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Monday, March 31, 2008

The Parenting Crisis Revisited (Yet Again)

Perhaps the one "crisis" I have yet to read about in an Orthodox, especially Yeshivish, publication is the Parenting Crisis. Yet, this is probably one of the few that I am sure actually exists. Welcome to yet another installment of the "Parenting Crisis." What I have to say here may possibly be more harsh than one of my earliest blog posts titled "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 letter writer referenced above was upset that schools have the audacity to give students and teacher a break, which inconvenienced her (a working parent. . . did she not know that children get vacations?). She suggested that the schools step in a organize a winter camp to "make everyone happy" and that if the teachers "refuse do this" they should hire other people, or seek out teenage volunteers, to cover winter break. The sense of entitlement was dripping from the letter. The letter writer then went on to launch a fairly valid complaint about staggered pick up times and then went on to complain that schools sometimes ask the parents pick up a child [i.e. be a part of disciplining their child], which gets in the way of a bread winning wife and a husband in learning (whose duties apparently do not include stepping in as a parent where and when needed despite his availability). I didn't have anything nice to say about her attitude back then and nothing has changed on that front.

The letter writer below I believe exemplifies much of the same attitude as the former letter writer, i.e. don't make me inconvenience myself for my children. This letter writer says the following [my comments in orange]:

THE VISITING DAY CRISIS
Dear Editor,I know that I already sound like a broken record. I am again writing about Visiting Day in summer camps. [I wonder how many times the father has wrote to the Yated on the same subject already]. We have to realize that summer camp is not a luxury. [I'm still not convinced, especially when it comes to sleep away camp]. With the economy in a recession, with thousands of layoffs, with inflation in the food sector - and especially in the kosher food industry, making ends meet has become impossible for most people. [And sending away to camp is still a necessity? Day camp won't do?] What right do camp operators have to force parents to waste a whole day - with gas at well over $3 a gallon, totaling close to or more than $100 a day - visiting more than one camp? ["Waste" is the term you choose to describe visiting children who might be as young as eight years old??? I am shocked he uses waste before describing the financial outlay! And who is forcing you? If you don't want to visit your children, which you obviously don't, stay home. I've never been to a sleep away camp, but I don't believe any director "forces" a parent to visit their child(ren), anymore than a school "forces" parents to comes to a school play or band concert. These are things we do for our children because we are parents, even when we are bored or would rather be doing something different]. And don’t forget about the rising highway and bridge tolls. Who can afford this? Let the mothers cry a little, but don’t give the fathers a heart attack worrying. [Here is where I fly off the handle! This letter writer and the other letter writer above appear to be primarily concerned with their own needs, relegating the needs of their children (especially the need for contact with their parents) as secondary. Saying "let the mothers cry a little," is rather self-centered in my opinion. It isn't the adult missing out here (the adults are on a kid free vacation). . . . it is the child(ren) who may not be ready to be parent free for 4-10 weeks straight]. There must be an easier way to give the staff members at the camps their well deserved tips. Why not pay the tips when registering? It is not perfect, but so what? [I'm sure the counselors are happy to see your green whether it comes by US Mail or via personal delivery. Your children on the other hand. . . . . . . . . . oh, I'm sorry, we were not discussing the children, were we?].
Name Deleted [the writer signed his name and location]

I recognize that parents are busy. I recognize that parents are stressed for time and money. But, ladies and gents, we have got a huge problem if any of the attitudes in the previous letters are indicative of thoughts going through the heads of our children's classmates and/or future spouses. It is no wonder that so many children are becoming seemingly disconnected from their own parents if their parents have put in place a life that doesn't make room for their children, the children they chose to have! It is no wonder what teachers having an increasingly difficult time managing classes. It is no wonder that academic achievement is falling. Sorry for being harsh, but the don't inconvenience me attitude is a self-indictment of the highest degree. Parenting is "inconvenient." But Hashem entrusted our children to us and we are obligated to do more than operate the "Bank of Mom and Dad."

47 comments:

thegameiam said...

hear hear!

mother in israel said...

In Israel we have visiting day for 5 days of the youth group camp.

Leora said...

Good post. I agree that sleep-away camp is a luxury.

Underlying this guy's economic argument, I hear some pain. This man is stressed and stretched too much, and he probably has a hard time connecting to his kids. Maybe we should have workshops on how to have fun with your kids.

I just want to throw out the idea that maybe visiting day isn't the greatest idea, for separation anxiety reasons. Some kids (and parents) have a hard time with one day of seeing each other.

concernedjewgirl said...

When I was 12 my parents got persuaded into sending me to a sleep away camp. This camp had a policy of no visiting day. WHY? Because not every parent could come and they didn’t want jealousy amongst the girls that some parents came and others didn’t come and you are loved more or less. So they took it out altogether.
Well they haven’t met my parents. Upon hearing this delightful news my Father announced to my mother that they will come on a Sunday to see his baby! My mom packed up the entire kitchen (knowing camp food) and my FATHER drove 4 hours with no breaks (or say they claim, I trust that claim, I’ve seen him mad). When they pulled in the camp people tried to get them to leave, to turn around and go home. These people have not dealt with my dad. I got to see my parents! It was the most amazing time ever. I remember my mom bringing out the big red tomato and nice white bread with salami and everything was so fresh and yummy. We have pictures of that day. I remember I really did feel loved!
There would be no way I would want a child to miss out on an opportunity to feel like they are loved by there parents. This is what visiting day is. To the child it says: I got in the car and drove to see YOU not to see nature not to see bubby but to see YOU and spend time with YOU. If you are doing a good job as a parent this is something that they will look back on in 14 years and smile and then pick up the phone and call you and tell you that they love you and you did a good job in raising them.
In short I agree with you. It’s about being a parent!

