Monday, July 21, 2008

How Long does Parenting last for?

Thanks to Lion of Zion for getting me thinking about this topic again. There's been some discussion on the blogosphere about the competition for being the chief influence in our children's lives. Many people have commented that schools and rabbeim believe that they should be primary in a child's life. There have been many examples given of how schools "put down" parents in front of children. How did things get to this point?

How much actual time do parents get to spend with their children? The question is not inane because I believe that time is an important factor in the school versus parents tug of war. I believe that it is even more of a factor when discussing boys.

Your little one is going to leave home by 7:30 in the morning to make minyan. He will eat breakfast in school and lunch too. Sometimes he will even eat dinner in school. He will start out spending eight hours a day in school, 6 days a week, and then those hours will creep up until he is spending 11 or 12 hours a day in school. Let's give that child 8 hours of sleep. Let's give the child one hour a day for bathing and dressing and other routine matters. So, how much time is that child spending with his parents? Precious little really. But at least he is at home every day so that parents can try and take an "emotional" temperature. They can notice and respond to things that need encouraging and things that don't. They can talk to their son on the spot and face to face. And there is Shabbos together. Shabbos, where boys and their families can continue to strengthen the bond that makes them family. Shabbos, where a boy learns what his father's minhagim are so that he, too, can carry them into the future.

And then school ends and the boys are hustled up to sleep away camp a scant one week later. Two months of being away from home. And when they come home towards the end of August? One scant week and school starts again.

And then they go to high school, and for many parents their sons become someone they miss and someone they don't see very often. Yeshivas have been pushing for many years, and being successful, in getting high school boys to dorm in the yeshiva. They give parents all kinds of wonderful reasons for this--the boys learn better, they concentrate better etc. But what it boils down to is a type of redundancy for parents. They see their sons only occasionally. Parenting, however much is actually taking place, is being done by strangers. And in the competition between yeshivas and parents the score is yeshivas 10--Parents 0.

Is it their rebbis who live in the dorms with the boys and are available yomom v'loyloh when a boy needs the right someone to talk to or confide in? Of course not. The dorms are supervised by dorm counselors, usually just older bochrim in the yeshiva. The boys are surrounded by other boys just like them--not yet adults, not yet fully formed and yet away from home. A case of the blind leading the deaf and dumb. This is who is doing the "parenting" for your teenage boys? Why?

I posted on the problems of dormitories when it comes to shidduchim--Yeshiva dormitories and the Shidduch Process--a Match not made in Heaven. But the problems I discuss in that posting extend well beyond the area of shidduchim.

You want to know why the tug of war between schools and parents is possible? Look at how much time is "given" to parents to be with their children and how much time is given to a school and you get a lot of the reason.

It seems like the only thing being left to parents is to open their wallets and pay, pay, pay. And where is that money going to go? The schools have already told your sons; no need for you to worry yourself about that. Just don't consider retiring any time soon.

Oh, there is one other thing that will be left to parents: if your son does something wrong, it will be blamed on the parents and family, never on those who are actually "raising" the boys in the dorms and yeshivas. When it comes to a child's actions there is a peculiar good cop/bad cop attitude taken, and parents are never the good cops. When something is "broken" you are suddenly back in demand, and it's your job to fix it.

The situation is only marginally better with our daughters. They are at least home, for the most part, during high school. This does not mean that the girls schools are not doing a lot of "parenting" during the hours they have your daughters. And then you send them to Israel to seminary.

There has been a lot of discussion about working mothers of young children. Those who are in favor of these mothers staying at home point out that someone else is raising their children, someone else is making the day to day decisions that impact on the children. I might point out that when we extend a school day to the length it is now, and a school week to the length it is now, that we are putting ourselves into a similar situation to those working mothers: someone else is raising our children, or at least purporting to. This applies to dormitories as well. And if you don't think that a nanny is doing an adequate job with your toddler, just what kind of a job is the school doing with your older child? I bet you would fire any nanny who told your child that she is more important than you are, that more kovod is coming to her than to you. Fired any yeshivas lately?


Anonymous said...

