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
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.
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.