Mike S. said...

On the other hand, it would be nice if the schools would occasionally use a little sechel. I remember one occasion where the school nurse called me to pick up a child who was ill about an hour before dismissal. I pointed out that I work a 40 minute drive from the school and that my wife, who was teaching her last class, would be there in an hour anyway. I suggested the nurse let her lie down in the nurse's office until dismissal time. This was unacceptable, for reasons I can't fathom. I had to leave work two hours early to pick my child up 15 minutes before my wife came anyway.

And it would be a little easier if the high school and elementary school could coordinate professional days and the like, so my teenagers could help watch their siblings when needed for such days. Particularly in years when most of my vacation time is consumed by weekday Yamim Tovim.

JS said...

Oh...My....God....

I cannot believe that letter. It made me so angry to read it. I can't even fathom having parents like that. And the "sleepaway camp is not a luxury" line just threw me over the edge.

I think there are problems throughout the spectrum of orthodoxy in this area. All too often I see kollelniks and other ultraorthodox sending their children away to yeshivas where God knows who raises them. Also, all childrearing often falls on the mother as the father is learning - somehow learning became more important than childrearing.

Then I go to my modern orthodox shul and I see kids running around like maniacs in and around the shul. Shabbat is the one day of the week where it should be MOST important to spend time as a family and instead parents just want to get away from their kids - even if it means letting them be a bunch of vilda chayas and destroy shul property. When we eat at other people's houses we see separate tables and areas set aside for the kids to eat so the parents can enjoy "adult conversation".

It seems like more and more ways are found to neglect our children while superficially appearing to be good parents. We're not ignoring the kids, we're teaching independence. We're not neglecting them, we're letting them explore.

What's so ironic is that as Jews we have this superiority complex about how everything we do is so wonderful - yet, if we saw the same activity in non-Jews we'd look down our noses at them.

It's so sad.

Ahavah said...

What it boils down to is this:

Yes, parenting is a decision and a commitment that a lot of frum wives don't think through completely. They quickly get overextended, especially when the husband is basically another child - not contributing anything of value to the family's or community's economic well-being.

But when you let other people raise your kids, you get "other people's children," a phrase we use as an insult, I admit, at our house. "Other people's kids" do not have your values, your standards of behavior (having been mostly raised in herds where acting out is the only way to get attention), don't have appreciate for your particular unique heritage, your political and social views - they have other people's views, the views of the people with whom they spend their waking hours. And if they spend most of their day in a herd of kids their own age with minimal real interaction with adults, their social training is often closer to "lord of the flies" than Torah. And if that person or those people directing your children's upbringing are not you and your spouse, then you don't get to complain that you end up with other people's children.

The truth, however, is that the Rabbis are just fine with this. They don't WANT you to raise your kids - you might be a closet heretic. You can't be supervised all day by them. You might teach your kids to think outside of their box - Heaven forbid. Therefore the Rabbis have no incentive whatsoever to help parents out of this mess - in fact, just the opposite.

So don't hold your breath on getting any slack, because it is neither in their own financial interest nor in the interest of controlling the next generation for them to want kids back home with their parents outside of regular school hours. Daycare and afterschool programs help their goals - and they don't care if it makes you insolvent in the process.

DAG said...

Ahava,

And having children rasied by non-Jewish maids is better?

Abbi said...

Ahava
While your comment sounds very logical, I think it sounds pretty much like a correlation= causation argument (kids at school/gan during waking hours= no influence of parents). It really doesn't take into account the very complex parent child relationship that really can't be reduced to something as prosaic as the number of waking hours a day. Not to mention the tons of studies done showing that day care (and I assume by extension school) has no effect on children's attachment to parents). If you took your argument to its logical conclusion, if you removed parents from all these children's lives altogether, I don't think the kids would continue blithely on, without feeling any kind of loss.

For example, my 4 year old is extremely social and craves interaction with her peers on a daily basis. I don't believe keeping her home would do her any good just because I want to make sure she only imbibes my values and my personal view of the world. So far, I've found my children's daycare experiences to be very beneficial for both of them.

Also, I have no idea what goes on in U.S. yeshivot and ganim, but i can't believe it's all "lord of the flies". If it is, then I fault the parents for not finding a more appropriate school setting for their children.

I agree that this letter really is problematic and if this attitude is widespread, then that's also problematic. But I do think there is a balance.

ProfK said...

The father who wrote the letter has an attitude that bothers me. His children are not worth $100 for a day's visitation and he has no problem in letting their mother cry. He objects to anyone calling him to be responsible for his children, it seems at any time. But we need to see this as one person who wrote a letter, not as an attitude that is necessarily representative of an entire group.

