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Student views life with mother

April 8, 1985

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) _ Michael Morris’ pajamas are a secret he conceals from his classmates by hiding the garment beneath the books, pencils and homework in his school bag.

″Whatever else is in there I stuff on top of them,″ he said when discussing his approach to life as the child of a single parent.

Michael, 7, boards a bus at 7:45 a.m. for Roosevelt Elementary School and does not get home until 11 p.m., spending the evening at a neighbor’s house while his mother is working.

″It is a hard shift because I don’t get to see him and he doesn’t see me,″ said Mary Morris, a 32-year-olf assembly worker. ″I put him on the bus in the morning, and that’s all I see of him until the weekends.″

Joan Moen, a school district social worker, said the number of families with one parent is growing.

When a single parent has to work to support the family, there is less time available for children who ″need contact with their responsible parent,″ she said.

″It is hard to find quality time when you are a single parent,″ she said. ″It may be a little more exhausting, but it certainly does work for a lot of people.″

It can be an especially difficult adjustment for a child who might feel some responsibility for an unpleasant divorce, she said.

″Kids carry a lot of garbage in their heads,″ she said.

Michael said he wishes he could spend more time at home ″because when I get lonely and my friends don’t want to play, I can just come home and talk to my mom.″

He said he sometimes feels the absence of a father, ″like when I want to go fishing and I can’t go, or up on the bluff for a walk.″

On the other hand, a single mother has its advantages, he quipped. ″When my mom spanks me, my father wouldn’t spank me harder,″ he said.

He is one of five single-parent students in Dirk Hunter’s 23-student first- grade class. Hunter said about half his students last year had single parents.

Teachers ″have to be sensitive to the fact that some kids don’t have dads, some kids don’t have moms, and some kids have never known their dads,″ Hunter said.

Parents have to be honest with their children about the reasons for being single, he said.

″The more open they are, the less damage to the child,″ Hunter said. ″It can really tear a child apart.″

″A lot of my job is setting those kids to believe in me and other teachers, that we are there to help them,″ he said. ″They need an outlet to talk about it.″

For the teacher, ″it can be a burden, but it is one that is well worth it,″ he said.

Hunter said he notices that Michael shakes hands with him at the end of the day rather than give him a hug as other students do.

″Maybe he has never had a man around that has hugged him,″ Hunter said. But he is ″a happy little boy. He is a good student.″

″He never gets on the bus without a kiss from me,″ said Ms. Morris.

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