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Friday, December 25, 2009

Entertaining Him

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Dear Editor,
I don’t know if this is the right address for this question. I have a healthy 18-month-old boy who is climbing tables and chairs and is getting hurt from falling down. We tell him not to do so and we try to distract him with other things, but we need more and better ideas. We are in need of age appropriate toys and activities.

We don’t send him to a babysitter, so he needs to be entertained the whole day. Please, fellow readers, share some advice or the name of someone, such as a mechanech, who can assist us in this regard.

Thank you.
Z. M.


A parent writes into the Yated this week looking for ideas on what to do regarding a very active 18 month old. Some kids are more active than others and there are plenty of ways to deal with active children. But I want to look at the highlighted part which is something that is so prevalent in child-rearing to day: the belief that children need to be "entertained."

I believe the first time I ever heard of the concept of entertaining children was when my first was turning two and talk of nursery school ensued. Being that I was not sending to nursery, I was regarded with a bit of curiosity to put it politely and a few first time mother friends asked me, but how are you going to keep him entertained *all day*? I think I was as confused as they were. It seemed as I had uncovered a generation gap, or at least a cultural gap, either being possible since I was a bit older and haven't acculturated into this mindset.

Now when I get the question of how I entertain my kids all day I answer very simply that I don't. Additionally, I believe that the approach that I need to "entertain" my kids is counterproductive, especially because the underlying assumption appears to be that kids must be stimulated continually. I think the 614th commandment is one that makes "boredom" assur.

My own approach to child-rearing is to go about all of the many things that need done and to let my children either participate in these activities (e.g. bring me silverware from the dishwasher to put away or clean a window with their own rag) or to find their own activities. Where they are not productively busy, I will try to direct their attention to something that would be interesting to them or assign a task. If things are really out of control, I've found that a change in environment can make a big difference. To make this more manageable, I have tried to set up a nice home environment for them and, although I sometimes don't always do a good job enforcing our rules, I do make a concerted effort to ensure that they respect their environment by not taking out too much at a time and putting away what is not in use. I do find myself actively involving myself in the organization of the living area because certain things can end up a thorn in the side if they aren't organized in an age-appropriate manner. I've found that an unruly environment affects behavior levels, while a homey, but neat environment promotes increased focus on the things they choose to do.

I do take the time to read with them and to play games because these are important activities for their development and they are quite enjoyable ways of connecting with a children. But I don't view my primary focus as a parent should be on entertaining them.

I think that this generation of parents with younger children put a tremendous emphasis on "entertaining" kids from a young age on. It seems to me that the stimulation seems to lead to a need for more stimulation. I just can't join the constant play date crowd or the must find things for my little ones to do crowd. I guess I don't have a mesorah for this way of doing things. But I can remember my own mother handing me a rag.

42 comments:

tesyaa said...

As a parent of boys with ADHD, I think this letter is not a good example for the point you are trying to make. Kids who are extremely extremely active are very difficult to manage.

I would recommend this post from Mother In Israel about dealing with a challenging child, not just for the parent who wrote the letter, but also for parents who don't have a clue what a challenging child is like. Too often when people see a parent struggling with a challenging child, they feel that they could handle it better, or it's parents' fault.

The truth is that having a challenging child or two or three is overwhelming, and the judgment of other people only makes the situation harder.

Staying Afloat said...

I agree with tesyaa. Your post about the staying home with kids in the summer fits in really well with this, and the point about the horrifying concept of not sending kids to playgroup and nursery is well taken.

But I am picturing this poor mother. Every time she hands her toddler a rag to help clean the window, he climbs on the dining room table and jumps to reach the chandelier. Or maybe he runs to flush it down the toilet because he likes what happens afterward. And she's looking around, and all of her friends seem to be able to give their children blocks and pots and pans and they get dinner made and their houses clean, and she can't. She needs to keep this kid busy with something that's safe, because he's not redirect-able. Some kids really do need to be entertained, aka consistently occupied by a supervising adult who watches them constantly, and knows how to structure their environment.