Fact #1: The number of frum women who are working outside of their homes is larger then the number who stay at home during the time that their children are fairly young. They aren't working because they need another Gucci handbag. They are working because they are either the sole support of their families or they are working because one salary alone cannot cover the expenses of their families. In addition, some stay at home moms also have official "jobs" that they can do while at home, but they have to do them. Thus they may be home but they are not available unfettered for their children.

Fact #2: Jobs do not tailor their hours to the individual needs of parents. Since this would mean everyone on a different schedule depending on when and where children go to school, this would produce chaos in a business.

Fact #3: Grandmothers are as likely as their daughters and daughter in laws to be working, so they are not available full time to watch grandchildren after school hours.

Fact #4: Even mothers who are stay at home moms do not remain incarcerated in their homes on the grounds that a school may or may not call them during the day. They may have appointments to keep, college classes to go to, shopping to do. Just because they are stay at home does not mean they will be available exactly when needed.

Fact #5: Children need supervision during those times when there are no classes in school. There are an insufficient number of programs available for working parents who need coverage for their children.

Fact #6: Baby sitters to work in a private home are expensive on a per hour basis and are not all that available either. In addition, if a woman babysits from 3:00 to 6:00 does not mean that she would be available to pick up a sick child from school during other hours. It doesn't mean that she can rearrange her schedule to cover other hours during vacation days.

Fact #7: From the second our children begin school they are already becoming "other people's children." Part of the socialization process that creates healthy, functional adults is an exposure to other viewpoints and other ways of thinking and acting. The key is not how many hours you actually spend with your children but what you do with the hours that you do spend with them, what attitudes and examples that the children have seen at home that they carry with them to the outside world. The only way to avoid "other people's children" is to not send your children to school and to not provide socialization opportunities for them with others outside of the home.

Fact #8: In a perfect world things would be so arranged that parents and children could have all the time together that they want or need. We don't live in such a perfect world. Rather than waste precious time decrying this fact, we need to deal with what we do have. Parents need coverage for their kids when the parents cannot be there. How, when and where needs to be addressed.

Fact #9: Day camps would be a viable alternative to sleep away camps if they were fully set up for the older children in the community. Many are not.

Fact #10: Sleep away camp is a luxury except where it becomes a necessity if both parents are working and arrangements for the children's care cannot be arranged in the best interest of the child.

If we want to take this particular letter writer apart for a rotten attitude, then fine. He doesn't seem to see his children as a precious gift but rather as a burden. But a few of the things that he mentions are actual problems that need addressing by the community for the good of the children of the community, and yes, for the good of the parents as well.

WannaBeChossid said...

Long time reader, first time poster!

I agree with Leora, poster does sound like he is very frustrated and is most likely having financial troubles.

I disagree with the following comment: "And who is forcing you? If you don't want to visit your children, which you obviously don't, stay home."


Assuming that he is having financial troubles, he prob sent his kid to the overnight camp b/c he always sent his kid there and sent his kid this time to spare child an embarrassment of not going to an overnight camp; Or/and maybe he does not want to feel embarrassed in front of his friends for the same reason;

SephardiLady will prob come back with "If you cannot afford, don't spend it." it is a good sound practical advice, but it is a known fact that people will do idiotic things in order not for them to be embarrassed.

SephardiLady said...

WannabeChossid,
I won't come back with if you can't afford it, don't spend it. If I read his letter correctly, it seemed that the time "wasted" was his first complaint, followed by "who can afford all of this?"

I don't know much about camping (although I somehow managed to become an independent adult anyways), but visiting day seems to be part of the entire package, just like cleats and a uniform are a part of partaking in a soccer team.

I do NOT think it is a good idea in the least to send kids away to camp and not show up on the visiting day(s). I don't know what it will take to get the father to "waste" a day and spend $100 to drive from Queens to someplace in upstate NY, but I think it should be a high priority on the list of a million things we must do as parents.

SephardiLady said...

But we need to see this as one person who wrote a letter, not as an attitude that is necessarily representative of an entire group.

ProfK, I hope this is the case. But combined with the other letters and some very sad attitudes I've seen expressed, I don't believe these are not problems asurfacing.

Elitzur said...

A couple of comments on ProfK -

For statistics on working moms check out...
http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/004109.html

Your fact 4 is silly... while true in fact it is not true in spirit. Stay at home moms are much more available than working moms

Your fact 7 is a well known discussion and VERY far from fact. Sending your high-schooler away such that you'll only see him a few weekends a year + Yom Tov certainly qualifies as letting someone else raise your kid. Your taking Ahava's point ad absurdum is just that: absurd.

Starting in high-school I WORKED at camps I think there are plenty of opportunities to do that.

Also, Abbi we're playing percentages here. No one denies that any single relationship is indeed complex and multi-faceted.

Ahavah - a question for you also: is it right to send kids away to college? Aren't you taking them away form their families just at the time when they need to start figuring out how to have their own families?

miriamp said...

