Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

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‘Breaking Dad’ (Revised & Updated)

November 16, 2015

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Originally appeared on Buffalo Comedy.com September, 2014.

Imagine that you’re made responsible for a meth addict in your own home. Said meth addict trashes everything in your house on the regular, doesn’t get the memo when his entire body is running on empty and it’s time to go to sleep, and he can’t ever be distracted when he has a goal in mind (which is usually some insane directive like opening and closing a cabinet eighteen hundred times in a row or throwing all of your clothes on the floor to climb into a laundry basket and hang loose). Oh, and he makes a B.M. about five times a day and laughs directly at you making eye contact while he’s pissing on you. These are the beginning stages of parenthood.

I have a fifteen month old little angel named Benjamin. His favorite hobbies are: yelling at the top of his lungs while he barrels through the kitchen at warp speed 5, pulling all of my diet soda out of the fridge, throwing it on the floor and then yanking the shelving out, squeezing blueberries between his thumb and forefinger and grinding them into the carpet, and light napping. He has two speeds: psychotic hypomania and unconsciousness. His interests include: spinning wheels to figure out what their general deal is, terrorizing my rescue cat Morris and shitting out pigments that are as yet undiscovered by our standardized color wheel.

I love him more than I’ve ever loved anyone or anything combined and cubed. This has to be with the help of some strong evolutionary failsafe programmed into any parent’s DNA sequence. We protect and nurture our young so that we can maintain and occasionally further our species. You have to love them because they’re nigh-impossible to appease. Note that ‘nigh’ is the key adjective in that previous sentence.

I’m the first parent ever who thinks that their child is the cutest thing that ever scampered, scurried or scuttled. I’m the first parent ever who takes ten thousand pictures of his child blinking with snot running out of both nostrils, apple juice dribbling down his chin and the remnants of his lunch molecularly fused to his clothes like a hybrid Jackson Pollock painting and finds the photos to be adorable. I’m the first parent who thinks that when he pulls his own socks off, shoves a round peg into a trapezoid hole or monkey punches his fists into a xylophone that these are the early signs of genius. I can’t help it. I’m proud of my boy. There’s no avoiding the wave of emotion symbiotically associated with this tiny little perfect facsimile of myself.

I wrote a long time ago (‘March Of The Diapered Soldiers’ from First Person, Last Straw) that I didn’t know how to deal with newborns. If you can identify with that statement, let me make this small suggestion: practice, practice, practice. All it takes is the patience of a saint, the endurance of an Olympic athlete, the medical training of a Home Health Aide, the innate psychic abilities to determine how said newborn feels without verbalizing their emotions or even sending corresponding facial signals, and the olfactory knack of blocking out most of the smells that you’ll encounter around the clock. That’s it. If you can get the hang of that whole situation, you’re good. If you haven’t mastered some, any or all of that, there’s plenty of on-the-job training.

Caring for a child that you had a fairly substantial role in creating is the best way to comprehend the philosophy of living in the moment. You’re forced to mirror your baby, you can see the cogs and wheels and lights and buzzers going off in their head and because everything is new for them, everything becomes new for you again. Laying on the floor and looking sideways changes your perspective on the world so much that you want to do it again. Studying a toy in a way that you truly want to know what the object is inside and out and what it’s purpose is in your life helps you to understand it completely. Seeing other babies, meeting other human beings for the first time and marveling at animals, trees and motor vehicles are all experiences that you cherish and appreciate. Every second of every day is new and fresh and exciting. I haven’t lived in the moment like that since, well, since I was a child. Zen masters urge their followers to see the world through the eyes of a child. There’s a reason for that. It’s so you won’t take the world and everything it has to offer for granted.

