May 2000
The Purpose Of This Site Is To Save One Child's Life

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Kayla Silvers, 6
was one of three students from Northwest Elementary School in Georgia killed in a school bus/train collision on
March 27, 2000.

Click on picture to visit 2safeschools Memorial. Don't let these lives pass unnoticed.

A look at the panic of parenting

By Ellen Goodman

Can you spell murder? Ellen Goodman, a columnist for The Boston Globe, lends her skills toward the effort to somehow address a persistent dilemma in our public education system: The widening gap in this country "between those who raise their children and those who leave them in a flophouse with a loaded gun." Here's a look at one small tip of a gigantic iceberg.

First published by The Boston Globe Newspaper, original story title, " A look at the panic of parenting" March, 14 2000. Copyright ©2000, The Boston Globe Newspaper Co./Washington Post Writers Group. Reprinted with permission. All Rights Reserved.

The Washington Post Writers Group
BOSTON - They were welcomed back with teddy bears and trauma counselors. What a set of back-to-school supplies for the return of the first-graders at Buell Elementary School. Good morning students, have an Eberhard No. 2 pencil, a teddy bear and a trauma counselor. Can you spell murder?

In the wake of a school shooting of a 6-year-old by a 6-year-old, the families of Mount Morris Township, Michigan, now drift back to whatever passes for normal. One parent reports that her son brought home a crayon drawing; another circulates a petition for metal detectors.

We are left to piece together the rest of the story - the chaotic home - if you can call it home - of the alleged young shooter. A room without a bed, a house of drugs, a loaded pistol, not a parent in sight.

From jail the father says, "The only thing I feel responsible for is not being there in his life like I'm supposed to be like a father, every day." Only? That's all? A great aunt reports that she considered the boy's mother, who has a record of drug abuse, "a very good mother." Can you spell good?

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Following this story, I want to sentence every handgun manufacturer to live with their children in a neighborhood with loaded guns under blankets. But I also want to shake these parents until something inside clicks awake.

On my night table there's a book I've been reading, titled with all the immodest modesty, all the ironic honesty that Dave Eggers could muster: "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius." It's ratcheted its way to a wholly unexpected place on the best-seller list because it's fierce and funny. But mostly because it's a piercingly honest, dry-eyed and wrenching look at child-raising.

Eggers writes about parenting as if he were having one long panic attack. He writes from the inside about the kind of parenting-against-the-odds that makes so many of us furious at the dropouts, the quitters, the parents whose failures might walk up to our kids on the playground. Bang, bang, you're dead.

When Dave Eggers was just 21 he became, as he describes it more than once, a single mother. His parents died within five weeks of each other from cancer. "What were we going to do, break up the family and send Toph to a salt mine?" One orphan, Dave, began to take care of another, 8-year-old Toph.

Eggers left the world of college students and entered the world of the "put-upon, purposeful, stressful, Spartan, down-time-less, limiting, exhausting, a world of young knees needing stitching and young lunches needing packing and young minds needing help with elaborate projects about east Africa. ..."

Running late, coexisting on Apple Jacks and tacos in an environment that gives "messy" new meaning, trying to be a person and a parent at the same time, he's an exuberant, manic, terrified version of any parent whose imagination runs to cataclysm when their child is five minutes late. A parent who dedicates himself "to being the only thing standing in the way of for-him-otherwise-certain oblivion."

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But there is a moment in this adrenaline rush of a memoir when Eggers confronts a mother talking in casual, hip tones about how she lets her son "fire up" marijuana at home. This imperfect, accidental, brother-parent finds himself "too stunned to speak." He thinks, "She should be jailed and I should raise her children. Maybe I'm the only one qualified to raise all these kids. ..."

His sudden, absolute ferocity, is what links Eggers' memoir to the Michigan reality. It's the automatic anger of anyone however imperfect, who knows what it takes to raise "all these kids." It's the rage that one parent, doing the best he can, turns on another for a small infraction of responsibility. Or for a huge one. It's the rage that parents who struggle to protect their children turn on gunmakers who make a mockery of that struggle. A rage born out of Eggers' knowledge: "To not have Toph would be to not have a life."

We heard that ferocity after Columbine. We heard it after Michigan. But then it fades into the background noise, adding another layer of fear.

Among the widening gaps in this country there is the gulf between those who raise their children and those who leave them in a flophouse with a loaded gun. There's a gap between those who shelter children and those who arm them.

In Mount Morris Township, the survivors in that first grade are back in class. They've been given teddy bears and trauma counselors. Do we imagine that's enough?

Ellen Goodman Pix Ellen Goodman
Ellen is a columnist for The Boston Globe. Twice weekly. Distributed by the Washington Post Writers Group. She is the Associate editor of The Boston Globe. Goodman is known as a remarkable writer with a keen sense of what's important in our public and private lives. Goodman's incisive reasoning, along with her humor and humanity, resonate with readers everywhere. Her Pulitzer Prize commentary appears in more than 450 newspapers. (Click Here) to learn more about Ellen Goodman.

Your Comments on this article - Subject: Panic Parenting (May 00 ATA)
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The Washington Post Company (NYSE:WPO) is a diversified media organization whose principal operations include newspaper and magazine publishing, television broadcasting, cable television systems, electronic information services, test preparation, and educational and career services. Visitor's welcomed.
The Washington Post Education Services Web site,
Education, Schools and Parenting. The Post's Education Marketplace is where you can get detailed information on great schools all in one place, linked to the Washington Post's editorial content you've come to depend on. Visitor's welcomed.
2safeschools Connections
Webrings, discussion boards, Polls & Surveys, free newsletters and school bus safety templates.
Michael's Death
Every school bus driver should read this story whenever apathy threatens helping to keep kids safe.
A Mother's Story - What this mom did when the school and therapy failed her out-of-control son. Excellent reading for Parents and School Staff dealing with an out-of-control teen and nothing else has worked.
A Librarianís Story - A 10-year veteran of the King County, (Washington State) Public Library resigned rather than carry out library policy of providing children with pornography.
2safeschools Webrings - Take the grand tour ... Hundreds of teachers, classrooms and school bus drivers nationwide ready to share their web pages. You'll find a nation's worth of ideas for all grade levels in these webrings."
How to help keep your child's school bus safe - A short article from "In Loving Memory."
The School Bus Seat Belt Issue - An in-depth look at seat belts on the big yellow buses. Plenty of helpful links at the end of this article."
Marcia's Lesson Links - This site was put together especially for teachers and parents who have a hard time navigating the web"
SNET's Internet Features Page - An excellent web site for parents and teachers, features articles relevant to the home, school and the community environment.
2safeschools Awards Center - Does your web page include a safety suggestion, flyer or article. If it does, apply for your personalized 2safeschools "Helping Hand Award." No safety pages or flyers? Provide a LINK to 2safeschools free templates page or to our directory or other 2safeschools page of your choice, then apply for your award; Directory Link: Graphic links available at our Links Center.

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