Hey, I've been to college, and what I saw there wasn't pretty: Kids from (Conservative/traditional) "Kosher in, anything goes out" homes who were suddenly "out" full time... and decided Kosher was Mommy and Daddy's rule, not theirs. Kids from Orthodox Day Schools who were suddenly without parental supervision and started experimenting with alcohol and relationships... nothing you might not expect from a kid raised secular, but these kids weren't.

I look at my children now and think "I am not sending them away to college, no way, no how!" I'll decide for real (with the kids' input, of course) in another 7-10 years when it's more relevant, but it's going to be a kid per kid decision, not a given, the way it was when I was in high school.

miriamp said...

as for profK's fact #4 -- I got called once because my kid forgot her lunch in her father's car. I didn't answer the call, because I was in the middle of having my teeth cleaned. I was also an hour away from the school at that point, and of course, my kid didn't realize until lunchtime. They didn't bother trying to call her father, because they knew he was at his office, also an hour away, in a different direction (from both me and from the school). She went hungry that day. (Actually, a sibling probably shared some of his or her lunch, and the school had instant soups hanging around for such occasions.)

And I got called once to come get my kid from Kindergarten because he had fallen asleep in class. I said no. (Actually, I said I didn't have a car, and I had 2 or 3 other kids at home with me. We'd have to either walk the mile or take a bus, and then the tired sleepy kid would have to walk home and/or ride the bus and stay awake long enough to walk to and from the bus stops on either side of our route. If they just let him sleep an hour, he could go home with his regular carpool, which is what he did.)

The point being that while in general I may be more available, in real life, I'm not always available, (contrary to the assumption that stay-at-home-moms are always available at the drop of a hat) which I believe was profK's point.

mlevin said...

1. When I was 9 my parents didn't visit me on a parent day in camp. I was the only one without parents and I cried. I will never forget that neglect.

2. You could be a good parent and work and you could be a bad parent and stay home. Neglect does not always mean having to work for a living.

3. If you raised your children right, with right morals and etc. then you shouldn't worry about their behaivor in college. But if you relied on daycares, babysitters and schools to raise your children rather then yourself then it's anyone's guess how they will behave in college, or seminary or yeshivah. And even if you did not send them away, once they are married they are on their own. What happens than? ...

Ariella said...

I though I had left my comment the other day, but it must have somehow been zapped. Even Federation camps cost close to $500 a week, and others can top $1000 a week, especially once you add in the required fees and canteen money, not to mention all the extra paraphernalia required for camp. From this parent's perspective, it is worth a couple of thousand dollars to be rid of your child 24/7 (far more than any form of childcare offers) for the summer, but not even $100 to make a one day visit. It seems this parent -- and there are many like him -- feel he has done his part by paying to have his child watched, fed, and entertained by others. He has been yotzeh his obligation and should not be called upon to exert personal effort. Money is only well spent in keeping the child out of his way, and so he really does not see the value of spending money to visit. It's kind of the inverse of the MasterCard advertisements. It could say something like, "Camp fees -$4000, not having to see a child for two months -priceless." But not "gas and tolls -$100. Giving my child a hug after a month away -priceless."

Mike S. said...

1) mlevin--Plenty of children raised by attentive, stay-at-home moms have trouble adjusting to college. Your remark there was off-base. In my experience it is the more sheltered children who get in to the most trouble when they leave home.

2) With visiting day for my camper 3 days before the end of camp, I must confess that, although I always go, I doubt the 14 hours spent driving to and from camp that day are proportionate to the benefit my child receives. At least with my youngest in camp now, my wife and I can enlist the older kids to help drive. There seems to be an assumption that everyone lives in NY, a mere two or three hours from camp; that isn't so.

mother in israel said...

I was the youngest by many years, and my parents sent me to sleep-away camp. My mother stayed at home, by the way. I had to travel five hours just to catch the bus to camp. My parents didn't drive that far, so I either travelled with another family, if there was one. One year my sister and brother drove me.

Needless to say, my parents never come to visitor's day. Maybe one year they got a ride with someone, or they happened to be in the area. It wasn't fun, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one most years. I survived--it was by no means the worst thing I suffered as a child. My mother wrote me very frequently at camp, and when I was in Israel too.

SephardiLady said...

Ariella-I was also struck by the fact the parent was more than willing to spend thousands for the summer, but th $100 was out of the question.

Mike S-No doubt that not every parent can actually make the visit. The letter writer lived in NY.

MominIsrael-I think the big question here is what attitude are the parents conveying to their children. Based on the tone in the letter to the editor, I'm hoping the letter writer has something different to say to his children.

Abbi said...

when i went to camp, Vday was always a Sunday. I cannot imagine what kind of job the LW could possibly have that he is absolutely forced to work on Sunday and taking a Sunday would be a waste of a day. And if gas is such an issue, why not carpool with a friend or neighbor?

Seriously, it just sounds like he really doesn't like his kids.

ProfK said...

Elitsur,
In no way, shape or form am I in favor of sending children away to high school to live in dorms, something I've posted about on my own blog. I consider high school dorm living one of the scourges of the earth.