So she's asking for help. Not for a babysitter who will take her active child, but for chinuch help that will serve her well in the future. Either she'll be told it's normal and given tips (perhaps like you've given), or she'll get access to help and a network she can use. Hopefully.

But this summary of how to raise small children? Priceless.

ProfK said...

What someone ought to write to this mother is that she first take her child to her pediatrician and make sure that there is no underlying cause for what she believes to be "being very active." She writes that the child is healthy, but the first step is to make sure that there isn't something like ADHD as a causative factor.

From what she writes there don't seem to be any other children in the home, and what she says is over active may well be business as normal for an 18 month old, but the parents aren't aware of this. My son was not ADHD but routinely loved to climb things, any things, at that age.

Children of this age require close monitoring and constant supervision. They are hardly at a point where they can think first before doing something that might be dangerous. That type of supervision is hardly "entertaining" and I'd say her word choice may be poor but the idea of constantly being with the child is not. Does it all have to be "play" as we tend to define that? No, I think SL is right that a rag and a bucket of water may well be entertaining for a little one. But then again, it might not be. If energy needs to be expended then this child might need to be outside a lot, running and jumping and kicking balls and throwing them, or playing on park equipment.

Again, my advice is to ask a professional--your pediatrician first and then consult with a child development specialist if the doctor feels that might be the next step.

Frugal Kosher said...

Children do need supervision at that age but I do agree that they do not need to be constantly entertained beyond suggestions as to what to do and the occasional book read to them or tower of blocks built.
Moms are perfectly entitled to have a life (and scour the blogosphere or read a book on the couch).

Critiquer said...

Excellent post. Shout it from the rooftops: Eliminate the word "bored" from your vocabulary!

Grrrr, the mothers who describe their infants as bored! Argh, the mothers who teach their children to be bored by constantly finding them things to do and by often referring to boredom ("Are you bored now?")

My answer to the mother who wrote the letter is: It's not very helpful to tell an 18 month old not to climb. When he climbs, you walk over and take him down and seat him next to you and read to him. Or give him some pots and pans and spoons to play with. You need age appropriate toys? So go to the toy store and buy some trucks and some blocks. Buy or borrow lots of picture books, laminated if need be. Take him to the park and let him run around. Or take a leisurely walk around the block, perhaps with him on a leash for safety.

It's great that you don't send him to a babysitter! Plan your day. Have a routine so he knows what to expect.

And please! Don't fall for the ridiculous pseudo medical labels. As you wrote, your child is healthy. A healthy and active toddler needs 1) safe places to expend his energy 2) Mommy's direct attention in talking to him and reading to him. 3) to learn how to occupy himself and you need to teach him by providing him with age-appropriate books and toys.

And it's perfectly fine and recommended to keep him enclosed in a crib or playpen while awake, with books and toys. If you have a playpen near where you're working in the kitchen, you can talk to him and not have to worry about chasing after him. Staying in a confined place is something you should train him to do. This reminds me of the Duggars with their enormous, double-digit family. Mrs. Duggar learned from a fellow mother how to do "blanket time." Blanket time means the child is trained to stay put on the blanket and play with one toy for increasing periods of time.

And I'm glad you didn't mention videos. It's easy to park a kid in front of a video and even active children will stay put for a while, but I sure don't recommend it!

Anonymous said...

A playpen is one thing; hitting your child when he leaves a blanket is another. Talk about killing the spirit and natural curiousity of a toddler. No, thanks, I would rather have a messy house with no clean clothes in it.

alpidarkomama said...

