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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Vacationing In a Pack

Rabbi Horowitz has a question up on his webpage this week from (dual-income) parents who are under pressure from their children to take them on an exotic mid-winter vacation because some of their friends go. These parents are fortunate enough to not only meet their tuition obligations, but to also be able to save for their own retirement as well as their children's education. They are wondering whether they should just "give in" or "hold their ground."

Rabbi Horowitz advises them to speak to their children about finances and offer alternatives. What he does not address is what I find to be a bizarre phenomena, i.e. the need to "vacation" in a pack.

Over a year ago, Mom in Israel reviewed a terrific book (which I promptly checked out from the library) called Hold on To Your Kids. Author Gordon Neufeld takes a look at the erosion of proper attachments which have caused modern children to be "peer oriented" as opposed to "parent oriented." He old looks at many factors, from economic to technological that have further separated adults from youth. He also looks at a number of social ills impacted by peer attachment.

One of the underlying Orthonomic issues we keep coming back to again and again in this blog, no matter what the subject, is the need for conformity, and, of course, how that erodes financial health. The letter writer asked specifically asked about mid-winter break vacations, but could well have been asking about putting on a particular type of wedding for their child, post-high school yeshiva/seminary, or even buying the latest fashions. Our children (and oftentimes their parents) are highly concerned about being "normal."

In his book Hold on to Your Kids,, Neufeld makes suggestions for combating peer attachment. One suggestion he makes is family vacations away from the children's friends. In the frum community, vacation often means heading off to a location filled with people of your "type" (be it modern or black hat). Pesach destinations even advertise day camps for the vacationing parents' children.

Rabbi Horowitz writes, "so, don’t go overboard in your refusal to ‘keep up with the Cohens.’ Remember that you can pick and chose with whom you wish to associate, while your children spend 8-12 hours each day with the peers in their classes – like it or not." I would say that sometimes our children need to get away from the Cohen's and their kids. A budget vacation (leave the blackberry, cell phones, and laptops), if doable, perhaps to a historic region or national park could serve an important purpose. Children don't need to be around their friends 24/7, and we adults don't need to be around our friends 24/7 either. I'd say we could use some time away from the "Cohen's."

17 comments:

queeniesmom said...

SL, You're correct, it's called family time, which is being gradually eroded over time. It's being done on the small and large scale. How many families have kid tables for Shabbat meals (and entertain frequently), kids go to sleep away camp, take "family vacations" that include kid specific activities, and other things along these lines. How many families go out as a family to a museum, park, movie or another activity that just involves them and their kids? Another issue is the amount of HW given and the Sun hours. Both of these things conspire against family time.

You wouldn't believe how many people looked aghast at my husband and I when we kept the kids home on the 25th and had a family day at the movies and went for pizza. Most people told us that was their day away from the kids with their spouse. Wonder if there's a correlation between their response and kid's Shabbat table and sleep away camp.

Dave in DC said...

This brings up the uncomfortable question of how many people aim to take vacations with their kids versus vacations *from* their kids. Not that I'm immune from that inclination, mind you, and quality time with spouse has dropped farther on the list than I hoped it ever would, but as referenced above... if you don't raise your kids, someone else will.

That said, with my kids off from school last week, I took my use or lose days and did a "staycation"... turned off the email and cell and hit 5 different museums in our own area. It was fun, fabulous and practically free (we spent about $100 total for the week).

Anonymous said...

From RabbiHorowitz.com

"Some of our children’s friends go on expensive vacations with their families and our kids are asking for similar trips."

No where does the letter say the children want to vacation with their friends. They just want to go to "exotic" destinations. Exotic could mean an island in the Pacific. Or it could mean Disney World. Or Eretz Yisroel. I would not jump to talking about peer attachment based on this piece. Though in general the concept could exist.

In general, I would like to point out that your attacking of "normal"
is a little off base in my opinion. Halacha dictates that in giving tsedaka we must support someone even to the point of having giving him a carriage with servants running before him. While I will not be donating to the carriage and servant Mosad anytime soon, Halacha is recognizing the real psychological need to not feel deprivation or to feel "normal". True as a community we can always try to stem the flow of materialism but because of our affluence we will be more materialistic. The pulpit rabbi will decry a fancy Lexus or designer clothing. But no one is up there saying modern plumbing makes houses tens of thousands of dollars more expensive and is not really "necessary". "Our ancestors used outhouses and lived full lives." will not be in next week's Shabbos drasha.

SephardiLady said...

QueensieMom-The timing of winter break in many schools is another soar point. The parents are almost always home during the last week of December. Some places even shut down completely (not cost efficient to keep the lights on). So you have children away from their parents at an ideal time to be together.

As for separate children's tables, I have to say, I'm surprised the kids will go without a fight. We once tried to move our son from his seat for a large family dinner and we really regretted it. Dinner was somewhat of a wreck. So guests (even family) must fit around the kids period.

David DC-I like the "Staycation" idea. But one really has to be disciplined to turn off the computer, cell phone, etc. Great idea!

Anonymous above-I am not attacking "normal." I am looking to redefine normal.

And you are correct. Perhaps these children want to just go away with their families to exotic vacations and I may be reading too far into things. But a friend of mine faces the same dilemma each year because "all" of her son's friends go to Miami for Pesach. The pressure on her is enormous and she ends up flying them down after Sedarim with family so they can be "normal."