The Yeshivos are raising the boys. The teenage boys are being raised by other teenage boys in the dorm. The longer school hours during the week and on Sunday, the shortening of vacation time during the year and in the summer, the push for camp and--for some--"learning camp," the boys in the Chareidi system don't stand half a chance. Actually, families don't stand half a chance. Once again, thank G-d for Modern Orthodoxy.

Anonymous said...

At the rate that school days are increasing in length and we are being told more and more that our boys "belong" in summer camp and "belong" in dormitories, those to the right are going to have to start being referred to as "biological parents" rather than parents.

Sorry for sounding like a cynic, but why would those families to the right buy into the school having their children for more time then they do? Might it just be possible that for those to the right families with 5-10 children of mixed sexes it's easier when someone else has half your brood to feed and sleep?

Anonymous said...

This is very sad and completely goes against what a family is supposed to be. If these boys are being raised by older boys and hardly ever see a family in action, how will they know how to parent their own children? How will they know how to interact with their wives on a daily basis? How will they know how a family is supposed to "be?"

I suppose they'll perpetuate the cycle and send their own children away when the time comes.

Anonymous said...

Who forces parents to send their kids to schools like this? There are plenty of other ones. My answer is this is a question of prestige; parents want their kids to be in "the best" yeshivot and seminaries, to get "the best" shidduchim and so on.

As I commented on the other thread, if we treated religion less as a competition and more as avodat Hashem, many of these problems would resolve themselves.

Anonymous said...

I'm not really part of the community where sending boys away is widespread, but I know about it peripherally, and I think part of it comes from the yeshivos being picky, not just the parents. There may be no choice but to go away for a boy who isn't accepted by local yeshivos (or nearby schools, where they may board during the week but at least do come home every Shabbos). Also, a boy who is labeled, unfairly or not, may need to go away for high school to get a "fresh start".

In an 8th grade class that I am familiar with, the only girl who went away for high school is regarded as having "issues".

Anonymous said...

Tes, girls who go away have issues. Boys who go away are "good boys." In Lakewood, for example, boys who stay local are considered lower level. I don't agree, I just report the facts as they are, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

When getting married my husband and I would have more likely been called yeshivish then MO. Our families years ago would just have been called frum or orthodox but had moved more to the right over the years. When we had our first child we discovered that we were going to "have to" stop sitting on the fence for certain hashkafic practices because the schools were not going to want our kids otherwise. We did get off the fence. We moved way out of Brooklyn and into central Jersey. Now we're just sort of right wing MO. And I'm thankful we did so because of the point of this posting. My sisters see their kids for less hours during the week then I do and it's only going to get worse. We aren't forced to send to sleep away camp although a lot of the kids in our kids yeshivas go. But the school doesn't care either way. And no high schooler of ours will live anywhere but in our house. My husband remembers all too well what a college dorm was like and there is no way he'll expose our boys to a situation that is even worse, because at least college boys are at least 18.

We had good experiences in the schools we went to but the weird thing is that with only one exception we would not send our kids to those schools the way they are today. They have become way too aggressive in mixing into what are private family matters. They are actively trying to take the place of asking your personal rav for advice and guidance. They are playing parent without having any of the real responsibility for what that means.

Anonymous said...

You should be aware that great gedolim have spoken strongly against dormitory living, esp. for younger talmidim, for various reasons. For example, Rav Schach and Rav Shlomo Wolbe זצ"ל.

See Rav Wolbe's writings, e.g. a sefer called Zeriah ubinyan bechinuch (translated and published by Feldheim with the title of Planting and Building in Education).

Boruch Hashem, we still have real gedolim who understand such things. Despite confusion about some matters, we have all not totally lost our way.

Parenthetically, this whole matter seems to be mostly an issue in the right wing 'Litvishe' Yeshivishe world. In other parts of the frum world, the dormitory phenomenon is alot less common, in some cases even rare to non-existent.

Anonymous said...

