With today being Mother’s Day, you know that I’ve brought up the topic about my own mother a few times on this blog. And on this day… well, what can I say about my mom in this post that I actually already haven’t mentioned on here before?
- I’ve talked up here about her housing situation over the past year or so. I will add, though, that though I’m still sad that she’s no longer in the house she loved at first sight, she is happy with her new digs. One positive trade-off is that she no longer has to shovel snow in the winter or do yard work in the summer.
- I’ve mentioned here about that time I put on an auburn bob wig, struck a pose, and was shocked when I realized how much I look like my mother did when she was younger. It’s been coming up on 6 years since I took those photos, and I’m still stunned by the resemblance.
- I’ve told the story here about the day Mom discovered my sister’s bathing suit in my dresser drawer. I’ll never forget her stern words upon this discovery… but sometimes I wonder how she would react now if I told her I still dress in women’s clothing. Perhaps she’ll be more understanding now with her only son in his middle ages.
- And, of course, it was one year ago on this day that I told the world about all my mom has meant to our family and our upbringing. Yes, things were difficult sometimes, but I could never trade those bad times with Mom for anything.
My siblings and I aren’t doing anything big again this year with our mother. But I’m sure she’ll be okay with it. In fact, it’s quite likely that Mom, being the person that she is, is helping others celebrate Mother’s Day with their moms at the senior care center she still works at. But I did send her a card late this week (fingers crossed she got it in yesterday’s mail), and I plan to call her up and wish her a happy Mother’s Day. Here’s hoping you have the chance to do the same with the mothers in your life today.
While I never perceived my mother and stepfather as being all perfect, there was one thing that they never, ever (consciously, at least) taught my sisters and I — they never taught us to be mean towards others. I was reminded of that this weekend when reading this Wisconsin Gazette article about anti-bullying ordinances here in Wisconsin. No, these are not ordinances at the state level, certainly not at a time when a Wisconsin legislator still (still?!) wants to prevent trans people from using public restrooms matching the gender they identify with, even though his earlier attempt thankfully died in committee. (I bet he loved being a bully as a kid, and I’m not being sarcastic there.)
Rather, these anti-bullying are ordinances at the local level, designed to punish parents for when their children exhibit repeated bullying behaviors against classmates and peers. Here are some examples of laws cited in the WiG article:
- Plover, which is in central Wisconsin, allows police to ticket parents if their child is caught bullying within 90 days of a first reported offense..
- Monona, a suburb of Madison and the first Wisconsin community to pass an anti-bullying law (in 2013), a second violation within 90 days means a $144 fine to the parents, with additional violations within the same year bringing a $177 fine.
- And Shawano, which is northwest of Green Bay, just recently passed their own anti-bullying ordinance, with fines that are very steep: It’s a $366 fine to parents if a 2nd offense is reported within within 90 days. Multiple offenses within a year merits a $681 fine/offense.
To be clear, these offenses would be municipal code violations and not criminal offenses, meaning the parents can’t be locked up in the hoosegow (only the state legislature can decree by law that a violation is criminal). And in each of the above mentioned communities, it’s required that police first notify the parents in writing of their child’s bullying behavior (so that they’re not blindsided by the news), with fines intended as a last resort. But you do get the impression that these ordinances are meant to drill into parents that they bear responsibility for their children’s behavior. Indeed, “responsible parenting” are the two words that were beating in my head like a steel drum when reading about these laws. And while some may (and will) complain about “government interference” with parental rights, I’m struck by one quote Shawano’s police chief (whose own daughter was once bullied) told the Minneapolis Star Tribune; he said that it’s not about monetary fines but rather “It’s about getting some parents to act more like parents” and work with officials to curb their child’s bullying behavior.
Thanks to word of mouth in media and the internet, these communities’ ordinances have grabbed worldwide attention to the matters of child bullying and parental responsibility. Officials have received “thank you” notes from those who were bullied as youths, as well as inquiries from curious national and international news media. Sure, the media are hooked by (and will use as a hook) the money aspect, but a fine is a small price to pay than… well, what danger might happen if someone is being bullied (scary thought, isn’t it?). So, bravo to Plover, Monona, and Shawano on their stands, and let’s hope this leads to meaningful conversations — and perhaps other ordinances — in other communities inside and outside Wisconsin.