I too have always found the phrase "entertaining my children" very, very odd. Entertaining seems to imply that the parent is performing and the child is observing; there's a separation between them. Our children are LIVING with us. I never feel like it's ME doing something in front of THEM; it's US playing together. Or reading together. Or being silly together. And w/o depending on constant (i.e. over done) stimulation children do learn to create their own play for HOURS, and boredom is a word foreign to their vocabulary. 18-month-olds are BUSY. Calling it ADHD is WAY too premature. Some are busier than others. Gentle, continuous correction, and he no doubt will eventually get the idea. If he's still doing it when he's 3 than there might be something to be concerned about!

We also don't really have hardly any baby toys, and the amount of toys in general is on the very modest size. Kids have B"H a tremendous imagination, creative urge, and enough smarts to play in all sorts of ways. The less "prescribed" the play, the better it is for them, imho. Interesting, engaging things are all around us if we (as children and adults) learn to see and experience them. Life, all by itself, is WONDERFUL! (And I do have a 2-, 3-, 4-, and 6-year-old with me all the time...) Good shabbos!

Orthonomics said...

I pick the letters that I do because they highlight issues that I think are important. I don't ever remember hearing parents talk about the need to entertain their children. Today that is common. So it interests me.

Re: active children. I understand that there are kids who do demonstrate behavior out of the norm. At this young age, there are regular checkups. I don't get the vibe of a real medical issue. I do get the vibe of a parent who seems to think saying no should work (distraction is a workable technique, but once a child has enough attention to not react to the distraction, which falls right around 18 months). Also, she doesn't know what would be a good toy and what would not, which I completely understand since so much of what is on the shelves is pure junk! Good quality toys are out there, but so much of the stuff is just full of bells and whistles and ends up tossed to the side because it isn't interesting. Perhaps good toys would make a nice future post.

I know a number of active kids who receive weak follow through and it seems to contribute to their testing of limits. No has to mean no. One thing I had to learn was to take swift action. So, I'm talking to myself here too because parenting is difficult and even harder is getting two parents with their own temperments reading from the same book.

Critiquer-I really relate to your comments. As for videos, 18 months isn't the age and most kids stuff is way to fast moving in my opinion. It is easy to overuse the screen, although I will admit that I'm guilty at times.

Anonymous-I don't believe the Duggars use the switch in their blanket training. I don't recall that detail in the book, although other families might use a switch.

I happen to have one kid who can get into everything. You don't want to kill curiousity, but establishing limits is important.

Good Shabbos.

Anonymous said...

So sad,

At lunch today with 2 other MO couples. All three of us acknowledged that we couldn't afford more than the two kids we already have due to Yeshiva tuition. All 6 of us already work full-time jobs. One of the woman was almost in tears b\c she really wants a third kid but can't afford one b\c her husband already works 3 jobs to make ends meet. This my friends is the state of modern orthodoxy. Enough said.

rosie said...

When all else fails call Bubby and let her talk to the kid. That is what my kids do.
Regarding a leash; I bought one of my toddling grandchildren a "girafa" harness with a leash. We feed the girafa in the park. He eats leaves. The only thing that I discovered though is that the harness is OK for enclosed areas such as malls and zoos but don't try to cross a NY street with a baby on a leash. Carry the baby or hold her hand.
Regarding using a switch on a baby or any kid; that is cruel and I don't care who else does it. Only mean people treat children that way. Nice people give kisses and play this little piggy (or pick another animal).
Try to get the kid to run around so that he will expend lots of energy and go down for a nap. While no one should overdo videos, 10 minutes of the u-tube clip "Is it Shabbos Yet?" (2 different versions of it made by 2 different Chabad houses)can give the mom a break.
If you need to go to the bathroom, take the kid in with you for safe keeping. When I have to bring toddler grandkids into the bathroom I explain that big people do not wear diapers and offer to let them try using the toilet like a big person. So far they said they prefer wearing diapers.

tesyaa said...

One of the woman was almost in tears b\c she really wants a third kid but can't afford one b\c her husband already works 3 jobs to make ends meet.

This is sad, but in this case homeschooling and public school should at least be on the table as option. You can always educate the kids Jewishly, but you may really regret not having the children you wanted when it's too late.

