Tuesday, October 15, 2013

in loco parentis

first...  Many of my blog posts are offensive.  I really hope nobody takes this the wrong way.

4 and 3 and 2 jobs ago I worked as a school administrator. When I started out I was in my early 20s and my students were just about the same age.  I also went from being a graduate student with a part time job as an administrator to an administrator who was a part time graduate student.  It was a little weird.  But my supervise told me a Latin phrase "In loco parentis", In place of parents.  I had to come to terms with the fact that parents sent their kids to school and they expected someone to watch out for them.

I really didn't do that.  I did not go to work and watch out for the kids.  I did what I could to cover my ass.  I made my boss look good when it worked for me.  But for 20 years I did not act "in place of parents".

But then I stopped working it a school and started volunteering in my kids school a lot.  A LOT.  I chaperoned a lot of class trips and I helped out a recess on a regular basis.  I truly internalized the phrase In loco parentis.  For whatever reason, their parents were not on the trip, but I was.  I help them up when they fell and wiped away their tears.  I broke up fights and made them realize they were friends.  I cleaned them up when they got bus sick and bought them lunch when they forgot theirs.  They were not my kids but I was there and their parents were not.  I don't know how far I would have gone for any of the kids I was chaperoning.  I probably would have done whatever I would have done for my own child.

and then this happened.

Last Tuesday evening my son came back from Prospect Park and said there was a "crime scene" on Prospect Park West.  I didn't give it much thought till after dinner when I saw this on the Park Slope Stoop
POSTED 5:56pm: At about 5:15pm on Tuesday, a young boy was hit by a car on Prospect Park West at 3rd Street. According to the FDNY, they received a call about a 12-year-old boy being struck by a car, but they say the child was transported by Hatzolah, so they could not provide info on the boy’s condition, though there are reports on Twitter about serious injuries. There are also reports that the NYPD crash investigators have been requested to the scene.
So I went to bed knowing that my son was not making anything up.

In the morning I look at the update and it says this.

UPDATE 11:45pm: We are sorry to report that the NYPD has confirmed what a neighbor shared in the comments. The young boy passed away due to injuries sustained in the incident.
A website announcing Samuel’s — called Sammy — bar mitzvah notes that he was preparing to celebrate the big occasion in just over a month from now at Kolot Chayeinu here in Park Slope...................
When I click on the word bar mitzvah I instantly see this.

I can't breath.  Sammy was in and out of my kids' classes from kindergarten to 5th grade.  They were never best friends but I would not have minded if they were.  He was a good kid.  A really good kid.

I specifically recalled watching him play soccer during recess.  My daughter waked by and did not look his way.  I remember thinking that it would be ok if she looked his way in a few years.


I woke up early the morning of the funeral.  How could I go?  I would be any use to anyone.  I was already crying at 5:30 in the morning.  I turned to Facebook.


He was in and out of my kids' classes from kindergarten to 5th Grade. I can't count how may class trips I chaperoned with him.
But, he was not my kid, or even my their best friend. I hardly knew his parents.
So if I am crying now, am I supposed to be strong later at the funeral?
  • BB So so sorry Michael. The funeral will be a nightmare. You won't be strong. That's ok.
    PP Being strong means you will cry.
  • SL There's no way not to cry. A few years back when one of my students was hit by a truck, and died a bit later, I couldn't stop. It's about the loss, the senselessness, the tragic moments that happen and the moments you feel and know that his family will never share again..My thoughts are with all of you today.
  • DBG I don't think anyone is going to be strong at the funeral. We can lean on each other. We'll be there
  • JBG I won't be strong either. It's so very sad. But that's the purpose of the funeral isn't it? To cry and grieve together for this unspeakable loss. If it takes a village to raise a child, then that village will also mourn him. While the suffering of Sammy's family is exponentially greater than anyone's, we have all lost this child and mourn his death. I hope and pray for Gary, Amy and Tamar to be able to find some comfort during this.
  • SM I haven't lived in Park Slope for more than 14 years and don't know this family at all, but I'm crying. 
  • SRD Crying is wonderful. It shows you care. I am crying how. This is terribly sad. Everyone will be crying. Its more than OK.
  • CRB Cry, cry. You're not supposed to be strong. You're supposed to express what you feel. Since you can't move the clock back, cry.
  • DBM So sad! The same thing happened to a student of mine during the summer of 1997, and she was the same age. Everyone who knew her will remember her for the rest of our lives.

  • Some of these comments were left by friends that knew Sammy too, and some by friends and family that never knew him made it easier for me to pull it together. I needed to know it was ok, not to be ok. Becasue this was not ok.

    As a devout atheist who was bar mitzvahed himself, I found it odd to actually  listen to the Rabbi.  But when she said that the entire extended community was sharing the pain of Sammy's loss, I understood.  Yes, I hardly new him, but it hurt.

After the funeral I walked around the neighborhood.  It was scattered with 8th graders in black suits.  A few were eating lunch in front of their old school.  They were on they would have been with Sammy, a few years ago.  This was so wrong.

So, to Sammy's family, I know there is nothing I can say to reduce your terrible pain.  I just want you to know that there are people you never even met that share it.

    Would I have jumped in font of that van? 

    You betcha. 

     Everything would have been fine. 

     I wish.

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