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.
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.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.
Trying To Make a Living
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.