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Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Parenting Crisis IV: Chas V'Shalom you actually raise your children, More crassly know as "Don't breed 'em if you won't raise 'em"

The following letter appeared in last week's Yated and is so disturbing, yet so demonstrative of current trends in the (lack of) child rearing, that it deserves its own post and discussion. So, dear readers, please add your comments.

While the letter writer may be extreme, the underlying attitudes that she takes, are actually fairly common in my estimation. The fact of the manner is that there are plenty of people who approach child rearing in a very self-centered way. They do not want to be inconvenienced by their children and their needs. They do not want to interrupt their own schedules for the good of their children. Basically, they want to have the children and let someone else take responsibility for them.

Dear Editor,
Having just finished Chanukah vacation, I feel that mid-winter vacation is uncalled for, in regard to the younger grades, at least. Children ages 3 to 11 do not need a long break. Here in Lakewood, as well as in New York, most mothers are working. Mid-winter vacation causes a tremendous strain on the families as to what to do on Friday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc. Let me propose the following:

If the schools want to give a break, great! Let them take the kids on special trips, which everyone would love. Schools can have drama groups, dance, choirs, etc. Making everyone happy! If the teachers refuse to do this, let them hire people, or accept volunteers from the older girls, who need experience.

On top of the sheer absurdity that teachers, who have to deal with children day in and day out for longer waking hours than the parents will ever have to endure, do not deserve break for their own benefit, is the underlying attitude of entitlement. Everyone else (i.e. teachers and teenagers) should take responsibility for these parents' child, except, of course, the parents.

One would not buy a dog and then insist that the neighbor's child should entertain and walk the dog voluntarily! Why should one have children and then expect everyone else to pick up the slack (voluntarily, no less) while they go out to work or learn. At the very least, offer to pay for your demands!

While on this topic, I feel that schools in general show disrespect for parents in a different way. Dismissal days when there is no busing is at 2:30, 2:45, 3:00 and 3: 30 for different ages, necessitating anyone who has more than one child to spend countless time and effort picking up the kids. Can't the times be consolidated?

I certainly have no argument with this point. Elementary school dismissal time should be uniform, especially parents are required to pick their children up. A parent should be able to pick up all children attending the same school at the same time. Same goes for vacation time. It is important for families to spend time together. Time is the most important ingredient to keeping families together and connected. Vacation time should be scheduled at a time that is best for parents and the mid-winter January break is hardly qualifies for most.

Or, when a kid is punished, the parents receive a phone call from the school: Your child is being punished. Come pick him up now. It doesn't matter if the mother or father is working, or the father is sitting and learning.

Trying To Make a Living

As I like to say, there is one job that you cannot pay someone to do. You can pay someone to clean your home, watch your child, or teach your child. But, you cannot expect any of these people to actually raise you child because they do not have a long-term vested interest in doing so.

For the sake of the school environment and the sake of the child, it is absolutely necessary to involve the parents in discipline. The teachers are the agents of the parents, but to successfully do their job they need the involvement of the parents. When I was in (public) elementary school, I believe that nearly every mother was within a 15 minute walk or drive from the school, whether they worked or stayed at home. The school could build the discipline it needed to build because the parents were available, not absent.

But, what is the most disturbing aspect of this letter is the attitude that even the FATHERS WHO ARE SITTING AND LEARNING cannot be bothered to enforce the discipline that is so necessary for their own children's wellbeing!!! These fathers are local and available. They are not far away, nor are they unavailable, unlike their wives who must attempt to be the breadwinner. What good is a Torah if you don't put it into practice by being mechanech your children?

Yes, many mothers need to work (especially those that opted for a live where their husbands do not work), but when you have children you are responsible for them and their development. You will be inconvenienced, so expect it and accept it.

As the saying goes, "Don't breed 'em if you won't raise 'em." It may be crass, but in this case it is applicable.


Ger Tzadik said...

