Just so you’re aware, this is something that I wrote back in August of 2006…

Where to begin, where to begin?

Do I talk about falling down the steps, hurting my left butt-bone and getting rug burns down my arm?

Or do I talk about how someone I know won’t go near the women’s lingerie department when she has her kids with her because it’s inappropriate to display undergarments so predominantly?

Or maybe I discuss how I became physically ill after riding a ride at Paramount’s King’s Island and it pretty much wrecked me for the entire day.

No, instead I’ll talk about the free breakfast for every student at my kids’ school. That’s right. Each morning, every kid is given breakfast. It appears as though students do better if they have full bellies. Sounded like a spiffy idea to me…at first.

This breakfast consists of: one of those individual cereal boxes (in this case, Froot Loops), either a small carton of milk or orange juice, and an individually wrapped graham cracker. Every student must take the breakfast. They can choose to eat it, save it for later, or put it in the “recycling bag.”

My first reaction to this was, “Why do they HAVE to take it. Why can’t they decline it if they want?” I have since come to find out that this is just a way to “pad” the statistics. Look! EVERY CHILD was given breakfast! Yay! What a roaring success!!!

Whatever.

After more thought, there are other concerns about this program. Let’s pretend the kid(s) opt to decline the breakfast. ALL OF IT goes into the “recycle bag.” Yep, the box of cereal, along with the milk/juice, and the graham cracker…all into the same bag. Well, it seems to me that the graham crackers run the risk of getting crushed in this bag. Additionally, it would be interesting to find out how long these milks sit in the bag before being “recycled.”

And finally, there are several parents at school who watch what their kids eat. I know of several of them who are very strict about the amount of sugar they allow their kids to have. Froot Loops and cinammon graham crackers don’t make it on the list of “acceptable foods” for the kids. So what are they to do?

Certainly, the wheat side of me says that if you educate your kid and let them know that you don’t want them eating this type of food, then the kid will take the breakfast (as required) and then put it in the “recycle bag.”

However, the frosted side of me says that kids will be kids and when given a sugary treat they will eat it. Especially if it’s “forbidden Froot.” And as far as I know, there is no “diabetic-friendly” breakfast alternative.

So here’s the setup. The bell rings in the morning and everyone lines up. Intermediate grades 4-6 (approx 210 students) go straight to the cafeteria to get their breakfast. They take it to their homerooms and eat it there. Primary grades K-3 (approx 250 students) go to their rooms first and then head to the cafeteria to get breakfast and bring it back to the room to eat it. As you can imagine, that’s not easy to coordinate and it takes time.

WELL…a few years ago the school system changed the length of the school day to add half hour of instructional time to the day. It appears to me that extra half hour is now being used to give breakfast to kids who’ve most likely already HAD breakfast.

AND…lunch is at 11-11:30 and 11:30-12 and 12-12:30. Already there have been issues where kids haven’t been eating their lunches because they are still full from eating their homemade AND school-provided breakfasts.

This whole thing just smacks of someone saying, “Y’know what would be great? If we could make sure all our kids are fed.” Follow that up with someone else who said, “By Jove, I think you’ve got something there! Let’s do it!”

And, you know what? I think it’s a noble idea. Not necessarily sure I agree that the school system should be responsible for feeding our kids, and feeding them sugar on top of it all. I think the whole execution of it needs some work.

***UPDATE***
It didn’t take long for them to realize that compulsory breakfast was not working out. Breakfast is still available, but only in the morning before the bell rings and only for those who want to eat it.

Every year, for the last 8 years, I have been stopped at least once by an employee of the school wanting to know who I was, what my business at the school was, if I was a parent of a child at the school, yada yada yada.

The first time this occurred was way back at the end of 2001. And I didn’t mind. It was our first year to the school, and I felt good that there was concern for the safety of the children.

The second time it was a different person stopped me, but what bothered me the most about it was that she had followed me through the school and then waited in the hallway while I was talking about something with a teacher. She stopped me when I came out of the classroom and began her interrogation. I copped a little attitude because, c’mon…I was just in there speaking with a teacher for several minutes.

In succeeding years, I’ve displayed more attitude and indignation when asked because, Jesus, I am at the school at least 4 times a week. One particularly bad incident was when I was standing with my daughter looking at a map of the neighborhood on one of the walls. There was a Walk To School program going on, and everyone who typically walked to school had chosen a color to highlight their route on the map. Now, we don’t walk to school. We live too far away. But when I was a kid in the neighborhood, I would walk to school and I was showing my daughter the route that I would walk. Well…apparently someone interpreted this as me trying to get a little girl to show me where on the map she lived. The only information I gave this person was that yes, I was a parent of a child in the school and she just so happened to be the little girl standing right next to me.

