By Bill Bradberry
Niagara Gazette — Though tomorrow marks the first full day of school here and the first day of the new NFL season when Baltimore meets the Denver at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, 12 hours earlier, in Niagara Falls, and at thousands of schools around the country millions of mothers and far too few fathers will have escorted their children back to school to kick-off the new school year.
I recall a few years ago, while impatiently sitting in my car, stuck in traffic behind a long line of big yellow school-bus limousines early one morning watching with muted fuss as some very excited moms and more than a few very reluctant children navigated their way from the long hot summer, to the first day of the new school year, very few men were there with their children; most, I assumed, were at work.
But, I wondered, would they participate if they could, would it matter?
Since it was obvious that I was going to be there for a while, I decided to relax and observe, maybe this was a teachable moment, there was a chance that I might just learn something, so I sat back and watched.
It reminded me of my own experiences on the many first days of school that I have encountered as a student and later as a parent; it especially reminded me of my first day of kindergarten at Our Lady of the Rosary way back in 1953, seven years before the birth of the Buffalo Bills, but that’s another story for another day.
Recalling the challenge of getting ready, trying on new school clothes and the excitement of shopping with my parents, and my siblings a few weeks before school started, I fondly remember the fun of shopping downtown; there were no malls and big-box stores on the outskirts of the city; dad would not have shopped there anyway!
I can still see, smell and hear the Falls and Main Street crowds, the cacophony of commerce, mechanical ponies, cotton candy, fresh hot peanuts, popcorn and other kid-friendly goodies available right in front of and just inside most stores deliberately designed to distract and entertain us kids while our parents shopped and socialized.
I refused to understand why we had to wear new clothes; I would much rather have worn my cowboy hat and boots, my favorite shorts, my plaid Roy Rogers shirt; how would what I wore affect how and what I learned?
Typically, the night before, as mom curled and braided my sisters’, dad cut my hair; pictures I have seen of myself from that time clearly demonstrate that either I could not be still while he tried, or that he made a wise decision when he opted not to become a professional kid’s barber.
Parents, it seems were more involved in school with their children than now; from dressing us, to checking our homework and going to see our teachers about our report cards, they were involved.
That was then, 60 years ago, things are a little different today.
Now, where the school district motto is “Learning For All ... Whatever It Takes,” Judie Gregory Glaser, director of Community Relations is once again calling all fathers, stepfathers, foster fathers, grandfathers, godfathers, uncles, brothers and other significant male caregivers to participate in this year’s Dads Take Your Child To School Day (DTYCTS) on Sept. 17.
In its seventh year statewide with nearly 400 schools involved and growing, is entering its third year here as Niagara Falls City Schools, Head Start and Catholic Academy are gearing up for the third annual event.
Having doubled participation since it began in Niagara Falls, Glaser points out that, according to well-documented research, “children whose fathers take a more active role in their lives have better outcomes related to academics, behavior, and social skills”, and as the data dramatically demonstrates, the benefits can be staggering:
• Father involvement in schools is associated with the higher likelihood of a student getting mostly A’s.
• Children that have a father involved in their life are two times less likely to drop out of school.
• 71 percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes — nine times the national average.
• 85 percent of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes, that’s twenty times the national average!
• Children living in two-parent households with a positive relationship with their father are 32 percent less likely to smoke, drink or use drugs compared to all teens in two-parent households.
When I started school in 1953, more parents were married with at least one of them working and earning enough to support the household on their own without much, if any help from the government.
Parents seemed to be relatively happy in spite of everything, and that matters to children; unhappy, angry, disgruntled adults probably do not make the best parents.
Unlike today, men, who wanted to work had jobs; if they had children, they took care of them.
As parents they usually tried to set a good example by demonstrating good behavior most of the time; they separated children’s activities from adult activities; children were taught to respect their elders, to be seen and not heard, that there were consequences for bad behavior and that the consequences were fair, swift and serious.
My parents, like so many others had prepared us for our first days of school by providing the kind of physical and spiritual nourishment that so many of the children I have observed are apparently not getting enough of from BOTH parents today.
As Glaser and I agree, having male figures at the school on opening day may help, but much more needs to be done in the classrooms as well as at home and in the entire community, not just at kick-off, but every single day.
So, gentlemen, mark your calendars: Sept. 17 is Dads Take Your Child To School Day ... be there!Contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org