Ive been troubled for long time. I see children who are obviously not cared for. I can spot them a block away. I see them at school bus stops every morning. I wonder what their lives are like and what their future holds. Teachers know what Im talking about. They are charged with teaching the children I see.
These children appear at the schoolhouse door looking disheveled, hair not combed and without a meal. And its not their fault. If they could magically do better, they would. All too often the thing holding them back is the thing they love the most: Their trifling parents, too often in the singular.
These children bear the tell-tale signs of abuse -- not in the physical sense, but emotionally. Its hard to have a nurturing home life when you dont have a home. Some children think it normal to be shuttled between different households because our family trees are so convoluted an organization chart is needed to see where everyone fits in. Children dont think its abnormal to move three or four times during a school year.
These trifling parents dont think theyre trifling. They dont know that they dont know. For others its a matter of priorities. Moms are working two or more low-paying jobs trying to provide food and shelter. While they would like to spend an hour or so each evening going over homework and making sure all the assignments are in order, they dont have the time -- or the will or the knowledge -- to do better. So whats the solution?
Parents dont go around with the trifling label across their foreheads. If you told them they were trifling they would deny it, but heres a little test.
If a parent did not graduate from high school or receive a GED, theyre trifling. The education level of a parent is a direct reflection on how well or not their children will do in school.
If you look around a home and the only book you see is a TV Guide, thats a dead giveaway youre in the home of a trifling parent. Children need stimulus and too many times that stimulus comes from the Devils Eyeball (TV) or a video shoot-em-up game.
If a parent thinks an enrichment activity is a trip to Chuck E. Cheeses, theyre trifling. No offense to Chuck, but that is an entertainment venue, not an enrichment experience purposely designed (although children wont realize it) to open their eyes to different experiences.
Head to the Museum of Arts and Sciences; take them to the Macon Symphony or a play at the Grand Opera House. An afternoon at the Ocmulgee National Monument or the Museum of Aviation could spark a childs imagination, all for little or no money.
I know it takes time, a commodity thats hard to come by. It takes effort and planning, but it is up to parents -- if they plan on not being a trifling parent -- to commit to their childrens future.
Go back to the old school and it will pay dividends later in life. I used to hate my mother when she corrected my English. I didnt understand then, but I understand now. I didnt know why my mother agreed to rent a trombone for me so I could be in the band, but I know now. Did she know playing a musical instrument would broaden my horizons? I know now why she gave me a few bucks and let me ride the bus to the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles. It wasnt, as I thought then, to get me out of her hair for a few hours.
Schools used to take a number of field trips. Not so anymore because of budget constraints. I remember every field trip I ever took. They taught me things I didnt know I was learning. Children learn in so many different ways. Some feel it. Some see it. Some read about it. All need input and its up to parents to give them the right kind of input from a number of sources. If not, they become like computers -- garbage in, garbage out.
Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraphs editorial page editor. He can be reached at 478-744-4342 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tweet@crichard1020.