If you asked me sixteen months ago or more, I would have told you that most stand up comics lost their edge and stopped being funny once they had kids. That might still be true. I can’t be objective about my life. No one can. Now, though, I get where all of those comics were coming from. They refined their demographic and started appealing to a different audience, mainly people who took the next step in their lives and decided to have children. I’m not saying it’s selfish not to have kids or that it’s a nobler decision to have them. Don’t even try to pull me into that debate. If you have them, though, you better love ’em with everything you’ve got. Go out, procreate and see if I’m wrong. If I am, you can piss all over me and laugh at the same time. I already went through the training module for that one.

buying up stock in Gerber,
Tom Waters

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There Will Be Piss

November 2, 2015

Elmo

“I can do anything I want!”
-Benjamin (whilst flying a cow riding a Jeep and wearing a Batman costume)

My son could grow up to be a serial killer or the President Of The United States, but I’d rather he grew up to be a decent person instead. Raising him is a soft touch. It’s my job to keep him grounded without crushing his dreams at the same time. I don’t want him to turn into every Only Child I’ve ever met, an entitled little shit, a schoolyard bully or another kid from the post-Millenial generation who gets trophies for failing. Everyone tells me that the Terrible Threes are a lot worse than the Terrible Twos. Right now we’re somewhere in between. Developmentally, it’s an exciting and frustrating time. He’s learning the power of Please along with the crushing realization that No is also a possible response. We’re learning and doing a lot of things for the first time (or some cases, the first time in a long time) together.

Here’s the thing about potty training: You’re going to wind up with piss everywhere. Piss on the bathroom floor, piss in the bed sheets, piss on the couch, piss on the ceiling, piss on the cat…in a nutshell, piss everywhere but the potty. To the best of my understanding, the goal of potty training is to eliminate all the variables and piss on absolutely everything until the only option left is the potty. Make friends with piss because there’s going to be a lot of it. I also strongly recommend a foam-based antibacterial agent. In every room.

Eventually, there’s a golden shower at the end of the rainbow. Or is it a light at the end of the urethra?  You know what I mean.  After months of urine-soaked pets, irreplaceable collectibles and all-weather indoor carpets that aren’t covered for Acts Of Juice, you can look forward to upending a concave race car with piss sloshing around in it into the actual toilet. Or some other officially licensed movie/cartoon/toy-inspired miniature commode. Contrary to what you might think, it’s not as glamorous as it sounds, but it’s my duty as a daddy. There was a ‘doody’ pun that could have been utilized there, but I fucking hate puns, so I sidestepped it.

And for the record, I really, really hope that Freud was wrong, because I don’t want to mess my kid’s entire life up by either rushing him to the toilet or telling him to take his sweet time. Sigmund Freud was a cokehead with a cross sampling of kinky Austrian housewives, so he was probably wrong. In the unlikely event that he knew what he was talking about, I’ve chosen to stop using a flare gun when my son sits down on the toilet. I have a distinct memory of crapping my pants in Kindergarten and getting sent home, so I would not be classified by Freudian standards as ‘Anal Retentive’. Subsequently, I grew up to be a portrait of perfect mental health (plus or minus three neuroses). I had a small amount of psychological blowback that stems from getting sent home from Kindergarten for crapping my pants, though. At least it didn’t happen last week at work.

There’s a bittersweet realization every day I’m with my son that he will only be two years and four months old once, or two years, five months and five days old once, and so on. This age will never come back around and no matter how I try to slow it down or wring every second out of every day, it goes by too quickly. I understand why couples keep having children now. They want to go back. They want to hang on to it. This sweet, bear-hugging cuddly age will only last so long and then it’s gone forever. I’m going to be the daddy blowing his nose into his shirt sleeve the first day of Pre-School. Possibly the dad who kisses his son on the cheek dropping him off at middle school. I’ll be the old man blubbering in the back of the auditorium at his high school graduation. But I’m projecting. I really do love him to pieces, even when he’s being a little monster. On those days, he takes after his mother.

I’ve learned to do a lot of things that I wouldn’t normally enjoy or do by myself. We’ve been to every park, nature reserve and playground in a five mile radius. Helpful Hint: Most playgrounds that are structurally engineered for three foot persons are not also suitable for those who are six foot three. We’ve been to a number of petting zoos. Helpful Hint: Wear durable shoes. You’ll know why later. We’ve been to ice cream parlors, toy stores and donut shops. That’s where the word No (strongly, firmly and with conviction) comes in handy along with a predesignated exit strategy in the extremely likely event of tantrums.

Being a parent means training a tiny life form what it is to be a human being. I’m still wrapping my head around what that means, but I’m doing the best I can. It means saying sorry after you bomb a long pass into someone’s foot with a five pound musical snail. That it’s not acceptable to eat microwave popcorn at 8:30 in the morning. Or that it’s not okay to watch the feature length motion picture The Incredibles immediately after watching the feature length motion picture The Incredibles. What’s great is that I got sober shortly after he was born, so we’re both finding out how to adjust to the world together at the same time. To be quite frank, my peeing aim is only slightly better.