Mike S. said...

Financial Aid policies both at day schools and at secular colleges that reward families for spending all their money don't help. When parents who save up and restrict their spending to pay full tuition see that other families with similar incomes are able to spend on luxuries and then get financial aid paid for in part by the responsible parents' tuition dollar, it encourages consumption. Especially if the spenders are happy to tell you how much aid they are getting. No one likes being the sucker.

another jewish accountant said...

well said Mike!

heres a comforting thought though, while they may have the luxeries now, down the road, those who save and plan now will likely have an easier time of retirement, while those who consume everything today (and receive the financial aid) wont have much to show for it.

Lion of Zion said...

ANOTHER JEWISH ACCOUNTANT:

"those who save and plan now will likely have an easier time of retirement"

i think mike's point was that people who don't spend (i.e., waste) all their moneys are suckers. that "saved" money will not last for retirement because it will be seized by the schools.

incidentally, it's not uncommon to hear of parents scrambling to buy a house as the first kid is entering school, lest the yeshivah question (legitimately so) why a family with 100k in the bank (even if earmarked for a house) deserves a tuition break.

jewchick said...

queeniesmom - Throughout my elementary and high school career, my mom took my out of school one day on the last week of December, and one day during Presidents week. In December we went into the city together, and looked at pretty windows, and shopped. In the spring we spent the day at a local park, and maybe shopping some more. These were days of bonding that meant very much to me, and I intend to do the same with my kids (though I'm a nurse, and don't get those days - well, nights - off; and i intend to be in Israel... I'll find the time).

bara said...

I have read Dr. Neufeld book after the recommendation from Mom in Israel, it was an eye opener for me and my family. I actually attended a series of classes given by a friend who became licensed by Dr. Neufeld. It was call The Power to parent and it was just as powerfull as the book, it went much more into detail about the right attachments. If you can find out if the classes are in your area I strongly recommend it.
Bara

queeniesmom said...

SL - Realize I'm dating myself but we had off the last week in Dec when I was in day school. With the move to "out do" each oher in frumkiet (sp. sorry), we can no longer allow this. Also many yeshivas have different weeks off, lest "you" should mix with "them". Is it any wonder we have a shidduch crisis?

Re:Kids Table. Once again it's what you're accostomed to. If this is the norm, you don't question it. Like you this isn't my norm. Give it time your kids will volunteer to move, if necessary, when they are older.

Jewchick - I've done the same thing with my daughter. When money allowed it, we would do a girl's nite out, dinner and something. If money is tight then it's a lower budget affair dollar-wise but still extremely enjoyable. One of the telling things is I'll ask her if she wants to bring a friend when we're going to a museum or a movie, since she has twin brothers who have mastered the art of annoying her, but she frequently says no; she wants it just to be family. Stick to your beliefs no matter where you find yourself. From my prespective, it's definately paying off in more grounded kids. They understand economic reality and why were not going to....

anonymous mom said...

Thank you for the reference to Dr. Neufeld and the book. I will try to bring this to our community in some way. This is big stuff and many parents don't give it a second thought.

Ariella said...

Mike S makes a very good point.
This winter vacation getaway, I think, is a product of this generation. I don't recall it being a regular thing with my classmates, though some were wealthy enough to afford it. Now Florida has become so passe that people have to move on to more exotic locations for their vacation.

The pack mentality never ceases to amaze me. You find that certain groups live in the same neighborhood all year and then go to the same colonies in the country together. And those of another strip must all go to Deal. They will even open their Brooklyn-based businesses there. So, I wonder, what exactly are they getting away from on their vacation?

Tamiri said...

in the early 70s when I was in grade school, the rich kids got to go to Florida for Winter vacation. No one else.

growyourkids.com said...

I have just been introduced to this site by Bara and I am totally amazed by all of this. I know I'm gonna love it here! :)

Thank you sephardilady for bringing in Dr. Neufeld. I feel the same way that you do - that his concepts underly almost every sticky issue facing the Jewish world these days.

Dr. Neufeld's paradigm is so powerful once you really dig deep and start putting the concepts into practice. Our family cohesion/happiness factor has really skyrocketed since we got on board with this. Not a quick fix, mind you. And it can really challenge core beliefs and behaviors (of parents mostly!).

I'm new to blogging, so forgive me if self-promotion is not allowed. But... My husband is the one who taught the Dr. Neufeld class that Bara attended. He has been certified to teach Neufeld's parenting series and is now working on others that address adolescence issues and bullying. Please check out our website at http://www.growyourkids.com. He travels to do presentations if anyone out there is interested in having a frum free-thinking guest speaker.

Elitzur said...

SephardiLady,
For your readers in the Highland Park/Edison NJ area Yossi Prager exec. director for North American AVICHAI is speaking at Ohr Torah Sat. evening Jan. 12th 745PM on "The High Cost of Jewish Living." It may be of interest...
I can email the notice if anyone is interested...

SephardiLady said...

Elitzur-Please send the notice to Orthonomics at Gmail dot com. If you are going, could you produce a transcript and/or guest post. I will put it up shortly because I would love a guest poster.

Grow Your Kids and Bara-Welcome. I don't mind the self promotion at all. Hope you will become one of my valued commentors.

DAG said...

Its funny, I've been contemplating a book about my 12 years in secular colleges...