HAMILTON: Now That’s All I’ve Gotta Do Is to Put His Little Ass to Bed

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By: Ken Hamilton

A friend of mine, who thinks much like you, was standing nearby two chatty women when she overheard their startling conversation.

One of the so-called mothers, upon hearing from the other woman that the Niagara Falls NY Board of Education, already now feeding her son both free breakfasts and lunches in school, but that if the boy also stayed for his much-needed after-school programs, that they’d also feed him dinners as well.  My friend then heard one of them say, “Good. Now I don’t have to feed the little mother-$!@#&% anymore; all that I gotta do is to put his little ass to bed.”

When former NFBOE board member Don King was a part of advocating such a program some years ago, I thought that it was the dumbest idea that anyone could possibly have had. In fact, there was also discussions about packing their backpacks with weekend rations as well.

But isn’t true that many, if not most of the school-aged families in Niagara Falls are in poverty, a situation that qualifies all of the school’s students for a no-cost-to-them meals? If that is the case, then what’s left of their families that are already receiving what used to be called food stamps to do with ‘that’ money, if not actually feeding their children?”

It all makes me wonder if within our good hearts we are doing the best thing, you know, by making sure that the child is fed prior-to and during their day in school, which aids in their ability to get an education, a diploma and an opportunity to escape the gripping poverty that have often kept their families incarcerated in a cageless socioeconomic prison of codependency, while at the same time reducing the crime rate in the city.  After all, how else would the child then escape their parents’ poverty of money and mindset if not for a bellyful of nourishment and a headful of knowledge – this, despite the parental apathy?

I have mixed thoughts about it; I don’t like it, but I understand it. There was a time, not so long ago, that the singular hour of “family-time” was at the dinner table.  As a divorced father whom often had my sons with me, I enjoyed the times that I spent with them sledding in the winter; and in the summery months at the Buffalo Zoo, the Aquarium of Niagara Falls NY, Clifton Hill and African Lion Safari in Niagara Falls and Cambridge Ontario, and on the many road trips that we took together. But honestly, not a moment with my sons was more satisfying for me than to sit at the dinner table with the youngest one often upon my lap and picking from my plate, while the oldest one sitting in his chair, legs above the floor and rhythmically swaying in time with his jaw as he enjoyed what he often called the best food that he ever had.

In all of the things that we did, we talked about things, including their educations. Now, with at least one so-called mother, what’s left for a parent to do besides putting her child’s “little ass to bed?” Because of where this event took place, you can bet that we are paying for that as well.

I was recently at the copy counter at the local Office Max store one evening; and there I stood next to a teacher who wanted to make copies of thematic cartoon characters that she could hang in her classroom for the kids.  She had to decide the size of the copies that she wanted so that they didn’t break her budget. While the children are in her classroom during the day, that and other teachers are considered “in loco parentis.” Thanks to Mr. Tom Patti, my 8th and 9th grade Latin teacher, I understood the term to be Latin for “in the place of a parent. You can be that the teacher was spending her own money on the project for the class, and not the money that the parent might have given her for the project.

The “little ass” that the wayward mother spoke of as only having to put to bed may have been one of the students of the teacher at the Office Max copy counter.  If not, then likely a similar child who had a similarly dispositioned mother — that being the kind who if the child feels hurt by what the teacher says to them, even if it is that they have to try harder not to fail the test the next time, would likely race to the school to cuss out that very same classroom teacher who daily makes the “in loco parentis” walk with her class to the free lunch, and then spends her evenings and money to prepare or teaching them the next day. I wonder if miserable mom would go to the parent-teacher conference though.

It’s a sad state of affairs, though maybe a necessary one, that the school has to all but board the children in order to do for them what the parent should be doing. It is also sad that the children would rather be in the safe and warm school with their friends and teachers than in the turmoil of their own houses: note that I didn’t say homes.

Sadder still in that all of it is a form of institutionalization, and we have to be careful that the children do not become wards or pets of the state.

Where do we go from here?


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