Signing our name in the snow for our postgraduate semester,
Tom Waters

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Like A Yo-Yo-ing Hole In The Head

October 1, 2015

I lose what little sanity I have left every time I’m behind the wheel.

Ten years ago I got a speeding ticket for going 55 in a 30 past a police station. My bad. I’m thankful for that though, because I learned in the mandated driver safety course that police only target motorists who speed in excess of 11 miles over the limit. From that point forward I’ve driven ten miles over the posted limit, no more, no less. Life is too short to go 30 miles an hour and I really wish everyone would incorporate this philosophy into their subroutine. As a result, I’ve become more aggressive when driving than I was to begin with, and I was pretty angry before that particular ticket (which is not to be confused with the citation
I got for going 50 through a 30 mph school zone in the summer).

I scream at people in front of me knowing full well that they can’t hear me. I have entire one-sided dialogues with them whether they know it or not. I get that from my mother, who (fortunately for everyone else on the road including passing deer) retired from driving fifteen years ago after a long and illustrious career of vehicle-totaling mishaps that were usually her fault. If I’m stuck behind a slowpoke for five minutes I will pass them out of spite and give them the ‘Thumbs Up’ gesture when we make eye contact. Giving people the middle finger when driving is now officially passe’. It is no longer fashionable. I was a passenger in someone’s car when they gave a neighboring driver the Thumbs Up and loved it instantaneously. It’s insulting, sarcastic and really conveys your dissatisfaction in the quality of their ability to operate a motor vehicle. Shaking your head at people in disgust is good too, but you have to make sure that they see you doing it. I usually pair my Thumbs Up by verbally telling them (or mouthing the words) ‘You’re doing a great job!’ I don’t have road rage. I have road psychosis. I am not a patient man, even less so when I’m trying to get somewhere in an expedient manner, which just so happens to be all of the time.

We’ve all taken the same permit test when we were kids so we’re all on the same page with the notion that the fast lane is located in the left hand lane. That’s an established rule of infrastructure, right? As a result, I am infuriated by anyone’s flagrant violation of this rule. Same thing with turning signals. We all have them. We all know what they do. So fucking USE them. And try using them for longer than a quick blink right before you turn. I blow my top when people are going under the speed limit and cars to the right of me are lapping us. I don’t have any desire to street race or show off my car’s ability (or inability) to go from 0-60 in five seconds, but again, ten miles over the speed limit is legally acceptable, so why wouldn’t you do THAT? These three things short circuit my brain. I flip my shit. I lose my mind.

What’s really challenging for me these days is self-censoring my automotive hate speech in real time for my son. He’s at an age now where he repeats everything he hears and that’s no bueno. All it took was one blasphemous obscenity parroted from the back baby seat before I started making a concerted effort to alter my snappy insults for an All Ages Audience.

‘Move it, F&$K-face!’

-has turned into:

‘Move it, Yo-Yo!’

and:

‘Real nice, you @$%&*!#ing c*&%$#-s#%&ing m@#$%er-@#$%!’

-has been replaced with:

‘I need to get to work, Yo-Yo!’

That is my new go-to when Little Pitcher is strapped into his miniature regulation seat behind me. The last thing I need is reports from Day Care or (even worse) his mother that he’s demonstrating and reciting a College-Level swearing proficiency. I need that like a yo-yo-ing hole in the head.
There’s a small risk that what I’m about to say is controversial, but I’m going to say it anyway. If you’re over the age of 60 and you can’t drive the speed limit, use your blinker or remain within the clearly marked boundaries of any one lane while puttering forward in a straight line, do the rest of us a favor in three easy steps:

1. Pull over to the side of the road.
2. Dig a shallow hole.
3. Climb into it.

Again, that may not be the most politically correct viewpoint, but it’s mine and I’m going to own it. Old people should get the Ever-Loving Yo-Yo off the road. Most of them. And stay off. Furthermore, if you’re going to buy a Buick, be the one person who doesn’t perfectly illustrate the stereotype. Drive faster than 32 miles an hour during rush hour traffic. Use your turning signal to tip fellow travelers off to the fact that you’re going to cut through three separate lanes because you forgot where your poop doctor was located until the last minute. Buy some sunglasses that don’t make you look like Cyclops from the X-Men. That’d be a good start. Or if you don’t fit this demographic, buy a Buick and prove me wrong.