Yes or no?

rosie said...

I just googled blanket training. I am very, very nauseated from reading that.

Anonymous said...

I have very active sons. When kids are 18 months old and all over the place it is dangerous. The worst possible place is childcare or babysitting in my humble opinion. Physical activity is what is needed!!! Running and playing outside. Swimming and experiencing nature. Helping with chores when age appropriate. OT and therapy--play, sensory, physical, speech, etc. versus the natural therapy--play, fun, swimming, dancing, running, doing. Good for mom and child.

rosie said...

More ideas:
Teach the child to entertain Zeide. Zeide is probably bored and if he tries to fall asleep, let the child cover him with stuffed animals.
Teach the child to pose for Zeide's camera.
Spend as much time with a son as possible. Remember the old saying, "a son is a son till he takes a wife..."

mother in israel said...

Rosie, I agree, restricting a baby's movement in that way is terrible. Babies need to move and explore. An hour in a playpen here or there is one thing, although I never used one. But babies need lots of space and freedom to develop their minds and bodies properly. I'm sure the Dugger children learned to walk but if this is what you have to do to raise 22 children something is seriously wrong.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blanket_training

Abbi said...

"The worst possible place is childcare or babysitting in my humble opinion"

Really? My 19 month old spends his mornings tumbling around a soft play space, scribbling, building, digging in the garden and running around with 6 of his pals in his "horrible" daycare supervised by 2-3 caregivers. I'm having a hard time seeing why this is the worst possible place for him. Maybe daycare is the worst possible place for your kids, but please don't assume that is the case for all kids.

LeahGG said...

I'm with Abbi - my 2.5 year old spends her days running around in a place that is completely child-friendly, hearing stories, listening to music, jumping in a ball-pit. There are structured activities and there is unstructured play time. The children are taught nice table manners, and I never hear the caregivers shouting (and I'm not the only parent who stands outside to listen to what's going on)

As someone who doesn't have a lot of patience, isn't very organized, and has very low energy levels (mainly due to illness), I think my kids are a lot better off spending a chunk of their time playing with other kids in a safe, healthy environment.

This is particularly true for my daughter who LOVES to climb all the time. We have nothing that is safe to climb on, so I'm constantly pulling her off the table, threatening to take her drawing table away (and sometimes actually taking it away) taking her off of chairs, hiding chairs, etc. At daycare, there are climbing toys that she is ALLOWED to climb on and when she gets to the top and says "look at me" someone says "wow! you're so tall!" If I could take her to the park every day, that would be great, but the weather doesn't always allow it, and I'm not always strong enough... so maybe you should reserve judgment when you don't know all the facts of every single case.

Yehudis said...

Note, Abbi's child in daycare is 19 months old. LeahGG's child in daycare is 29 months old.

I assume the comment about "worst place" is because the best place for a baby is with Mommy. There is plenty of time later to play with friends and be supervised by others.

I'm wondering how long "mornings" are and how many mornings baby is away from home.

Also concerned about a 2.5 year old spending "days" away from home!

Babies and toddlers, at least till age 3, need to be raised by Mommy in a low-key home environment. We all knew that up until about the 70's. Women going to work en masse changed that and consequently, we have to come up with a rationale to justify sending babies out of the home. It has gotten to the point that a mother who opts to care for her own kids is judged to be depriving them of stimulating activities in the care of others.

Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly with tesyaa, and I am afraid that Ortho's approach is overly simplistic.

Like tesyaa, I have an ADHD kid. I also have a kid with general developmental delays, and 2 others who are especially defiant. It sounds real easy to just include the 4 kids in the day-to-day household management activities, but there's NO WAY that would ever happen with my kids. And what do you do when you have 3 children with homework to do, and you spent almost the entire afternoon fighting with them to get it done?