For statistics on working mothers go to firstgov.gov and search both the Bureau of the Census and the Department of Labor. Their numbers are divided by age groups. Only those over 65 present a small percentage. Percentage of women workingas of end of the last century: 16-24: 63.3%; 25-34: 76.3%; 35-44: 77.1%; 45-54: 76.2%; 55-65: 51.2%. Furthermore, the less education you have, the more likely you are to be working in the younger years; those with only a high school degree are a higher percentage in the work force then those with college degrees or better.

The more frum the woman the less likelihood of having a higher education degree the more likelihood she is working. The more frum the woman the more likelihood that she is the sole support or nearly the whole support of her family while she is young.

Thank you MiriamP, I did indeed mean that just because a mother is home does not mean that at a point that a school wants/needs to contact her that she will be available.

mlevin said...

Mike S: When I said raised right I did not mean sheltered, I meant right. When we raise our children with X rated movies on 24/7 we should expect experimentation on their part. Same goes with the other extreme. If your son/daughter grows up hearing NO all the time, they feel caged and will try to expand their wings. Problem with constant NOs is that young adults do not know where the limits are.

So, I am not surprised when you said: "Your remark there was off-base. In my experience it is the more sheltered children who get in to the most trouble when they leave home." These children are not sheltered, they are caged.

Here's an example. A friend of a family was constantly yelling at her children NO. NO kitchen, NO closets, NO stairs, No door touching... One day while she was tending to the baby and her 5 y/o walked into the forbidden zone - the kitchen. Nothing happened, but her mother caught her and punished her big time for being there. Now curious, this 5 year old ran into the kitchen at the first opportunity. She continued to do so, despite punishements because she wanted to investigate a new territory. Eventually she got a pot of hot soup all over her...

JS said...

miriamp,

"I look at my children now and think "I am not sending them away to college, no way, no how!" I'll decide for real (with the kids' input, of course) in another 7-10 years when it's more relevant, but it's going to be a kid per kid decision, not a given, the way it was when I was in high school."

I hope you're not serious. A college education is one of the only ways of truly getting ahead in life and it bothers me tremendously that you would even consider not giving or not wanting your children to have that opportunity. When does the sheltering end? Don't children need to become adults and learn and grow on their own? Don't you have any faith in what you've been able to teach and instill in your children? Do you really think all of that just goes out the door the second children have some freedom and are exposed to new and different ideas and experiences?

I think every child experiments a little when finally left on their own, but the extent to which that is done is based on how good a job you've done as a parent. However, I think this experimenting is a good thing in most cases - if parenting was done well it reinforces the messages they've heard from you all along.

Lastly, I think it's naive to think you are the only influence in your children's lives. Even if you watch them like a hawk 24/7 you'll still never know what they're up to and more likely than not they'll be resentful of their lack of freedom and the fact that you don't trust them and just try to break free and experiment even more.

rachel said...

js: miriamp didn't mean not sending them to college, she meant not sending them away. You can go to a college and live at home, you still get a BA at the end of it. There is a huge difference between being exposed to the outside world and a "college experience".

Yes, everyone experiments, and teenagers test the limits all the time. You still shouldn't put them (or yourself for that matter) in a situation where they are more likely to fail. Imagine your kids showing up to the dorm in college and the first thing they get are condoms.

JS said...

rachel,

I went to a secular university away from home. Condoms were given out. I knew lots of people having sex, doing drugs, heavy drinking, etc. But, I was brought up not to do those sorts of things (I did drink, but not like what I was trying to describe above).

I don't think an environment completely changes someone. Yes, it might make you stray a bit, but I think it's quite a stretch from someone handing you a condom (and btw they're not handed to you, they're just available if you want them) and going off and having sex - as if a teen has never thought of sex before and now the condom has placed an idea so powerful in their minds it simply must be followed, to hell with values and morals.

mlevin said...

JS - here I disagree with you. Giving out Condoms is like a free pass to have sex without repercussions. The main reason why they give them out in the first place is to prevent spread of deseases and pregnancy. However, they do not say that deseases and pregnancy are still possible with condoms. If there are no repercussions, what reason could there be to obstain from sex?

You should see the look on the young adult faces when I inform them that condoms are only 87% effective. There is shock and disbelieve. Then if I repeat that same statistic a few weeks later, they retort that it's true only if condom breaks. So, I shoot back "and what are the chances of it breaking?"

The liberal community has an agenda (notice I didn't say secular). Their agenda is to remove any types of religious conditioning from the young. The best way to do it is by enticing them into the life of freedom. Free sex, free love, do whatever you want. But truth is: there is nothing free in this life. There is a price for everything...

Abbi said...

mlevin- you're missing JS's point entirely. The issue is not what message condoms send- it's how your child reacts to whatever message the condom sends ( I doubt it's a single monolithic message to everyone). If you bring your child up with a strong sense of identity and the values you hold most dear than you really shouldn't have to worry that much about someone handing your child a condom when they hit college. High school there's more of a case for sheltering them. College- they're already pretty much adults. If you can't trust them to deal with whatever the world sends their way by then, instilling them with your values is pretty much a lost cost.