Navigating traffic is a combination of simple math and prejudgement for me. If one lane out of two has forty cars to my immediate front, I glide into the other lane. Statistically, more cars equals more people driving slower than Mr. Magoo on Quaaludes, so the lane with the least cars is least likely to contain idiots. Or more likely to contain less idiots. The fast lane isn’t always fast, and it’s less likely to be fast if there are forty cars ahead of you. If I see a school bus, a garbage truck, a Buick with a miniature mummified corpse operating it, an F150 truck with a short bald guy driving it or especially a minivan (a vehicle and subculture of driver I’ve written about at great length elsewhere) I get into the other lane.

Does everyone with an F150 truck have a quarter inch cock or just the guys? Why does every gargantuan ginormous truck owner have to be a four foot bald man packing a shriveled and flaccid Vienna sausage? Why is that? The simple answer is overcompensation, and the simplest solution is typically the correct one. I see more F150s in Buffalo than you would reasonably expect and it makes no sense. I have never seen anyone in Buffalo using their oversized truck to scale the side of a majestic mountain like they do in the commercials. I have never seen anyone in Buffalo hauling half a forest full of logs in their sterling silver flatbed. I have never spotted a ‘Hemi’-powered vehicle maneuvering through a mud-caked field in some grand off-roading excursion adventure getaway.

What purpose does it serve to drive a gas guzzling behemoth? Is your pee-pee so small that you can’t bear to leave the house unless you negotiate a step-stool or repel into the cavernous cab of a truck? Do you have so much disposable income that you need a higher monthly payment on the vehicle that gets you from Point A to Point B? Do you enjoy hanging out at the gas pump so much that you need an excuse to be there more often because your motorized carriage flash-fries fossil fuels? I’m not a carbon footprint worry wart, but show me any practicality behind that buying decision because I can’t find it. Why is it always a tiny bald guy with a chip on his shoulder driving a truck or a silver-haired septuagenarian hunched over the wheel of a Buick? That’s either brilliant marketing on the part of automotive manufacturers in targeting their core demographic or a case of life imitating stereotypes.

I’m not a ‘car’ guy at all. I have a visual deficiency whereby they all look like boxes to me. Literally. I couldn’t tell you a make or model by looking at it to save my life. They are mostly steel carriages that transport us from one spot to another in my mind, no more, no less. They are holes that we dump money into until they reach the point where they’re more expensive to repair than they are to replace. That’s it. I don’t even wash my car anymore. I used to take it to the car wash once a year when I got my tax return, but I don’t even do that anymore. It’s not that important. Passengers have pointed out that I need to clean the inside of my windshield due to excessive tar buildup and I quit smoking a year ago. I cannot change my own engine oil. I have no interest in learning how. I’ve seen the steps leading up to changing a tire, their sequence and the reasons behind them, but probably couldn’t do that either if the scenario presented itself.

The last time I popped a flat, my girlfriend came over and changed it for me. This is how inconsequential cars are to me. So I don’t grasp how many grown men have created a culture out of classic cars, muscle cars, souping up their cars, souping up their sound systems, racing their cars, working on their cars in their garages and so on and so forth. One of my best friends is a car guy. He even works at a car dealership. We never talk about it. On the occasions that it crops up in conversation, my brain glazes over or taps out until he pulls me back into it. I cannot identify a piston, a carburetor or a flux capacitor in a lineup. I don’t know what they do, nor do I care. We’re from two different worlds, but we still get along. It would probably make for a good sitcom pilot that no one would ever watch.

I’m trying to become a better person, but my driving persona will be the last aspect of my psyche to get an overhaul. All of my worst character defects are on full display like a dashboard hula girl with Tourette’s. Presently, I’ll take a partial progress grade of Thumbs Up.

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‘It’s All About The Benjamin’ goes live on BuffaloComedy.com

March 2, 2015

It's All About The Benjamin

Writing Travesty has been entirely too much fun so far!  And the more I think about it, the more I would prefer to let the book’s release slip to 2016 rather than rush publication.  We’ll see how the year plays out, though.  I’ve been approaching my writing and, by extension, the release of any future books from an entirely different perspective.  I don’t want to rush books anymore.  I don’t want to cut corners or shove a second draft out.

