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City Life: Spend time with your kids — now

September 06, 2010|By Steve Smith

My father was not a wealthy man. Not even close. But he now has something in common with Donald Bren, the billionaire chairman of the Irvine Co.

A few days before my father passed away 10 years ago, he told me he wished he'd spent more time with his four boys.

During Bren's testimony in the trial to determine whether he owed more money to two children born out of wedlock 18 and 22 years ago, Bren was asked by one of his lawyers whether he regretted not having spent more time with them.

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"I do," he replied.

My wife and I will never have that regret. In fact, our kids may be the first to tell you that they wish we'd spent more time at the office.

Tuesday is the first day of school for most of the kids in Newport-Mesa. Despite what they may say, most kids really like the first few days of school. Many of them have new clothes to show off and the return to school gives them a chance to reconnect with friends they missed over the summer.

Then, of course, homework and tests set in and it becomes the usual drag. And that's OK. School is not meant to be a nightclub or theme park. Preparing our children for adulthood and the development of their careers is a heavy responsibility. This is serious business.

That's not to say that school cannot or should not be fun. There is evidence that when kids are taught in a fun environment, they retain more. There is also evidence — recent evidence — that shows that teens who start their school day later retain more.

A recent study conducted at St. George's School in Middletown, R.I., shows that starting the teen school day just 30 minutes later significantly improves moods and alertness and reduces tardiness.

Unfortunately, in most school districts, moving the start of the day 30 minutes later would be easier than adding Calvin Coolidge to Mt. Rushmore. Besides the usual howling from the teachers unions, many parents would have to scramble to find alternative ways to get their kids to school so they can get to work on time.

Most parents are happy to drop their kids off at school each day, not only because they expect them to get a good education, but also because, for those few hours, the kids become someone else's responsibility, leaving them free to earn a living or do whatever it is they have to do that day. And that's a shame.

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