When my oldest daughter was in 5th grade, I had taken her to school earlier than normal one day because she had some elective type class. My wife called me and asked me to wait at the school (instead of going to work right away) in order for me to help her carry some stuff from the van up to the second floor. So, I waited outside, leaning up against the school and playing games on my cell phone while I waited. Eventually, she called to let me know she had arrived but was parked on the other side of the school grounds on the opposite side of the building. I put my phone away and headed across the grounds to meet her, passing first through the area of the playground where the intermediate grade kids were, around the corner and then through the section where the primary kids played. Just then, I heard someone yelling, “Sir? Sir! What’s your business here, sir?” I turn to look around and it’s the playground monitor who followed me from the other side of the school. “Yes! You, sir. Don’t move!” Nearby was the primary grade playground monitor…a woman whom my wife and I are familiar with. I said, “Kim, will you handle her for me? L is waiting for me to help carry some stuff.” So I kept walking and I heard, “Sir! I told you not to move and if you don’t stop I’m calling the po…” I looked back to see Kim speaking with this woman explaining that I was not a threat.

So…I’m glad they are on the lookout for dangers to our school children, but after 8 years it gets annoying.

And then there was the time, in my own neighborhood, when I was walking my girls around selling Girl Scout Cookies. We started off going up the street with the girls leap-frogging each other while going house to house. They went to houses 1 and 2, then the girl who went to house 1 went up to 3, the girl who went to house 2 went to house 4, etc etc etc. Well, due to a combination of one girl getting a couple of sales while the other did not, they eventually ended up on opposite ends of the street. So I stood on the sidewalk halfway between each one so I could keep and eye on both. Next thing I know, I hear from behind me, “Can I help you with something buddy?” I turned around to see a guy who had come out of his house and was standing in his yard, his wife behind him in the doorway on the phone.

“Nope.” And I turned back around to keep and eye on my girls. At this point, I had NO IDEA what this guy was thinking.

“What do you mean, ‘nope?’?” He had an indignant tone in his voice. “What are you up to?”

“Just selling some Girl Scout Cookies.” Perfectly logical (and true) explanation.

“Girl Scout–?” I turned back around to face him and he started walking toward me with a scowl on his face and pointing his finger. “You better tell me what the hell you’re doing around here, bud!”

“I told you. Girl Scout Cookies. I’m walking my daughters around the neighborhood.” I indicated my one daughter down the street, and then my other daughter up the street.

That calmed him down. “Oh. Oh. It’s all good. I was just…Hey, honey?” He turned to his wife who was still on the phone in the doorway. “It’s OK, he’s just taking his kids around selling Girl Scout Cookies.” Then his wife said into the phone, “Oh! Oh, it’s ok. It’s just some people selling Girl Scout Cookies. Sorry about that. Thanks.” Then she hung up. The guy explained to me that he was just watching out for things in the neighborhood.

“Yeah, sure. I understand. Did you want to buy some Girl Scout Cookies?”

“Uh, no. No thanks. Have a good day.”

So I’m stunned. This dude tried to interrogate me, got a bit angry with me, had his wife on the phone with what I assume to be the police, and then doesn’t buy a box of cookies???? What a fucker.

Several years ago when my daughter, S, was in third grade, her school had a technology fund raiser. These particular funds were raised by students selling items from the Sally Foster Catalog. Of course, there were incentives designed to motivate the students to sell. If a student collected X dollars, that student got to choose a prize from X level. If a student collected Y dollars, then that student chose a prize from Y level. S immediately saw what she wanted: A plastic coin-sorter slash bank in the shape of a combination lock. So, she sold what she needed to sell in order to meet the prize eligibility requirements.

A couple of weeks after the fundraiser was over, she picked up her prize. When I got home from work that day, she showed me how it worked and showed me how to do the combination. She was just so excited about it. About 8:00pm, her brother, Z, got hold of it and attempted to open it without using the combination. He succeeded, but broke it in the process. S was devastated. Cried and cried and cried. Now, S is a worry-wart. She frets and worries about things and works herself up to the point where she’s crying…usually about things that MIGHT happen tomorrow or next week. I knew that if I didn’t tell her something, she’d be up all night fighting back tears. So I told her that we’d take the sorter-slash-bank back to school, tell Mr. C (the guy who is in charge of the incentives) we discovered it was broken when we opened it, and ask if another could be ordered. This calmed her down and she was able to get a decent night’s sleep.

