Jamie Patterson Managing EditorAs I dragged our son James towards the back of the church, it was apparent he wasn’t going down without a fight.
My face was beginning to turn red as James did the “dead weight” routine, collapsing his whole body on the floor while tugging at my arm. He even let out a few shouts of “Momma” and “I want Daddy.”
And as we “quietly” made our way out of the sanctuary, I thought to myself that this is punishment for all those times I gave my grandparents and mother more than they bargained for during Sunday services.
Where does he get this from, I asked myself as we make our way back to the nursery.
My husband Jason and I are trying to transition James from sitting in the nursery to actually being with us in “big church.”
He is four years old, and the time has come for him to sit between us during services.
I have this misconception that James will sit ever so quietly between us, hands folded in his lap. He will bow his head in silence with every prayer. He will attempt to sing every hymnal. And he will quietly take his seat in front of the congregation during children’s time and pay attention to the lesson.
When James enters the sanctuary, a few ladies immediately start praying. I have seen a few men give Jason that look of “I’ve been there, buddy.”
He never quietly takes his seat in the pew. He flings himself down, stretching his legs out like he thinks he is fixing to take a nap.
I have to threaten taking away a toy just to get him to sit up straight.
And then the questions start.
What are those people doing up there?
Why can’t I have another doughnut?
When are we going to sing another song?
Why can’t I color on this book?
Can I pretend I’m a bear?
And these questions are never whispered. They are questions shouted to the roof top. The pew in front probably has some spit sprayed on it from my aggressive “ssshhh.”
And James has only actually made it to “children’s time” about three times. The last time I had to remove him from the lineup at the altar because he began hitting himself in the face to get a few laughs. Somehow he was surprised to discover that I wasn’t laughing.
I know that James is still young and “boys will be boys.”
But as I drag him out every Sunday, I notice other children sitting quietly with their parents. They occasionally snicker or jump up for no reason. But they have never had to be escorted out.
When I was a little kid, Maw Maw would either give me “the look” or come over and pinch me. That was all it took for me to get in line.
And when I was really bad, she would get up in the middle of services and drag me to the back. I would return with a sore bottom, red face and a case of the sniffles.
But she certainly got my attention.
I know it’s just part of being a parent, and James will eventually get out of this stage and become more civilized in church. But it’s a long journey.
I know we will get down it soon enough. I managed to survive it myself when I was a kid.
As a child during church, I have been pinched, spanked and moved. I have received the Word of the Lord and the order of Maw Maw, all at once. I have been herded like cattle down the aisles. And I think the preacher said a personal prayer for me along the way.
But I came out all right, and Maw Maw and Momma survived too.
Sometimes I just wish they would have left me some tips or advice.
But where would the fun be in that?
Tim Kalich Guest ColumnistI commend Gov. Phil Bryant for his focus on reducing the rate of teenage pregnancy. I’m not optimistic, though, that his task force will accomplish much or that it’s even tackling the whole problem that hamstrings Mississippi and most acutely the Delta.
The Republican came to Holmes County last week to talk about teen pregnancy and his goal to reduce the rate by 17 percent by 2017.
Holmes County was a fitting place for his talk, since it’s a place where teen birth rates are epidemic — more than double the national average. But he could have picked almost any Delta county to make his point.
It’s an important one. Teen pregnancy has trouble written all over it — medical, social and financial.
The younger the mother, the greater the chance of complications during pregnancy, risking her health and that of her child. Babies born prematurely or with a low birthweight can experience developmental delays that can impact the rest of their life.
Teens who have children often don’t stop at one either. Of the 5,500 births last year to teen mothers, one out of five were at least that mother’s second child.
Teen pregnancy is a reliable predictor of poverty, lower educational achievement and dependence on government assistance.
The phenomenon is cyclical. Teen mothers tend to have children who will become mothers and fathers as teenagers as well.
As serious an issue as teen pregnancy is, though, it’s only a subset of a bigger problem — out-of-wedlock births to mothers of all ages.
Even as worthwhile an achievement as getting teenagers to postpone having babies until they are in their 20s might be, it would be of marginal benefit if most of their eventual offspring are still born out of wedlock. That’s a point Bryant isn’t making.