I'm sorry, but many kids need to be "entertained" in the broadest sense of the term, especially ADHD kids. My ADHD son cannot keep himself busy, and even with a parent with him he finds everything boring.

I really like Orthonomics but I am sorry to say that as a family strugglig mightily to manage with 4difficult children, I feel resentful toward parents like SL who say, "What do you mean, kids are great, just include them in what you're doing and everything will be fine." I'm very happy for you that this works for your kids. But some of us have children that this doesn't work for, and you shouldn't be making us feel bad because we don't buy in to your "so simple" way of doing things.

Anonymous said...

My children were in a warm and beautifully run chabad preschool. The teachers were great and loving. One day it dawned on me there were no fire escapes. I was told not to worry that I would have to hit the lottery for something bad to happen. So much for daycare run for a profit. center closed later when they ran afoul of a firefighter neighbor.

Orthonomics said...

Anonymous-I'm sorry you are taking offense. As I have already said in the comments, I realize there are children that are especially difficult.

I'm making a social commentary on the notion that children, as a whole, need entertained. I think it is a flawed philosphy and I think this idea, like others, have long consquences.

ProfK said...

Yehudis,
Re your comment "Babies and toddlers, at least till age 3, need to be raised by Mommy in a low-key home environment. We all knew that up until about the 70's. Women going to work en masse changed that and consequently, we have to come up with a rationale to justify sending babies out of the home." What we knew was what was acceptable and considered correct in general society. But that has changed many times over the centuries.

Go back well before the 70s and what you found was multiple generations living in the same home or as close neighbors. There was always a Bubbe or an aunt to take a hand in "entertaining" the children, and to do what was needed for them. Young mothers were not isolated alone at home with no help of any sort.

Nor is this all that unusual today either. A friend's daughter has 9 children. She lives across the street from her parents and her grandmother. She does not use day care for the youngest ones, nor babysitters for the older ones after school should she need to be somewhere or need time for herself. Why should she? Her parents and grandmother spend dozens of hours a week helping her out.

Miami Al said...

The best place for a small child is in a safe place to play with other small children. If that is home with mom, that's fine, if that is in a day care with supervision, that's fine too. The worst place for children is to be in front of the television, any television is bad, and excessive is very bad (and guilty as charged, we've all plopped the kid in front of the TV so we can get food ready).

The only generation raised by mothers at home watching them exclusively was the US Baby Boomers, when the US was such a wealthy nation that it could avoid female labor. At all other times, women worked (except the well to do), we just didn't perceive it the same way because it wasn't in an office 9-5, because that wasn't work.

Given the total bankruptcy of the baby boomer generation as they've headed into retirement, and the total inability that they gave their children to have a better standard of living, I'd say that emulating the baby boomers is a fools errand.

There is ZERO evidence that "mom at home" is any better than day care. There is tremendous evidence about the benefits of breast feeding (although overstated in the media), which is enhanced by mom at home, either mothering or working. There is evidence of the dangers of excessive television. There is evidence of the harm from bad nutrition, which poverty promotes.

But there is NO evidence to support the suggestion that children are best "with mom" for 12 months, 18 months, or 36 months, you're all just making up what you think is best and attacking those that make different parenting calls.

Mom at home to indulge the children? Modern phenomenon resulting from excessive wealth, no historical basis for it, no studies demonstrating the benefits, nothing other that people thinking that how they were raised was best, and an economic transition from the industrial revolution through WW II that created a "workplace" for someone to go, which resulted in men entering it and women not.

Prior to that, women worked as seamstresses, on the farm (remember, 50% of America was agrarian not that long ago), canning, domestic help, etc. The idea of the indulgent stay at home mom, has MAYBE a 25 year run and make a come back as a way station for the wealthy modern family with 1-2 children and a first time mom that is 35 and probably physically can't work (since her job is 60+ hours) was dealing with a newborn, so it's a two year position done twice.

Anonymous said...