My one quibble: Teachers do deal with your children, but because they are paid to. Schools for children are still not year-round affairs, which means teachers get plenty of time for themselves and their own pursuits. Forcing an irregular schedule onto parents can make it difficult to plan how you DO want spent your precious time with your kids.

I'm all for school breaks for kids, I just think some schools go overboard with them when there is little good reason to.

SephardiLady said...

Ger Tzadik,
I'm not exactly sure where we disagree. Teachers are being paid to deal with the kids, but they still need parental support. It is only when things get out of hand that a parent is called in.

As for the irregular schedule, I highly endorse a normal schedule with uniform dismissal. The varied dismissals cause a lot of unnecessary difficulty for parents.

Thanks for commenting! I really need more people to ring in because that is part of the fun of blogging, right?

Ger Tzadik said...

Ok, I thought perhaps you were saying that parents shouldn't complain about mid-term breaks, but I see I was just misunderstanding you.

I think part of your dearth of comments is that your posts are well thought out to the point of making it impossible to dissent without having to go look up sources. They seem almost as well laid out and researched as a law paper. (Are you in law?)

Anyway, you make your point so well that I find any comment I want to make is usually along the lines of: "I agree." Not exactly thought provoking. :)

SephardiLady said...

Thanks for the compliments. I'm a pretty analytical person. No law degree, but I have plenty of legal experience that came with my background in accounting and business. I'm trained in technical writing and tend to go straight in for the kill.

Readers, I'd be happy to even see short comments or an anecdote. With almost 350 readers of the sitemeter, I'd love to see more comments.

Anonymous said...

You are right that teachers or older girls (or boys) should be paid to do age appropriate outside sports or cultural activites with kids and not expect volunteers when there are school breaks but the schools should take control of setting them up. Schools shouldn't just give off time and insist a parent has to take off from work when the schoool wants to.
Even during school days, schools should have appropraite supervised after school rooms staffed till working parents can get home. My sons elementary school after school room (which you paid extra for) closed at 4:30- how many working parents can get home by then?

Jewboy said...

Good points. I was learning in a kollel for the first year of my marriage, and we had a baby not long after Pesach. For the remander of the term I took off afternoon seder to be with the baby. This was an unconventional move in my little circle, but I felit it was justified. I wanted to actually spend time with my baby and help my wife take care of him. Now that I'm in law school I'm actually able to spend more time with the baby. Unbelievably, I've heard that some of my friends who are still in yeshiva don't really see their babies except on Shabbos. They leave at 8 in the morning and return at close to 7 at night, and babies go to sleep around then. I respect kollel guys, but that cannot be the right way to do things. I cannot understnand how so many yeshiva guys spend so little time with their young children in the name of learning. Like you say Sephardilady, what good is learning if you don't use it to raise your kids?

queeniesmom said...

I can only imagine the type of child this letter writter is raising. Her sense of entitlement must make teaching her child(ren) a real pleasure!

I teach (public school) and am a yeshiva parent, vactions conflict arrangements have to be made, that's why you higher a babysitter. Yes, PAY, not ask for childcare for free under the guise of chesed hours. Everyone needs down time, you try teaching a class of kids day in and day out, without getting burned out. That's why vacations were invented, even little kids are entitled to time off to play as they wish.

Having children means growing up and behaving like an adult. Key word: RESPONSIBLITY. Blaming the teacher for your decision to have x# of kids, sit and learn, etc.. is not their fault, it's yours but I suppose those are foriegn concepts to many people.

I live in hope that this will happen but after what I witnessed shopping the other day between a newly married couple I doubt it. Someone needs to seriously reteach, reinforce the concept of derech etetz kadma l'torah. you can sit and learn allt he gemorrah you want and study in Israel, kolle, etc. all you want but basic common decency and courtsy are seriously lacking in many of this group. Miss Manners anyone?!

Have a good shabbat.

jdub said...

I agree with you, SL, with one exception. While staggered dismissal times is a major pain (for my wife, not for me), what can you do about it? My 2 1/2 year old and 4 year old only go to school until noon. My second grader is in school until 3 (or so, I'm not sure, to be honest). It doesn't make sense, to me, to have little kids in school for much longer, and you can't shorten elementary school or high school days.