Targeting teen pregnancy is not controversial. Few people of any race or economic class will defend the wisdom of having a baby before finishing high school.
But what takes fortitude is criticizing adults who have children outside of marriage. Of the nearly 22,000 babies born last year to unwed mothers in Mississippi, the vast majority — 77 percent — were born to mothers who were 20 years of age or older. There were as many women between the ages of 25 and 29 having babies out of wedlock as girls a decade younger.
Talking about illegitimate births, though, isn’t the politic thing to do because they’ve become so prevalent and because they’ve been more common with one race. The race gap, though, is gradually closing. About 75 percent of black children today are born out of wedlock; for whites, it’s about 33 percent.
Mississippi, of course, is not alone in its tendency to forego marriage when it comes to child-bearing. Nationally, about 40 percent of children are born out of wedlock. That compares to 4 percent 70 years ago.
That means, in the course of roughly three generations, it’s become 10 times more likely that an expectant mother will be unmarried.
That is a larger epidemic than teen pregnancy, and yet America has become skittish about labeling it as such. It’s hard to criticize a life choice that is being made by people with whom you socialize, go to church or share kinship.
In the past, shame helped keep illegitimacy in check, but shame has gone out of fashion in a culture that says there are few absolutes when it comes to morality. The word “illegitimacy” itself is slowly becoming politically incorrect because of the potential stigma it carries for mother and child. Even Bryant, a cultural conservative, said in an interview a few months back about teen pregnancy that he didn’t want to come off as judging or labeling others. “We don’t want to condemn,” he said.
Such moral squeamishness, though, is part of the problem. When a society stops calling aberrant behavior wrong, it indirectly encourages it.
Certainly, there are children who are well-adjusted and thriving in single-parent homes, but they are not the rule. The rule is they are more likely to struggle in school, be stuck in poverty, have trouble with the law and have children themselves out of wedlock. Even when you equalize for income, recent research has shown that children raised in one-parent households are less likely to finish high school than those raised in two-parent ones. When high rates of illegitimacy are added on top of chronic poverty, it becomes almost impossible to escape government dependence.
Hollywood and the PC crowd will try to say that bearing children in or out of wedlock is irrelevant to how their lives turn out. They should spend a little time in the Delta, where more than three out of four children are born and raised in single-parent homes.
They might realize they are peddling a lie.
Bryan Davis Guest ColumnistThis is an open letter to the Mississippi Department of Education.
The bluffing has got to stop.
Yazoo City School District employees, administrators and the citizens of Yazoo City have heard the "stern" warnings so many times from the MDE that it has become nothing more than a stale bluff.
Dr. Laura Jones appeared before the Yazoo City School Board last week and issued yet another imperative that will likely go without action.
I am not for "state-run" schools. I am for community-run schools, but the Yazoo City community has proven that it is not capable of running the district or the individual schools.
The Yazoo City Board of Aldermen consistently selects school board members who have not delivered. The political structure consistently makes life hard on board members who want to make a true difference but cannot because it interferes with a political agenda.
The Board of Trustees have therefore consistently made poor decisions in their hiring and firing practices because it is all politically motivated.
If the community cannot elect aldermen who are qualified and competent enough to appoint qualified and competent school board members, then the community should and will lose its privilege of running its own sovereign school system.
I challenge anyone to find a school district as large as Yazoo City that has a Quality Distribution Index (QDI) score lower. Yazoo's is 92. I challenge anyone to find a school district in this state as large as Yazoo in which every school, including the elementary level, is failing or low-performing.
Most school districts are able to hold on to passing scores at least up until middle school. This is a reflection of poor leadership top to bottom.
If the Mississippi Department of Education does not see a state of emergency in the YCSD then I seriously call into question the qualifications and competencies of those running the MDE.
I don't think the Department of Education wants to take over the district or an individual school in Yazoo City. MDE is constantly walking the halls of YCHS, and they simply do not want any part of the responsibilities that will fall on their shoulders the minute they take the reigns.
If the so-called "accountability" was shifted from the teachers and administrators and put directly into the lap of the state department then that would expose just how inept the MDE really is.