ProfK, as usual, is correct. What Yehudis also forgets is that women have always contributed to the financial well-being of the home and responsible for putting food on the table -- by churning butter, milking the cows, tending to the chickens, growing a kitchen garden or working in the fields, weaving the cloth to make clothes and linens and blankets, spinning yarn, sewing the clothes, etc. Now that most of us don't grow and raise our own food or spin yarn for our children's clothes, we need to be able to earn money to buy those things. Very few families can afford to have mom stay at home and still provide for their families (and pay tuition), unless they are willing to live off the dole or are fortunate enough to have family money or a husband who makes a very substantial living.

Yehudis also errs by overgeneralizing. What may be right for one family may not work for another. Please don't be so judgmental of families who make different choices.

Orthonomics said...

Miami Al-I would contain my comments about "entertaining" to be applicable in a school setting. I've spent time in pre-school setting and I don't care for schools where the kids move quickly from activity to activity or where there is music playing constantly, for example.

Anonymous above-It still takes a great deal of time to run an economically efficient household. Women have different energy levels and some can do more and others less.

As for working, some women make money (some even a great deal) and others loose money by going out to work. Everyone has different factors to consider.

Anonymous said...

Orthonomics: With respect to your statement that some women make money and others lose by going to work, I agree. However, in deciding what makes economic sense, it's important to look at the long-term and what the effect of a women not netting much for say 5-15 years and the long term effects of losing several years out of the work force and the experience, training and credentials that are lost, as well as the greater risks to a familiy that has only one parent capable of supporting a family. G-d forbid, but layoffs, disability, sickness and death happens.
I agree that each family should make their own decision as to what makes sense for them and what risks they want to bear.

Orthonomics said...

Anon-These obviously aren't easy decisions. A family that has disposable income might be afford to lose some in the short term. A family with less can't afford to lose in the short term. Not easy choices.

Anonymous said...

Anon on 12/26 said "The worst possible place is childcare or babysitting in my humble opinion. Physical activity is what is needed!!!" The two are not mutually exclusive. The good babysitters and child care facilities provide lots of physical, age-appropriate activity, combined with some more quiet time for reading, coloring, etc. so children can learn to sit still for a few minutes.

Shevy said...

Anonymous brings up the interesting point that women in the past may not have worked outside the home but contributed to the family's well-being in many ways.

What is very pertinent about that comment to the discussion about "entertaining" one's small children is that, when women were churning butter or ironing with sad irons heated on a woodstove, children were never entertained at all.

They were expected to be "seen not heard", often worked alongside their mothers from a very young age or were merely tied to them with a rope to prevent them from wandering off. Many of them also died after falling into the well, standing too close to the fire, etc.

Women worked in the past (whether at home or in factories or sweatshops) because they and their children would have been homeless and starved to death otherwise.

We live in easier times in many ways. I wouldn't like to see us return to the past in its entirety but there is a vast middle ground that has largely disappeared. For example, teaching children to do household chores, to amuse themselves for reasonable periods of time and to play with their siblings rather than to go to camp whenever they can't be in school for whatever reason.

rosie said...

If we are talking about previous generations, remember that children entered the work force very early in life and some children were helping to support the family at age 5. Children also had a 50% mortality rate under age 5 and of the remaining 50%, half of those were dead by age 10.
If you remember your chumash, little Rivkah was a shepherdess at age 3 and her daughter-in-law was an experienced shepherdess at the age of 6 when she met her husband.
Childhood was not filled with toys, videos, and picnics. It was hard work just to survive. Childhood was officially over at 12 or 13 and marriage was a reality; although it didn't always wait until then.
Obviously being a stay at home mother and living on one income, especially if that income is inadequate means lots of sacrifice.
The mother usually loves the child more than anyone else would or could (of course the grandparents may love the child even more than the parents). If the mother is really capable of putting the child's needs first and also making financial sacrifices, then in my opinion, the child is best off with her. If she needs a break, maybe a young teenager can be paid to help out after school. That might work out cheaper than day care or pre-school. Most child care facilities have playgrounds and riding toys so they do give kids physical outlets.
Those families who have the hardest time providing space for physical activities are those in large apartment buildings and tenements.