Abbi said...

sorry the last phrase should be "lost cause"

JS said...

abbi, this was precisely my point. If you've done a good job of instilling morals and values in your child, you shouldn't be overly concerned that a condom/joint/beer thrust in their hand (which, again, isn't what happens) will suddenly undo years of good parenting. Besides, once you let your children off to explore the world, do you stop talking to them? Do you stop being a parent? I spoke to my parents regularly in college, and now that I'm married, I still do.

If my parents ever sensed I was doing something they didn't approve of, they let me know - just as they did as I was growing up under their roof. They weren't mean, or nasty, they didn't treat me like a child, or try to control me, they just let me know they were disapointed - that meant more to me than anything. Because we had, and have, such a strong relationship I hate to disapoint my parents, I want them to be proud of me and what I accomplish.

In terms of your story about condom statistics, even if they were 100% guaranteed, never fail, I STILL wouldn't have had premarital sex. And you know what? Kids with a poor upbringing are likely to have sex even without a condom, regardless of how effective or ineffective they're told they are.

It's about morals and values and good parenting, not statistics. A parent needs to do as best a job they can and then trust that their child took away the lessons they tried to impart.

mlevin said...

JS - I was making a similar post up thread about good parenting and how it reflects on children. Actually I was using word right instead of good, and Mike S. said that in his experience most sheltered children are the ones who do the most experimenting... (You can read my reply yesterday at 8:22 am).

My beef is when you said that there is no corelation between: "handing you a condom... and going off and having sex" and that's where I disagree.

miriamp said...

I said my decision wasn't final. And I never said no post-high school schooling either. If seminary or yeshiva gedolah seem more appropriate for any given child, than college, then that's where s/he will go. And local colleges and YU are definitely a possibility. I have plenty of time, and my kids' Orthodox out-of-town Day School has both a strong Secular Studies curriculum and a strong Judaic Studies curriculum, so I'm not worried about them being boxed into one or the other track.

I was a very immature 18 year old, but I thought I was a very mature one. Hey, I became frum while living away from my parents at a secular university, so I guess it worked for me, but I still think it is a bit scary, and in many many cases, a completely inappropriate environment for an FFB child.

But I'm not trying to wrap my kids in cotton. I'm trying to cushion the real world, yes, but not completely disengage from it. For example, I don't think my kids will get up to marriageable age still not knowing exactly how babies are made, but I don't think they need that info before puberty and even then not all of it at once. They know bits and pieces, and as they approach Bar/Bas mitzvah, I'll be adding to their biological knowledge. The secular way, based on magazines like Parents and Parenting, is to give three year olds a how-to explanation of sex!

I'm totally aiming for a balance, somewhere slightly to the right of "modern" but not too far right.

JS said...

miriamp, I misunderstood what you meant above regarding college, rachel set me straight.

It just bothers me when I see things like "The secular way, based on magazines like Parents and Parenting, is to give three year olds a how-to explanation of sex!" I'm sure you were intentionally exaggerating (or at least I hope so), but I think this kind of attitude is just completely wrong.

Yes, there are those out there with very questionable values and we need to protect and shield our children from bad influences, but society as a whole is not nearly as bad as the frum world makes it out to be. At the same time, children are not nearly as fragile as the frum world makes them out to be.

I don't care how many condoms people offered me or my friends, we simply weren't going to have sex. And it wasn't just the frum kids, I knew a lot of secular, christian, etc kids with the same mindset - they wanted to wait to marriage. Or at the very least, they wanted to wait till they were sure they found the right person. Were we a minority on campus, I have no idea - I tried not to associate with people who didn't share my values.

But it's not just sex, I knew kids who did drugs and I'm sure, if I asked, I would have been given drugs to try - I simply had no interest, it was just wrong to me. Similarly, while I may have drank at get-togethers or at tisches, I never got trashed or did anything I would later regret.

I lived in the dorms my freshman year, I saw tons of ilicit, illegal, immoral behavior - but it just strengthened my resolve not to do those things.

Some kids perhaps are more immature or don't have a strongly rooted value system. Maybe they have a self-esteem problem and want to follow the crowd. It's a parent's job to know these things about their kids and try to remain involved in their lives and a positive influence.

But, again, please, don't tell me giving a kid a condom all of a sudden gives him the idea "heyyyyy, I could be having SEX! I can't believe I never thought of this before!!"

Abbi said...

miramp- I don't know your kids, but even my four year old flat out wants to know how her new brother/sister is coming into the world. And she wasn't satisfied with "Well, Abba and I will go to the hospital and the doctor will take care of Imma". She wanted to know EXACTLY how the baby is coming out of my body. That's at four. At this rate, I assume that by the times she's 8 or nine or even sooner, she's going to want to know how the baby gets into a Imma's body as well (I'm glad not to have to deal with this conversation now).

Btw, I did inform her about how the baby is coming out, in an age appropriate way, without to much info, and I was very matter of fact about it.

I'm not sure how/why having age-appropriate conversations with children about biological processes will somehow encourage them to experiment or corrupt them in any way. If anything, when you put off the explanations, it encourages them to get there info from questionable sources, wraps the whole subject up in unhealthy mystique which is more of an encouragement to experiment and explore on their own.

JS: I was a little unclear, but I hope you understood that I was agreeing with you.

Anonymous said...