The next morning, I was thinking about it some more and, on our way to school, we talked about lying. I told her that I really really wanted her to have her sorter bank, because she worked so hard for it and it wasn’t fair that her brother broke it. But I also told her that I was afraid I would be teaching her a wrong lesson by lying about the circumstances of the damage in order to get what we want. What’s more, I told her that if we tell Mr. C that it was broken though carelessness, there’s a chance that he’d refuse to order another one because, hey, we didn’t take care of the one we had. She looked me right in the eye and said, “Dad, I know lying is wrong, but it’s just this one time.” Right away, my fears about her being taught a wrong lesson were solidified and it hit me like a hammer.

“Honey, is killing someone wrong?”

“Sure it is, Dad.”

“OK, but what if we did it just once? Just this one time?”

“No. Killing is wrong.”

“That’s right. So how is that any different from lying…just this once?”

“Because lying isn’t the same as killing someone. Besides, we’re talking about a plastic bank, not someone’s life.”

“True, but the idea is exactly the same. It’s wrong to lie/kill/steal/cheat, but it’s ok if we only do it just this one time. Does that sound right to you?”

“No.”

“So we’ll tell Mr. C the truth. That your brother broke it.”

“But what if he won’t order another one?”

“Then…we’ll kill your brother. Just this once. Honey, I don’t know what we’ll do. Maybe we’ll make Z give you his allowance until we can go buy another one on our own.”

We arrived at school and she went to her room, while I made my way to Mr. C’s office. I told him the truth about what happened, and asked if it were possible to get another one. He said, “Sure. I’ll return this one as “damaged upon receipt” and order a new one. Fill out this form and you’ll get it when it comes in.” I thanked him and left.

I remember how that got me thinking about the role that that lies play in our society. Clearly, there was no thought involved in Mr. C’s choice to mark the item “damaged upon receipt,” even though he knew that wasn’t that case. Just as there wasn’t any thought involved when I initially told S that we’d tell Mr. C that the sorter bank was broken when we got it. Reflexively, the instinct was to lie in order to get what we wanted. Lie to win. If lying is so ingrained…so indoctrinated into our culture…why is so much time and effort spent trying to tell children that lying is wrong? Aren’t they just going to grow up and make decisions about what’s “OK” to lie about and what isn’t anyway?

Fill this out about your SENIOR year of high school.
The longer ago it was, the more fun the answers will be.
And, if you’re so inclined… Do that “notes-copy-paste-answer-tag” thing!

1. Did you date someone from your school?
Yes

2. Did you marry someone from your high school?
Yes

3. Did you car pool to school?
Sometimes. I was always the driver

4. What kind of car did you have?
Yellow 1974 VW Super Beetle

5. What kind of car do you have now?
1995 Saturn SL1

6. It’s Friday night….where are you? (then)
Probably at Sue’s house playing Shanghai Rummy. One time, we took a picture of Mike who had fallen asleep on the couch.

7. It’s Friday night…where are you? (now)
At home, watching the DVR’d shows from the week.

8. What kind of job did you have in high school?
Critical Mass Media – Telephone Interviewer

9. What kind of job do you do now?
Critical Mass Media – Director of CATI Operations

10. Were you a party animal?
Absolutley not.

11. Were you considered a flirt?
Ummmm……maybe? I did like hanging out with the girls more than the guys.

12. Were you in the band, orchestra, or choir?
No, but I was in Drama club for one year (nherit the Wind)

13. Were you a nerd?
There were times when I could geek out.

14. Did you get suspended or expelled?
Nope

15. Can you sing the fight song?
Sort of:
Let us sing the praises of the bold Cavaliers
Let the hills and dales re-echo our cheers
As we march down the field let our voices cheer
Let the whole world know that we’re all Cavaliers
….and that’s about all.

16. Who was/were your favorite teacher(s)?
Mr. Salerno, Bro. Dan, Mr. Hamm, Ms. Foley, Fr. Kip

17. Where did you sit during lunch?
Wow. Just depened on the day. Or week. Or whatever. There’s no short answer to this question.

18. What was your school’s full name?
Purcell-Marian High School

19. When did you graduate?
1988

20. What was your school mascot?
A Cavalier

21. If you could go back and do it again, would you?
Ummm…I dunno. If it could be a “Peggy Sue Got Married” kinda thing, where I could go back but know what I know now….then yeah, in a heartbeat. Otherwise, probably not.

22. Did you have fun at the Prom?
It was just another dance, albeit a more expensive one. I liked before prom…eating at Formaggio’s Pizza and then taking a limo to the Norwood Delight Creamy Whip. But the dance was just a dance and there was no magical aura about it.

23. Do you still talk to the person you went to the Prom with?
Yep. Every day.

24. Are you planning on going to your next reunion?
Oh, HELL no.