Avi said...

SL,

The use of the word "entertaining" sounds like your pet peeve to me. The letter writer is asking a fairly straightforward question, and you're shooting her down to discuss polarizing views of parenting. I'd prefer more discussions on the economics of Orthodox parenting - or of being parents in the first place - rather than parenting philosophy.

Ariella said...

I won't get into the question of entertainment here. But, obviously, an 18 month-old cannot restrain himself from temptation if he sees chairs and things that look like they will be fun to climb. Baby proofing needs alter as a child develops. If a child will climb on furniture and hurt himself, she either has to always be on top of him or keep him in a room without these things. In his case, it should be regarded as the same threat as stairs, which most parents gate off for toddlers. But she will still need to keep an eye on her child even when he is playing in one place. One minute he may be sitting with his toys and the next he may be across the room. That's the way toddlers are. Even if he were to go to a program, though, it would only be for 3 to 4 hours a day for that age.

Anonymous said...

On whether children were historically taken care of by the mother: This is only one instance, but in an essay in Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch's translated volume on education, he warns parents that the non-Jewish maid may be taking the children to church on Sundays. This indicates to me that mothers in 19th century Germany had household help who were responsible for the children for long periods of time. Interesting.

alpidarkomama said...

Miami Al - Staying at home with your children is "indulgent"? And a result of excessive wealth??? I can't wait to tell my husband we're RICH! He'll be a bit, er, flabbergasted.

I find it very sad to think that staying home to care for one's children is "indulgent." Indulgent: benignly lenient or permissive. Perhaps you meant a different word????

I usually decline off-topic comment-making, but when I hear people saying things like this I think it's tremendously sad.

sethg-prime said...

Orthomom, I think you and I (and possibly the letter-writer) may have different definitions of the word “entertained”. To me, the word in context meant “making sure he was doing something that was interesting enough to him that he didn’t choose to do anything destructive”. That “entertainment” could be sitting quietly with a book while a parent does housework, emptying the dishwasher, playing a game with a parent or sibling, etc.

I agree that parents should not be catering to their children’s every whim and every desire to stimulation—plenty of times I’ve responded to “I’m bored” with “you’re in a house full of books and toys, figure out something to do”—but I’m not convinced the letter-writer was trying to do that.

Miami Al said...

alpidarkomama, Rosie might neglect the fact that there is approximate 3500 years between the time of the Patriarchs and the post-WW2 baby boom, but she gets the main picture.

For the bulk of human existence, for all be the extremely wealthy, subsistence living required both parents workings PLUS children workings. Women and men worked the fields, children as young as 2 helping with chores.

When we grew a few tomato plants last spring, my 2 year old LOVED picking the red tomatoes. One of my wife's co-workers is from a LARGE family (19 children) from a south American farm, children WORKED.

The idea of a parent being a full time parent? A modern concept born of wealth in the post-industrial revolution world.

By modern American standards, you may not be rich. Compared to a European peasant circa 1650, you are wealthy beyond belief.

alpidarkomama said...

Miami Al,

There's not much point in going back and forth. Our opinions on the subject are utterly divergent. At least we can agree that children love to grow tomatoes and tv is a waste of time! Be well.

Anonymous said...

My grandmother and her mother never held a paying job outside the home. They raised a family and did community work and worked very hard doing so. Cooking and cleaning was labor intensive. They were poor. There were numerous Jewish and non-Jewish mothers like them in America in the early 1900's, who lived in cities and were hardworking housewives and mothers. They were by and large lower middle class and middle class.