Back to the original topic: On the East Coast, it seems that visitors' day is standard, but in the Midwest it definitely was not. When your campers come from Kansas, Missouri, Indiana and Illinois to northern Wisconsin, it is assumed that most parents can't make the trip for one day.

ora said...

On the original topic, from what I see, the letter writer isn't complaining about spending over $100 to visit his kid. He's complaining about spending several hundred dollars visiting multiple children. He may be able to afford $10,000 to send four or five kids to sleepaway camp, especially if both parents need to work and there's no day camp available, but an additional $500 plus five days off work to visit all of those kids is still a lot.

IMO, it's his problem for sending his kids to multiple camps, unless there are no other options. Most sleep away camps I've heard of take campers of all ages, and have a boys camp and girls camp. If all of the kids are in one camp, mom and dad can take one day off, make one trip, and see three or four kids at once, no problem. I don't understand why the kids would need to be separated. Most parents probably appreciate that different camps have different visiting days, since otherwise if their kids were in different places they'd be forced to choose which one to visit.

ora said...

About college--IMO it really depends on the place, I've heard people with really positive stories from schools with decently sized frum student populations (even if the behavior among the general student body was inappropriate). OTOH when I went to university, the frum undergrad population was--me. I wouldn't recommend it, even though that was otherwise a good school.

The problem wasn't the unisex bathrooms or free condoms, btw, it was the constant knowledge that everyone else's values were different from my own (and that if they answered honestly, many saw me as unnecessarily old-fashioned or even racist (for dating Jews only)) and the fact that every single fun activity available (hiking, volunteer work, going for coffee, etc) was done in mixed groups, with heavy flirting going on and a lot of inappropriate conversations.

Again, this could be avoided if there's a large frum student population. I'm just trying to point out that the problem isn't as simple as "just ignore the condom." It's easy to ignore a condom, harder to ignore the behavior and values of everyone around you for four years straight (and to have a dating pool of under 100 guys--in my case there were 2 frum male grad students available, but even when the frum population is bigger it's no fun trying to date in such a small group).

I do think that the age at which American kids attend college, 18-22, is a very very important age, and a time when if anything it's more important than ever to make sure someone is in the right environment. For some kids it's fine to go to university (or in Israel, mixed army units); others are very much affected by those around them and need a more religious environment. To each their own. I think it's naive to say "if they're raised right, it won't be a problem." If they're raised right AND HAVE THE PERSONALITY FOR IT, they can get by, but certain kinds of kids will never be unaffected by a strongly secular environment, no matter how wonderful their parents are. After all chazal say arayot in particular is one area where a person can never trust themselves. Even someone who had an excellent education and strong family background can't trust him or herself to face non-Jewish philosophies, non-Jewish beliefs, and very anti-Torah sexual conduct all day every day and come out unscathed.

Lion of Zion said...

SEPHARDI LADY:

"The letter writer referenced above was upset that schools have the audacity to give students and teacher a break, which inconvenienced her (a working parent. . . did she not know that children get vacations?)."

at the risk of sounding like a bad/uncaring/irresponsible parent . . . i think it's ridiculous that my son's daycare is closed for the entire week prior to pesah in addition to pesah itself.

mlevin said...

"I think it's naive to say "if they're raised right, it won't be a problem." If they're raised right AND HAVE THE PERSONALITY FOR IT, they can get by, but certain kinds of kids will never be unaffected by a strongly secular environment, no matter how wonderful their parents are."

We are not talking about children any longer. We are talking about adults. For how long do you plan to smother them with your distrust? When are they adult enough for you to make their own decisions?

As adults, they know their own strengths, weaknesses and desires. They know in which enviroment they will flourish and in which they will rot. If they choose a party school, that's because they do not want to receive a serious education. If they find themselves among promiscous bunch of people that's because they chose to surround themselves with these people. It is almost to find a college where everyone is either studios, or a party animal. There are different types of people and one surrounds themselves with those types they wish to be among. A conservative Orthodox Jewish girl can always find other conservative students in her school. (not necessaraly Jewish), and these types of friendships could last a life time.

miriamp said...

I wasn't an adult at 18. I thought I was, but I was wrong. (said with years of hindsight)

As for raising our children right: I know a girl who was date-raped in her own home with her parents present (in the home, not the room) because her parents trusted *her* enough to let her be alone in her bedroom with a boy. She didn't smoke, do drugs, or drink, and she planned to save sex for marriage, but she was too embarrassed to scream or whatever it would have taken to stop the date-rape at the time -- and it never occurred to her to not let him in her room. At college, at least the one I attended, dorm rooms are basically just bedrooms, and it was completely normal to have friends of both genders over to one's room, because there just weren't so many common areas for entertaining friends in. You have to know your kids, to know whether they would even avoid those probably safe but potentially dangerous type situations, or be able to extract themselves if necessary.

abbi, we *have* had age appropriate discussions about babies, and my kids came along to prenatal visits to hear the baby's heartbeat, they did ask (and were told) how the baby would get out, and they do know that babies have to have a mother and a father. They know that the girls already have all their eggs that might someday be babies. We haven't discussed the other half of the equation yet, though. My 9 year old recently asked how a 15 yr old could have a baby if she wasn't married (from a true story she read in one of the Small Miracles books) but that's the first time it's occurred to any of them that you don't technically have to be married. I will explain it to her better, but I didn't yet mainly because she caught me off guard. (I told her the 15 year old and the baby's father were pretending to be married, something 15 year olds shouldn't do, and that it involves being alone and very not-tznius, as a temporary answer.)

