.
It's not the Fantasy Football itself that makes this list worthy. It's the idea that as much as we think we know our kids -- their strengths, weaknesses and interests -- it can all change on a dime. Especially if nachos are still involved.
7. First College Visit: There is nothing that will make you feel older, and more bittersweet, than touring your alma mater with your child. The campus looked and felt so different. And now, so does my first baby. He was every bit as tall as the tour guide and was able to ask the admissions officer intelligent questions about curriculum, advising and study abroad. This time next year applications (I hope) will be out the door.
And just nine short months after that, so will he.
8. Husband Finishing a 5K with our Daughter: In June, my husband ran the Girls on the Run 5k with our daughter. They proudly crossed the finish line together. It wasn't her first race. Nor will it likely be her last; through the program she's discovered the joy of running. But it was likely the final race she and my husband will do together for the foreseeable future. Shortly after the race his knee gave out and he's pretty much down to swimming and the rowing machine these days. It was definitely a reminder to both of us to do what we can with the kids while we are physically able.
They are not getting any younger. More importantly though, neither are we.
9. Son Cutting his own Hair: But just when I start to feel parenting is a never-ending series of "Sunrise, Sunset" moments, one of my kids will do something to remind me that no matter how chronologically old he or she may be getting, immaturity still reigns. Like last week, when my middle school son, frustrated that his hair was getting a little mullet-esque, took a pair of kitchen scissors out of the drawer, retreated to the upstairs bathroom and gave himself an awkward version of the haircut Demi Moore sported in Ghost. Fortunately, a trained professional was able to see him the next day. Now it's more like Demi Moore in GI Jane.
Yes, I thought that viral video of "the worst haircut ever" that circulated earlier this fall was adorable, but that girl was five. Not fourteen.
10. Surviving Vacation: The whole family went on vacation this summer and shared a single room the entire time. There were arguments aplenty on sleep arrangements, whose toothbrush was whose, and whether the History or Disney Channel would reign supreme on the hotel TV.
But we returned home a week later still talking to each other.
And if that's doesn't warrant a spot in the Top 10, I'm not sure what does.comments powered by Disqus
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.
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.