I do think this has become a big issue with women working. School has become a substitute for a parent staying home or day care. since my wife is a stay-at-home mom, it's less of an issue for us.

Scraps said...

When I was in elementary school, there was an after-school program that my siblings and I went to every day until we were old enough to stay home by ourselves. Our parents worked, and they needed someplace for us to go until they were free (which was only about two hours after dismissal, anyway). However, this program was not run by the school (though it was conveniently located in another wing of the same building), so it wasn't an additional strain on the teachers. I agree that both teachers and students DO need time off, and parents just have to deal with that. I spent many vacations when I was young at my parents' workplaces--but at least they didn't abdicate responsibility for taking care of me.

SephardiLady said...

It is so great to see the comments rolling in. I really enjoy seeing a discussion forming.

Jewboy Welcome. I checked out your blog and really enjoyed it. I hope you will stick around and add your unique perspective. And, it is sad that there are not more fathers out there who are willing to take an "untraditional" role for the good of their children and their household.

queeniesmom Great to see you back. For time in memorial parents have made arrangements for their children when they were not available. Why today is any different is beyond me!?!

jdub I was only addressing elementary school, not preschool. I also don't think it is a good idea to have little kids in school for unreasonable hours. I was only addressing mandatory school (i.e. K-12). I know who difficult it is when parents have to pick up their 4th grader an hour later than their 1st grader.

In terms of "School [becoming] a substitute for a parent staying home or day care," I think you are right on the money. The great increase in pre-school enrollment is really correlated to women working. I just read an interesting stat. In 1976 there were 1/2 a million pre-schoolers. In 2005 the number was 5 million.

scraps When a school offers a program, parents start to feel it is necessary. It is much better for a program to be arranged by a businessman even if the program is on the school grounds. If there is a demand and a profit to be made, there will be someone to provide a program.

It seems that the letter writer wants, but isn't willing to pay. This is a pretty common attitude and that is why you don't see anyone organizing after-school programs until 7PM at night. If a parents doesn't want to pay, they need to organize a co-op with other mothers in the same boat.

Ezzie said...

SL - I don't have much to add on this post, but one note on comments... some posts are as GT said: Well-written to the point that there's little to add. I've noticed that my (IMO) best posts get almost no comments.

But you will get anecdotal comments such as the ones above...

And of course, keep churning out great posts like this, and you'll keep gaining readers. It took me a couple months to hit 500 page views (let alone hits). [Though I didn't discover the J-blogosphere for a while...]

SephardiLady said...

Thanks for the support Ez.

orthomom said...

I think the tone of the letter certainly leaves much to be desired, but I can understand some of the feelings behind it. In terms of Winter Vacation, there are plenty of people who feel that it is unecessarily taxing on parents who both work. It isn't as simple as "getting a babysitter". Many mothers work solely to cover tuition, and it can make such a mother very bitter when she then has to hire a babysitter or farm the kids out to friends in order to keep up at work. It's more than just a matter of inconvenience.

In terms of the dismissal issues, as much as I find it to be incredibly anoying as well, many times it is done for busing issues. If the district, who is often footing the bill for busing, can only transport a certain amount of students at a time, then there is simply nothing a Yeshiva administration can do. If the choice is between having your children's busing taken care of vs. paying or driving them yourselves every day, I think the choice is simple.

In terms of the punishment, I think that parents should be involved, but generally, should not be called to pick up a student unless the infraction was egregious. There are enough days that kids have to be picked up by parents for various ailments that affect them, and that itself is disruptive to parents. Calling a parent during a workday to inform them of the misbehavior is sufficient, in most cases the child is well aware that his parent must be extremely upset. I think the student should have to sit out the rest of the day in the principal's office or in detention. Being a very involved parent, and yet having been extremely upset at being called once to pick up a child from school for a relatively minor infraction, I can tell you that the punishment is abused by many administrators. You say that this is a job you cannot pay anyone to do. That is true regarding parenting your child. But when it comes to disciplining your child on school grounds, you absolutely have paid someone to do the job - the person that is handing it over to you. What goes on between you and your child when you both get home is one thing. But administrators should be in posession of the tools to handle a student who is misbehaving without resorting to having him/her picked up in 95% of cases.