And I am *not* exaggerating what I've read in those secular magazines, unfortunately, although I probably am coloring it a bit. They really do suggest explaining sex to very young children (possibly 3 yr olds, definitely by 5 or 6) by describing the mother's and father's bodies as puzzle pieces that fit together, and giving the whole story about how babies are made, way before the children are old enough to really comprehend. Their point is not to teach them how to try it themselves, of course, but I still think that is way too young. My 9 and 10 year olds probably are old enough now for a better explanation. I've only put it off because I'm still thinking about how to put it, to make sure they get straight facts, (not confusion or myth) albeit with hashgafa.

(Sorry to help hijack the conversation, SephardiLady, but as I don't send my kids to camp, I have no opinion on the subject, and I found the tangent more interesting.)

miriamp said...

oh, and re: condoms, being alone together, etc -- if kids out from under the parental eye want to experiment, that's one thing, and they might manage to find a way to do so even without going away to college. In that case, they are basically adults, making their own life choices. It's more being naive and getting into situations where you wind up doing more than you were willing for or that you really really regret after, that become a problem -- some kids need to be protected longer (not forever, obviously) from that more than others.

JS said...

"I think it's naive to say "if they're raised right, it won't be a problem." If they're raised right AND HAVE THE PERSONALITY FOR IT, they can get by, but certain kinds of kids will never be unaffected by a strongly secular environment, no matter how wonderful their parents are."

I think part of good parenting is knowing your child's strengths and weaknesses. A good parent knows their child's personality and knows what they can and can't handle. For example, if I knew my child was very social, I wouldn't want them to necessarily go to a school with a VERY small frum community. Or, if I knew my child was very impressionable I would want a strong community for them to join. Even from a non-religious perspective, if my child was bad at time management, I would encourage them not to take too many classes, or not to get involved in extracurriculars.

A good parent knows their child well enough and knows what's going on in their lives - parenting doesn't end when your child leaves the house.

I agree that children are not fully adults at 18, this is when they are on their own for the most part and are learning to be adults. In terms of the date-rape story, I think it just goes to show how important it is to teach our children about sex and relationships so they know how to conduct themselves and protect themselves as well.

mlevin said...

"and she planned to save sex for marriage, but she was too embarrassed to scream or whatever it would have taken to stop the date-rape at the time -- and it never occurred to her to not let him in her room." That is part of raising children right. If children do not know that they can scream for help during rape, or let's take it a step further and do not know how to defend themselves against these types of situations, then parents did something wrong.

On the other hand, there is a girl in my shul, she's 21, and she was so conditioned against these types of situations that everytime a male student or even male teacher in college asks her something as insignificant as a name or what time it is, she is convinced that he's about to rape her. She is in constant fear of being attacked. Needless to say, that is why she is not married, because she is terrified of males she did not grow up with, and males she did grow up with (in our shul) are terrified of her.

Anonymous said...

miriamp, i hope you realize that your kids will likely hear these things in school (yes even in a frum school), and the description may not be totally accurate. having grown up frum going to beis yakov schools my whole life, i can tell you that although my parents never told me, my friends certainly did. there will always be that one kid who "knows too much" that helps fill in those a little more sheltered.

Elitzur said...

Since I started this whole college discussion... my point wasn't about the problems found on college campuses. My point was does it make sense to take college aged kids OUT of a family situation when they are finally old enough to pay attention to family dynamics (and hopefully have guidance from their family or others in the community) and into a situation where basically the only people they see are going through the same struggles they are...

ora said...

mlevin and js--
I don't see any contradiction between what I said and what you're saying. I clearly said that some young adults can handle college and should be trusted to do so. I just wanted to point out that not everyone can.

Also, you haven't addressed the idea that people should never trust themselves in certain areas. Nobody, even the strongest (religiously) and most confident teens (or grownups), should be putting themselves in an environment where they will be constantly exposed to immodest behavior. Of course, that's not a necessary part of college in many/most cases, and with proper living arrangements it shouldn't be an issue. But it disproves (IMHO) the "ignore the condom" argument to a certain extent. There's no such thing as being "good enough" or "strong enough" to hang out in certain environments.

mlevin--I think you're taking the blame the parents attitude too far when you blame them for their daughter being raped. A lot of women freeze/panic in those situations, whether they know what to do on an intellectual level or not. Maybe they could have done more to protect her, maybe not. The point is, nobody is religiously strong enough to no longer need yichud and related laws.

As for the young woman in your shul, what do her issues have to do with parenting? Do you have any idea what her parents told her about men and sex, what she read about the topic, what kind of negative experiences she might have had that led to her fears, etc? Unless you're her psychologist (in which case you really shouldn't be posting anything about her), I doubt you know enough to properly asses the roots of her problem. It could be (and according to the principal of "dan l'chaf zchut" we should assume) that her parents did nothing wrong.