If the MDE does accept this challenge then I strongly encourage some real house cleaning. Yazoo City does not need to see another round of shifting the power structure.
The state department took over the Oktibbeha County school district last week, and one head principal was removed from the position and simply made Assistant Principal.
If the MDE does take over the Yazoo City School District, it needs to make its number one focus to destroy and unravel the political strongholds that have held back progress for years in that community.
These are the strongholds that have kept any administrator worth their salt from effectively changing the system in any major way. They are what keep unqualified board members and administrators in power while they all shift the blame to teachers who receive little or no support throughout the school year.
With all due respect Dr. Jones, we have heard the speeches before. Put them to action.
If the MDE wants to prove to Yazoo and the rest of the state that it really is not qualified to effect change in the most drastic of situations, then let YCSD continue, business as usual.
If the MDE wants to prove to Yazoo and the state that it is capable of bringing the worst of our schools back from the ashes, then they will act immediately.
The entire Yazoo community deserves better than it has gotten from its aldermen, school board, superintendent, school administrators and the Mississippi Department of Education.
Yazoo native Bryan Davis is a former teacher at Yazoo City High School and is currently the managing editor of the Daily Times Leader in West Point.
Walter Patterson Herald ColumnistIf you watched the Vice-Presidential debate last week, you saw clearly why we need a change in Washington.
“Clueless Joe Biden” played fast and loose with the facts, and we saw a vice-president as phony as his implant hair and sparkling white dentures. The challenger, Paul Ryan, articulated a serious intellectual message to the American people that said, “We cannot continue the course we are on. We will be bankrupt on the course the Democrats have charted.”
“Clueless Joe” blamed Bush for the economic crisis we are in, but notice, he offered no solutions to the problems we face other than to hold on with both hands to social programs that are bankrupting our country and promise more “tax and spend” government. He held on to his and Obama’s “tax the rich” mantra. He declared that no part of Social Security would be privatized, and then he fudged on the part about Obamacare taking $716 billion out of Medicare. For a man who had spent all of his adult life in the Senate, his lack of basic knowledge was appalling. What was more appalling was his lack of a moral compass.
Biden is supposed to be a foreign policy expert. In fact, if you will take a stroll back in time, Obama selected Biden for his so-called expertise in this one area. However, he could not explain why our Ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans were slaughtered in Libya. He said he was told that a film made by an American Coptic Christian had so inflamed the Arab world that they went on a spontaneous rampage and attacked our embassy. There is just one problem. His own people have testified in Congress that this assertion is false. Even the mainstream press had the facts 24 hours after the killings had occurred.
No! The truth is that this film had nothing to do with the terrorist attack that killed our ambassador. Although he smiled, rolled his eyes, and showed great disrespect to Paul Ryan, he could never come out with the truth. I don’t know if we will ever know the truth, but Congress is on the case, and some very damning evidence has come out against the Obama administration. More will come out eventually, but that does not excuse the Obama Administration for their total incompetence in dealing with this terrorist attack. Paul Ryan said it best. “Obama’s and Biden’s foreign policy is unraveling right before our eyes.”
Biden claimed that Iran would never be allowed to build a nuclear weapon. “We will know exactly when they have the materials to build a bomb and something to put the uranium into.” Really? They did not know that a terrorist attack was going to occur in Libya against our Consulate, yet they will know exactly when Iran gets the bomb? Give me a break. This is nonsense. “Clueless Joe” was throwing mud against the wall hoping that something would stick. If Obama could not protect his own ambassador, how in the world can he protect America from a nuclear armed Iran?
I kept waiting for Paul Ryan to ask Biden about the one trillion dollar tax increase he and Mr. Obama are proposing. Biden purports to love the middle class. In fact, he says that he wants to “level the playing field” so that everyone has a fair chance. These are code words for socialism. Old Joe wants all of us to be equally miserable. The proof of this is the current job market. Our economy during the last quarter grew at 1.3 percent, and at this rate, it will take 25 years to get our employment rate back to where it was when George Bush was president.
This economy belongs to Obama, Biden and the Democrats. They have had four years to fix this economy and get people back to work. Instead, they blame George Bush, or they blame the Republicans for not passing another piece of socialist legislation that would only drive our country deeper in debt with no chance of putting people back to work.