Just my 2 cents.

Great post, btw!

SephardiLady said...

Orthomom, It is true that the letter left a lot desired in terms of tone. But, even if the schools were to provide care and trips it will cost the school money, and therefore tuition will go up for everyone (even if they manage to fanagle a bunch of teens to work for free. I certainly would not want my kid working for free!).

Regarding pikcing a child up for infractions, I would have never assumed that parents were called for minor infractions. I didn't go to a Jewish school, so my experiences probably differ. But, our administration would only call when the problem couldn't be dealt with through a call home or a day in the office. (But, I still think that the father could pick the kid up.)

Thanks for your great insights. I'm so happy to see the comments pouring in.

Anonymous said...

Jewboy....the only reason the kollel guys do not see their babies is because they don't want to. There is certainly time in between sedarim to go home and help out.

SephardiLady said...

Anon-That is a rough indictment. I do want to say that when parents put a child in day care outside of the home, as opposed to leaving the child in the home with a nanny, it is not practical for a parent to go see the child.

Fortunately, I have seen a few kollel men, make the time to take care of their children between sedarim so their wife can rest. That is quite thoughtful.

Anonymous said...

For some kids, being sent home from school is a reward, not a punishment. Let the school find a method that will actually make the kid regret his action - write "I will behave" 100 times, pick up litter. (I'm home so this is not about me not wanting to pick him up).

Once a school attempted to send my child home due to misbehavior and mentioned that another child was equally to blame - when I asked what was happening to that child I was informed that he could stay in school as his parents couldn't be located.

Since I know my children will be sent home again in the future perhaps you have creative ideas as to what to do with them. Obviously they can't have fun while they are being punished, but they certainly aren't going to stare at the ceiling for hours on end. I don't like chores to be a punishment.

You can be a stay at home mom and still have difficulties with school policies.

Esther said...

I have had difficulty with the timing of my son's school vacations - for example, they got off 3 days for Thanksgiving and then only 4 days for Chanukah. (I have read that Rav Feinstein said not to give off for Christmas so that's the reason for the January vacation.) But I definitely agree with your overall point. Our son's school expects parental participation in student learning and disciplinary action.

I noticed something else in the letter - the discipline is phrased as punishment, that they just want the kid out of there, rather than working through the behavioral issue with the parents and child. (And the parent sees it that way too - she is not concerned that her kid is acting up in school, just that it is an inconvenience to pick him up.) When my son was having behavioral problems, the teacher didn't even tell me at first because, in her words, "it's my job!" I really appreciated that she worked with my son on self-management and using his words instead of just calling me to deal with it. Then my husband and I got involved also, and as a team with the school we got through the issues. There was never a question of "punishment".

Steve Brizel said...

The tone of the letter exhibited a remarkable lack of empathy for teachers. Letters and proposals for doing away with a small vacation contribute to the calculus of reasons for and why teachers burn out in our schools. I agree that if a father or mother is available that they must take part in the disciplining of a child. Otherwise, the discipline serves no constructive purpose whatsoever.

balt anon said...

Anon-An additional point. Some kollel guys have only one car and live a long way from Yeshiva. Their wives generally need the car to get to work and they have to find a ride or hoof it on days that they can't. In my area, the walk to Yeshiva is about 2 hours. My husband used to do the walk from Yeshiva to his parents (who live closer about 1 1/2 hours to their house) as his Shabbos walk as a Bachur. There is no way that a guy could make it to and from Yeshiva by foot between Sedarim. (I don't live in Lakewood, so I don't know what it is like there or if their break is longer than here.)