Yes it would seem that the more to the right the more the high school dorm issue comes up. But, as with other things, members of that more right wing group use their practices to show how the MO are "not frum enough." We don't educate our children deeply enough and for enough time. We don't give enough kovod to schools and to rabbanim. We have the gall to challenge practices we see as harmful to our families or that have no grounding in actual halacha.

I don't know what the song was titled but the first lines were "Anything you can do I can do better. I can do anything better than you." It seems to me the right wing anthem. I'm sure there are some among them who live their lives without every giving a thought to the MO. Their leaders seem to spend a lot of time examining us like we were specimins under a microscope and then getting into a frumkeit competition using the lines from the song (and they sure don't like it when we return the favor). Schooling is only one area where they do this--there are others.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I disagreed about the dormitory business. He insisted because he felt it was character building and it became such a big deal that I gave in. He had, after all, been in a dorm in high school, so maybe I was wrong.

My son got a tooth ache on a Monday. His dorm counselor told him to try and hold out until Friday when there were no afternoon classes. By Tuesday it realllly hurt so the brilliant counselor told him to use alcohol to numb it. My son had never seen this done before and I still have no idea where he got the alcohol, but he drank it instead of patting it on the tooth. And his roommates kept feeding him the alcohol. Should I mention that they also gave him excedrin at the same time? It was not until Wednesday night, around midnight that things became so bad that they thought to call us. And even then they told us only that he would be ok if we picked him up Thursday morning. We drove the two hours and were there by 6 in the morning and a good thing too. We went straight from the dorm to the doctor who sent us straight to the emergency room, where he had to have his stomache pumped and had to have fluids injected intravenously. He hadn't eaten anything since Monday night, he was half drunk and he was a mess. And yes, the tooth was an abcessed molar which should have been taken care of right away.

When I called the school office screaming I was told that the menahel didn't know anything about it but they would investigate and get back to us. And when they did get back to us the conversation was not to be believed. They referred to the whole incident as an unfortunate misunderstanding. And then they had the nerve to tell us that our son should have complained more--no one realized that the situation was so serious.

Maybe other dorms have different procedures, but we yanked our son out of that one and put him locally. No he was not happy to be treated like a baby--his words. You know what? 14 isn't an adult and it's our jobs to be the parents, not some 20-something year old in a dorm.

Anonymous said...

Parents, in case you were wondering "where your boys are" or what they are doing on your tuition dime in their dorms...

Keep in mind, this is Beis Medrash so these guys are over 18. Now, I wonder what the 14-year olds are doing?

Anonymous said...

Add the caveat that I'm sure many boys are actually learning, but "boys will be boys" and I think they should come home at night when they are 14-18 years old.

Orthonomics said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Orthonomics said...

I have friends who live in a city that requires boarding even if the parents live next door. There is no other non-coed school, an issue for many parents that will opt for boarding their kids. On top the issue of who is in charge, there is the issue of pricing people out of Judaism.

Acquaintances of mine hosted an 8 year old boarder (count them, 8)from a foreign country in their home for an entire school year. Granted they are Chabad, so the thought process is different. The parents wanted their child to have practice on shlichus. In the Yeshiva world the talk is about independence. But how young is too young? Plenty of far more independent young people didn't ever go away until college and/or grad school and/or marriage. Plus, the idea of independence without responsibility is just silly in my opinion.

Well, you wont' see us sending away for high school. To be parents we need to be able to check the heartbeat regularly. I say this figuratively, but then I see Anonymous' horror story, so perhaps I say this figuratively and literally.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, my sister has a story to match yours. I guess that belching and passing gas are a male rite of passage or something like that because none of them are going to see it as being anything out of the ordinary. It started with my nephew a few weeks after he got to the dorm. When it got too much for my nephew's roommates they gave my nephew one of the few private rooms they had. But when it affected life in the classroom they finally contacted my sister to ask her why she hadn't told them that he has this problem. She said "what problem?" It never happened in her house. He was home for Chanukah and she took him to see a gastro specialist. He had an intestinal blockage. No fresh fruits or vegetables in the yeshiva other than pickles. Almost no real fiber. Lots of snack meals instead of real meals. His constipation was turning deadly. Yeah, and his roommate shared his anti-diarheal medicine with my nephew figuring it couldn't hurt. The other roommate had some exlax so they alternated them.

