This past week, against both my will and better judgement, I accompanied 50 or so middle school kids to the Future Problem Solvers Wisconsin State Bowl, a popular academic and skit-writing competition. It was my husband who had originally signed up to chaperone the event, thinking that spending a few days with his 11-year-old daughter and her compatriots would serve as an excellent anthropological experience.
But when an unexpected work obligation made it impossible for him to attend, it was me left holding the bag. Or should I say bags, quite literally? I think it might have been possible to hike the full length of the Appalachian Trail with fewer supplies than these kids evidently needed to spend three days and two nights at a well-equipped church retreat center in Green Lake, Wisconsin.
Now, those who know me know I am a reasonably involved (perhaps over-involved) mother. I try to get to as many PTO meetings as possible, have never missed a music recital and I always come through with the juice boxes and pretzels when a group snack is called for. But historically I have drawn the line at chaperoning. Especially the overnight chaperoning of a gaggle of kids on the verge of adolescence.
What would I do if I found a group of seventh-graders in a coat closet playing "Spin the Bottle," or worse yet, "quarters" with something other than flat Sprite? How would I handle it if one of my daughter's sixth-grade classmates got her period for the first time on my watch? I've been to enough sleepaway camps, watched enough ABC Family and certainly read enough Judy Blume books in my day to know what kinds of things can happen when you take a busload of tweens an hour-and-a-half from home and plop them down in an environment with an adult-to-kid ratio that favors the latter.
But as is true with so many experiences I initially dread (like whitewater rafting or getting my eyebrows waxed), the good most certainly outweighed the bad. The kids were actually extremely well behaved and quite delightful. And there are few pleasures in motherhood that can top the chance to put on pajamas, gorge on Goldfish crackers and get all the sixth grade gossip while indulging in a late-night gabfest with your daughter and her roommates.
And no one in her suite, or any of the kids' rooms as far as I know, made inappropriate use of a closet.
The highlight of my FPS experience may have had very little to do with any of the kids, though. No, I honestly think the part of my adventure I'll remember the best was getting to spend time with the other adults, both parents and educators, who were brave enough to chaperone. There was the mom I got to know from Appleton, who as it turns out, lived just a few blocks from me, post-college, in Chicago. I'm guessing she and I passed each other dozens of times walking to the train many moons ago, but it took moving to the Badger State and having Future Problem Solving middle-schoolers for us to actually meet.
And while we didn't have nearly enough time to just hang out, it was fun knowing my dear friend and neighbor who was at the competition coaching another school was sleeping just a few doors down the hall of our lodge. I shared delightful carb-heavy, mess hall-style meals with some extremely interesting, and very funny, parents.
Oh, and did I mention my husband had signed himself, and thus me by default, up for a roommate? His, of course, would have been a guy. Mine though was a fellow Hamilton Middle School mom. Her child was in a different grade from either of mine, so we'd never even seen each other before, much less had a chance to bond. But we giggled, traded child-raising war stories and discussed hair product before falling asleep. It was kind of like being 11 and in summer camp all over again.
Yes, I may have chaperoned against my will and better judgement. But wills can be misguided and judgement impaired. I don't doubt for a second that another Future Problem Solving chaperone experience will be in my future.
Hopefully my new mom-friend will want to be my "roomie" again. And I can bring the Goldfish crackers. I am, after all, very experienced at buying snacks.comments powered by Disqus
Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.
At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.
Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"
After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?
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.