Anyway, the latest essay (‘It’s All About The Benjamin’) went live on BuffaloComedy.com this morning.  It’s a categorical humor essay about early parenting.  It went through about four different drafts and re-writes before I was happy with it, but I’m pretty proud of the finished product.  If you’re a parent, you’ll really enjoy this one.  Even if you’re not, there are a lot of laughs per sentence here:

It’s All About The Benjamin

I was reluctant to go back to the well so soon where being a single dad was concerned, but after putting some thought into it, I reached the decision that ‘Write What You Know’ overrides any other factors in play.  This essay was originally 6 or 7 rules and kept building until it reached 10.  There’s not a lot of fat on this piece.  I tried to write (and re-write) it efficiently without a lot of extraneous exposition.  I hope you like it.

Please take an extra minute to give it a FB Like, a Retweet or a ‘Share’ on any of your various social networking.  I’m happy to share some of my works in progress for free and this is a small way that you can return the kindness.

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Taking The Super Right Back Out Of Superintendant

June 25, 2008

Author’s Note: This was an assignment from Buffalo Rising ( www.buffalorising.com) that may or may not see the light of day. My esteemed associate editor informed me that she ‘got more than’ she asked for. I truly enjoyed writing this piece, though, and feel that it deserves to see some publication as an explosive take on the McKinley High School issue. Please let me know what you think, Buffalo. Sincerely,

Tom Waters

 

Taking The Super Right Back Out Of Super-Intendant

-or-

A Great Gaggle Of A Beautiful Mind-F*%k

 

Over the course of the last six months, the names Jayvonna Kinccannon, Crystalanne Barton and James Williams have become household names in Buffalo. Symbols of a classic struggle, bastions of discussion around the water coller (has anyone honestly had a conversation around a water cooler?), and key players in an argument that’s gotten people stirred up enough to forget about their own conflicts for at least a little while. A student who’s been railroaded by disciplinary action. A principal who’s gone mad with power. A school superintendent who’s too busy tucking his tail between his legs to accept the blame who passes the buck until no one else will take it in the hierarchal cluster-f&*k that this PR catastrophe has turned into. It’s become a chance for everyone to weigh in on the Buffalo Public School system.

-Let’s stop a second. Take a breath. Are you ready? Here we go:

I side with the Buffalo Public Schools. Yep. And this isn’t a ‘take the opposite stance on the issue for the sake of being different’ situation. Normally, I refuse to weigh in on politics, religion or sports. When my new handlers at Buffalo Rising pitched the op-ed concept to me, I backed away waving my hands in the air comically. But then the issue sat and festered with me for a day. And one unrelenting bitch of a workday hammered it home into my bourbon-soaked brain that wait a minute, I’m actually qualified to give forth my two cents on the issue. After every living radio broadcaster, popular-opinion whoring columnist and left-leaning alternative pundit has proffered their opinion (and possibly past the point where anyone is still listening), this scribbler has some small degree of experience regarding the topic of education in downtown Buffalo.

-I worked downtown for over three years. Front and center on the tarmac of the blast radius of the colossal cluster-fuck of cyclical socioeconomic stupidity, ignorance and arrogance that the core demographic of the city youth project.

I’m siding with Crystalanne on this one. After seeing the majority of Buffalo’s, how shall we say?, less privileged or pampered youth grow up, drop out and/or work their way into the streams of their desired revenue streams, I’ll stand right behind the principal. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that, competent or not, James William is a spineless jellyfish with all the administrative prowess of a pet rock. That’s a losing battle. Yet here we have a tenured city school principal who (while she perhaps went too far and then some) is living with the 1,000 mile combat stare of dozens of generations of mostly impossible odds.

This is the death of the nuclear family. This is the lack of some strong father figures in the household. This is the weight of years of cynicism, a blind and near-incomprehensible mob mentality in urban youth and a next to invisible presence in the crucial upbringing of our city’s children. This is poverty, famine, addiction and a near-suffocating set of less than idyllic value systems being passed on to impressionable off-spring.

