I have an uncanny ability to find parenting themes in just about every movie I see. The job, of course, is pretty easy when the film is kid-targeted like Disney's latest animated feature Frozen. I loved its ability to communicate both the icy challenges, as well as the warmth, of complicated sibling relationships. It also prompted me to remind my daughter that "eyes bigger than your wrists" isn't a particularly realistic body type to aspire to.
But I can also find child-rearing messages in the least family-friendly of films. The only thing racing through my mind after watching Leonardo DiCaprio embody The Wolf of Wall Street was "Forget cowboys. Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be stockbrokers."
It was my 11-year-old, though, who inspired my motherhood takeaway from Lee Daniels' The Butler, a film we saw together on a fortuitous whim just this past week. For those of you who aren't familiar, the film follows the story of Cecil Gaines, an African American and fictional White House butler who bore eyewitness to key turning points in our nations history, especially the rise of the Civil Rights movement, during his professional tenure.
"Mom," she asked as we watched the credits roll at the second-run theater, "If Martin Luther King" -- who has a "cameo" in the film -- "was such an important guy, why doesn't our family do more to celebrate Martin Luther King Day?"
And she was right. In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the day discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
But this year, inspired by the film (as well as some civic-minded friends), my daughter and I will spend the holiday differently. On Monday, January 20, she and her buddies (I will chaperone) will take part in the Martin Luther King, Jr.: Youth Day of Service at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. The event, sponsored by the Urban League of Greater Madison as well as the King Coalition, will bring together 300 middle and high school students from across Dane County to answer, in the words of Dr. King, "Life's most persistent and urgent question...'What are you doing for others?"
The event's goal is to get youth engaged at the intersection of science and service; it's part of United We Serve, President Obama's initiative that calls for Americans, including those in grades 6-8, to work together to provide solutions to pressing national problems. The day will offer youth-oriented workshops on such important environmental issues as frac sand mining and wind energy. And it will also encourage kids to take place part in meaningful service projects to benefit the community.
The program is only one of many honoring the legacy of the Dr. King this coming weekend. On Sunday the 19th, the acclaimed 1993 documentary At the River I Stand, which chronicles the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike and the subsequent assassination of Dr. King, will be shown at the Urban League's Park Street location. The screening will be accompanied by a talk from UW history professor William Jones, an expert on the intersection of race, class and labor.
I just may have to register for this, as well. I have no doubt the message -- parenting or otherwise -- will be a very valuable one to receive.comments powered by Disqus
Lavish costumes, gorgeous sets, a full orchestra and a concession stand where nothing cost more than two bucks and you have a pitch perfect experience at the theater. Oh, and did I mention the ticket prices were just $10 dollars apiece? One could afford to take the whole family for a live theater experience for less than an evening at the Lego movie would cost including popcorn.
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders -- 10 boys and six girls -- enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
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.
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.