Yes, many more people lived within easy reach of close relatives who were available to watch children. The prevalent way of life was one where the father left early in the morning and returned (late) at night while the mother was home. There were exceptions, but this was the norm in America in the 1900's up until the 70's. The average Jewish mother was not in the fields, weaving cloth or milking cows!

MiamiAl's derogatory, inflammatory remarks are obnoxious as usual.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:13: History did not start in the 1900's. If you look back at the preceeding several millenium, you will find a much different story. Also, many of the jewish women who emigrated to the u.s. before the holocaust did work, often in the sweatshops of NYC, like my grandmothers did. Then, if they and their husbands were lucky enough to have a small business like buying and selling rags or burlap bags, or running a small grocer or other mom and pop operation, these women worked alongside their husbands. Why do you think these small business were referred to as MOM and pop? Many other women worked in other fields too. My mother was a public shool teacher from the 1960's - 1990's.
All in all, Miami Al is not far off the mark. While most of us do work hard and don't sit around eating bon bons and getting our nails done, we are much more comfortable than many of our ancestors, although we face our own challenges . We should not fictionalize the olden days. Let's try to appreciate a little what we have now and stop complaining so much. With respect to tuition carping, also remeber that most girls were not educated at all and most were illiterate back in the good old days. Would you like to go back to that?

Miami Al said...

1900 is post industrial revolution.

Most of us work hard. My wife works hard, I work hard.

However, I live in a house with central air conditioning, in door plumbing, and refrigeration. I work from a desk, not an un-air-conditioned factory. I am not at risk of cutting fingers off working the machinery. We run to the super market at any point in the day to purchase fresh produce as well as pre-prepared things.

We do not have to "go to the market" during daylight because the market closes before sundown.

Household chores take less time because our equipment is better. Self cleaning ovens, dish washers, even running water, all make life easier.

Our life is good. Children in the industrial revolution (1830s) probably had two parents working in factories, and by age 8 were working there as well.

We worry about long times in day care, not children in fields (most of human history) or children in factories (most of the 19th century).

People on welfare live MUCH better than people did in the 18th or early 19th century, as the fact that we can have these arguments demonstrates. A kollel family on welfare and stipend may seem "poor," but they can take a hot shower, have 2-3 hot meals/day, and live in a home with heat in the winter, not bundled around a wood burning stove getting carbon monoxide poisoning, the lot in life of the working class 5 or 6 generations ago.

Life may NOT be as good as the 1950s (though I'd rather live today than then for a MYRIAD of reasons), based on the idea of two people working, but its way better than most of human history.

Poverty with my life involving working in a dangerous factory from dawn to dusk while my wife scrubs the floor on her hands and knees in hopes that some of our children will survive into adulthood without being paralyzed from polio or some other scourge...

No thanks, I'll struggle with my mortgage and car payments.

rosie said...

I would also say that if you are looking at history, wealthy women paid wet nurses to care for their babies. Sometimes the babies boarded with the nurse at her home for the first two years of life and then were returned to the mothers that they did not even know. Some of these babies died if the nurse tried to feed more babies than she had milk for but it was not unusual to lose babies then. It is questionable if their own mothers even had feelings for them.
Of course, each generation must seek out the way of life that is best for that generation, given what they have to make a life with. We can learn from the past but the past was discarded because it doesn't work in the present! The horse and buggy does not work on the interstate! Sometimes we find that modern innovations are not as good as what was done in the past (example: home cooking is still more nutritious than modern packaged food) and we have to take a step backward.
Society today recognizes that children need a consistent caregiver for optimum development and the mother's own breast milk is usually the best form of nutrition for most infants. They also need some attention (let's not call it entertainment)in order to develop trust and feel cared for. Whether it is the mother or someone else who gives the child care, the child still develops best with his needs being met. Child labor was necessary in the past but is viewed as evil today and people are working to eradicate it in many parts of the world.

Anonymous said...

"History did not start in the 1900's."

I'm well aware of that. I chose to focus on our (those commenting here) recent experience. The previous comments were "all over the place."