We don’t know all the details on the McKinley High fiasco. We probably never will. As a creative writer with a few journalistic instincts, it’s problematic at best to make sweeping statements about a situation that’s been bandied about as a study in absolutes.

Perhaps Ms. Barton over-reacted just a smidge in her disciplinary duties as a figurehead at McKinley High. But I’ve seen first-hand what the onslaught of stupidity, the total lack of grammar and enunciation, the mindset that ignorance, willfulness and petty threats can do to a person. I know because I’ve been in the belly of the beast on that one. I’ve talked with Buffalo Police for years and heard their jaded souls crying to make a small dent in the powder-keg that downtown Buffalo often is. There are some stupid, stupid children in Buffalo.

And the majority of the blame falls on the parents (or lack thereof).

You don’t agree? Fine. Someone had to say it, though. I’ve known genuinely altruistic numbered-school educators beaten down by the weight of their humble task of trying to get through to the handful of kids who showed up, didn’t cause trouble and who genuinely wanted to learn. I’ve seen dozens of children day in and day out on the weekdays skipping school just to wander aimlessly, beat up older residents, work a small con or resort to petty theft. When does the blame stop? When do we stop looking everywhere to vent our anger and start coming to the revelation that children (ideally) should be getting more of their interpersonal and educational skills from the home?

I’ve known teachers who have died inside after seasons of trying to make a difference who become so burnt out from the constant assault of pure idiocy that they shut down inside and drift through their workday, through their careers. I’ve known children who grew up too fast and turned into armed felons, repeat offenders and drug dealers who peel off stacks of fifty dollar bills tied together with a rubber band. I’ve watched every season of The Wire in mute fascination at what a poignant mirror it holds up to the Buffalonian politic in the light of day. Sure, pretend it’s not true. I’m not talking a black and white issue here. This isn’t blacks. This is black, white, gray, calico and otherwise.

Drugs, poor parenting, and a melting pot boiling over at the seams and eating away at the burner. A perceived lack of career options and a ‘why try’ mindset in the cauldron of hate and ignorance in the young mind. I side with Crystalanne more than most citizens. I’ve worked in the heart of the city. A city that’s going slowly mad that practically took me with it. A city where guns go out of the back of convenience stores and wind up in the Police blotter mere weeks afterward. A city where teachers are terrified of small-minded children a fraction of their age because they can’t understand what motivates them or because they’re suckers for a style of intimidation that their small-town values and high-priced education never prepared them for.

I’m not here to hand out solutions, but a great deal of the children in the public school system are misunderstood monsters who need to have their sense of entitlement ripped away from them along with a swift kick in the ass before they fall into a lifelong cycle of either violence, suckling at the teat of public funding or becoming the patriarches and matriarchs of another splintered nuclear family.

Show me the families that sit with their children to review their homework. Show me the parents who reward their children for good manners, good behavior, respect for their elders or a commitment to learn and a hunger to climb the educational ladder beyond basic education. They’re one in a million. I’ve met these families, but they are so few and so far between that it’s heartbreaking.

Exposure to the truth of the matter for prolonged periods can have long lasting and life-altering effects. It’s all well and good to throw concepts and ideals and pie-in-the-sky scenarios together from the cushy comfort of the suburbs or if you have no clue what you’re talking about from the hallowed, privileged desk of a newsroom or an AM radio station. Get real. I’ll say it again. Grow up and get real. The public school system is only a fraction of a larger puzzle, and family (or the lack of family) is at the heart of the issue. Public schools need work, but family planning, positive reinforcement, and an added emphasis on coaching in the home take precedence before any of these other issues can be looked at.

This can’t possibly be what my handlers were looking for at Buffalo Rising, but it’s one hell of a way to introduce myself. Hello, Buffalo. You’ve heard everyone else’s two cents in the din of frenzied voices crying out at the top of their lungs to be heard on this issue and now, begrudgingly, you have mine. Work with your children. Break the cycle. There’s only so much our educators and administrators can do with an eight hour day, a five day week and a school year that’s woefully getting whittled down year by year because the faculty would rather take a ‘mid-spring recess’ after Easter and design a few other days off than deal with the nightmare they look square in the face every week. Good luck, Buffalo. You’ll need that and then some. I’m just glad I’m not confronted with it anymore.

Tom Waters

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