The State Makes a Lousy Parent

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Ten years ago Dawn and I were in the produce section of Fareway and she asked (then) publisher, Brad Hicks if he would consider letting me write a column for the Hampton Chronicle. He consented!

Most of the letters to editors I had written in the past concerned economics. But the important ones dealt with education and family. It seemed like every year about this time there would be a cartoon in the paper about a mother happily anticipating the return of her children to school after summer vacation.

There couldn’t be a starker contrast with the way we felt about our kids. At home they were being educated all day long with a mother’s love. It was rewarding for all of us; no picnic all the time, but rewarding as the results unfolded. We educated them and the kids educated us in return. We cried as they stepped on the bus that first day of school.

No doubt, we had a huge advantage, being farmers with livestock, as my aunt often pointed out on her visits here. There was always work to be done and always different ways to do it. Those choices with consequences equaled an education that couldn’t be achieved in school. Independent of the work on the farm, there were learning opportunities springing up at every turn: hide-n-seek in the dark, driving some nails, hatching a clutch of turtle eggs.

The approach of fall brings the same basic topic but not in cartoon form. The Chronicle staff editorial cheered for publicly-furnished school supplies for all students. Our Statehouse Representative, Linda Upmeyer writes about child care as an issue for state government. Mrs. Upmeyer says, “… far too often the high cost of child care forces one parent to stay home and take care of their children.” She makes it sound like slavery.

In the Democratic presidential debates it came out that in 1981, Joe Biden was the lone vote opposing a federal child care tax credit. The measure passed 94 to 1.

Mr. Biden wrote, “I do not believe that the federal government should be a party to a system which encourages couples to place their children in day-care centers in order to acquire material possessions…” 

We now have a strange way of counting wealth in this country. We are spoiled. Sometimes it takes some time and effort to appreciate the joys of parenthood. At what point do we justify robbing someone for a pencil and notebook, or unnecessary toys? Is a huge TV or a restaurant meal a necessity that can only be achieved through the hard work of others?

I remember last year a new bus route was established in Hampton, a town of 4,000 people. Granted, I walked to school in California, not a place with winter. But I’ve worked 38 years on this farm keeping animals fed and watered every day. I didn’t have the taxpayers come out to thaw a frozen waterer. The good feeling I derived from providing for the animals and the kids cannot be measured and replaced by daycare tax credits. The time we spent walking through the neighborhood was a social occasion. It taught us how to fit into society, not a society of one age group like in a classroom; a real society.

From free school supplies to free daycare, we all want to help the kids. But the good intentions will not improve upon a natural system of generational interdependence any more than a band-aid will cure cancer.

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