Needless to say he is not dorming any longer. Come on parents out there--what real parent would let a situation like this go for almost 4 months?

You know the cute part? My sister and brother in law stopped paying tuition when they pulled my nephew out. The school argued with them that they owed for the whole year. It was not the school's fault that my nephew was not bright enough to take care of himself and the school shouldn't suffer. All it took was an attorney's letter and they backed off.

Anonymous said...

This dorm business for high schoolers seems so wrong to me. Since when are young teenagers adult enough to take care of all their needs on their own, or even smart enough to do so? What's funny though is that my neighbor won't allow her 14 year old and his friends to go by themselves to Manhattan on the subway because they're not old enough and responsible enough to do that, but she sends him to an out of town high school where he dorms and only comes home a few times a year. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

If you are not careful you could sometimes end up paying a big price when you let a school play parent to your boys.

My son was in a high school dorm and then on to Israel. When he finished up after a few years in Israel he came back and went immediately into shidduchim. When he became a choson he immediately told us that he wants his Israeli rosh yeshiva to be the m'sader kedushin. That's when the trouble started. Not only were we supposed to pay the air fare for the rosh yeshiva to come to the US but we were told by others to whom it already had happened that it would be the "correct" thing to offer a ticket for his wife too, since she had family in the US by whom her husband would be staying. And then my son started telling us about the wedding/chupah actions that his rosh yeshiva allowed or didn't allow. My son stood there and "gently" told me that his rosh yeshiva doesn't hold with all the cross sex hugging and kissing after the glass is broken. His father could hug him but it would be more tsniusdik if I didn't. The same for his grandmothers. When taking the wedding pictures I could stand next to him but I shouldn't put my arm through his or have the picture with me touching him.

My husband and I had a very long conversation about all of this. I was adamant that this man not be the m'sader kedushin at the wedding. It was going to be him or me. My husband asked me why I was taking such a hard stand over what is only one night in a lifetime. First, it would be a bad precedent to set for all the other children. Second, it may be only one night but it is a night that a mother dreams of for years and years and no one was going to tell me that I had to have that night according to their ideas of what is right. And third, I was the parent, not his rebbi and not his rosh yeshiva. They weren't paying for the wedding--I was.

It was tense in my house for a while but I got the wedding the way I wanted. Our shul rav was m'sader kiddushin and I did not bring the rosh yeshiva over. And not so strangely it was my son who turned to me and gave me a hug after the chupah was over. Score one for the mother.

Anonymous said...

Didn't happen to us because we are MO through and through but I saw what happened to many friends' kids when they started living away as youngsters. It's not that they became individuals who differed with their parents; it's that they had a second set of parents who got the upper hand. Some of my friends still don't know quite how it happened. It's a lot more obvious to an outside observer.

It used to be said that a daughter is a daughter for all of her life; a son is a son until he takes himself a wife. You could change that today to read a daughter is a daughter until she's captured by a seminary; a son is a son until his yeshiva says the contrary.

Can't think why the right wing yeshivas are not all in real favor of in vitro fertilization, why they don't make it the chumrah of the month. They already are treating parents as if they were only donor eggs and sperm.

Lion of Zion said...


"Can't think why the right wing yeshivas are not all in real favor of in vitro fertilization"

because (in some camps at least) it is אסור

Anonymous said...

The funny thing is I went to a very goyish boarding school, and lived in a dorm where I went home ever few weeks if that. We had a teacher or other adult on duty in the dorm every night and we had to check in at various points. Also some of the teachers lived in apartments in the dorm buildings. (The rest mostly lived in houses on campus).

Not saying kids didn't get up to stuff of course but at least there were adults around who took responsibility for us. I actually remember one time a teacher asked me too try and look out for another student who was having a rough time (drugs etc).

Zach Kessin (having trouble logging in)

ProfK said...

I'd like to point out that many moons ago I posted one idea for bringing dormitory living to a better standard.
One Step at a Time--Dorm Mothers