This election is about jobs. We know that the Obama Administration cannot produce jobs and build a strong economy. They cannot even pass a Federal Budget, something that they have neglected to do for over three years. Mitt Romney is a business man, a successful business man. He understands basic economics, and he understands what it takes to get this country working again. Paul Ryan delivered that message to our country and to a disrespectful Vice President who couldn’t create a job if his life depended on it. The American people saw firsthand “Clueless Joe” continue to deliver a dangerous brand of Democrat incompetence, and there will be a day of reckoning soon.
Jamie Patterson Managing EditorThis weekend was a real eye-opener for me as I was reminded on several occasions how time was passing by so quickly.
My family and I traveled to south Mississippi this past Saturday for the annual Jackson family reunion. I always look forward to the reunion because it allows me time to show off my own family and mingle with my Paw Paw’s side of the bunch.
However, this year was a little different for me because I was reminded of how much older I am getting.
We loaded up the kids and headed down the interstate Saturday morning, ready to see old faces and dive into some great old-fashioned food.
I remembered the route like it was yesterday. We took the Crystal Springs exit off the interstate, headed into Georgetown where the old train engine still sits by the tracks and made a quick pass through Wanilla where Mrs. Wilson’s house still stood. The elderly lady who hemmed my pants for me every school season died several years ago, but her home could still be spotted from the highway.
The paper mill still sent that awful smell through the air, but I knew within seconds we would enter Monticello.
I knew I sounded like an old-timer when we first made our way into the city limits, but I couldn’t help myself.
“Ever since they put that darn new highway in, I can’t tell where I am going,” I said, gripping the steering wheel. “Why can’t they just leave things alone?”
I finally managed to snake my way around the new concrete passageway to find Nobles Road, where my grandparents lived all my childhood.
The heavy forest that ran along the country road was now completely cleared. The busy hum of the new highway could now be seen in the clear distance.
The brick house of my grandparents was still there. But the red barn that served as storage and a hiding spot for curious kids was gone.
Continuing down the road, I told my husband Jason who lived in every house. It was good to see those same names on a few of the mailboxes.
But it tugged at my heart to pass our own mailbox on the way back. The word “Jackson” was painted over. Now it said “Thames.”
The people in that house had no idea which room had been mine. They didn’t know about the flag pole that Paw Paw painted every year in the front yard. They were clueless about my faithful dog Roho who was buried under the magnolia tree in the yard.
My tire swing was gone. The old bell that I loved to ring had been removed. Paw Paw’s garden patch was covered with grass.
It was as if we were never there.
Heading through town, I shoved my arms out the window, busy telling Jason what place was what. We stopped at Ward’s and had lunch. Their burgers were still just as delicious.
Our old church still stood proudly on the corner. Paw Paw’s old high school had been converted to a visitor’s center. The Sonic still had teenagers under its covered parking.
But the Piggly Wiggly had been demolished. The old gas station that I bought ice cream at stood vacant. The old furniture factory was abandoned.
I thought about what else was gone as we made our way to the cemetery.
Looking at the dates of my relatives’ tombstones, it really hit me how time marches on. I was only 13 years old when my Paw Paw died. Now, I was hovering over his grave with my own two children.
It bothered me to think about all the things that had changed over the years as we made our way to the reunion in Laurel. Places change, people leave us. But we still push on, hanging on to those memories.
It continued to press at my brain until I sat down in the rocking chair at my great aunt’s house. Talking about the good old days with my second cousin, I remembered how we would travel to this same house many years ago for the reunion. During my childhood, Paw Paw would always bring us there for the Jackson family reunion.
The highway seemed more lonely now as the interstate could be seen in the distance. A few renovations were made to the house, but you could still see traces of the past. A few places at the dinner table were now empty, however.
But it brought a smile to my house to see my son James playing in the same spot in the yard that I played in when I was a kid. It was funny to see Elsie eating under the carport just as I did when I was little.
Taking a sip of coffee that morning on the front porch, I grinned at James as he ran through the same yard I had found happiness in during the reunions of long ago.
Places may change. People may come and go.
But the good things seem to carry on.