Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

9 Tammuz 5759 - June 23, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
The Day Camp Alternative
by R. Chadshai

My ten-year-old daughter refuses to be registered for the school day camp. I am a mother of six, my oldest being twelve and the youngest, a six-month-old baby. I don't work outside the house, but since she is an only daughter amongst five boys, I am afraid that she will become bored very quickly during vacation, especially since most of her friends do intend to go. In previous years, when I did register her, she was not pleased about going, even though I know that the program was well planned, varied, appealing and interesting. I am very interested in her being part of some social and occupational structure, since the vacation is long enough even with the three week day camp, but she vehemently refuses, claiming that she has enough to keep her busy. Should I force her to go or leave her be?

A Jerusalem mother

Leave the Decision Up To Her

The summer vacation always looms up threateningly with each coming summer. The expenses are numerous and the daily routine goes awry. One must be constantly on one's toes with productive keep-busy ideas for the children lest they succumb to laziness, which, as we know, is the mother of sin. Frustrated mothers recurrently wonder why girls need such a long vacation, why a three week bein hazemanim would not suffice to relax, enjoy oneself enough to yearn for the schoolbench when it has passed.

Nine long weeks are only partially filled with day camps, and the remainder of the time is filled with boredom. When a child refuses to attend day camp, one must examine: 1) her social status. She may have difficulty keeping friends, or she may be shunted to the sidelines for various reasons. 2) Possible bad memories she may harbor from experiences in past day camps. Perhaps her counselor did not show her enough attention or picked on her. Perhaps she lost in some competition and took it too hard. Even if it turns out that none of these negative aspects exist, there is no reason to force her to attend a day camp. Bear in mind that as enjoyable as it is meant to be, it will defy its purpose if it is forced upon her.

Give her the freedom of choice. You think her choice is unwise? If she realizes her own mistake, the lesson she will derive will be far more effective and long lasting than if you make the decision for her. Let her feel that you rely on her maturity and good sense. Sometimes it is precisely this approach that will take the wind out of her sails and make her come to terms with the problem in a mature, sensible fashion. She will realize that she is not doing you a favor by going, but doing it for her own benefit. Try to react as objectively as possible and if she is adamant, accept her decision naturally and make peace with the idea.

The natural place of a Jewish girl is, after all, ostensibly in the home! As an adjunct to the mother, in training towards her future responsibilities as a homemaker. In this modern age, we have become accustomed to following the herd even with regard to leisure pastime. We sometimes get carried away with the imposed need to keep up with society, to do what everyone else is doing, at the expense of stifling our natural good sense, desires or sense of creativity. Besides participation in day camps etc., outside norms dictate to us, for example, the need for cultural enrichment, such as music or art classes, going away for vacation, attending certain performances - `because everyone is doing it'. It is precisely those who fight this urge and trend, those who choose their own positive preoccupation and leisure time activities, who are closer to the natural ideal. A pity not to let your daughter express her individuality and good sense fully in this very normal fashion. And in your case, since she is an only daughter, she can prove to be an invaluable asset, and this is the perfect opportunity to fuse a strong relationship with her.

Monitor the nature of her activities: mobilize her for help in the house, according to her age and capabilities. Enable her to develop creativity and independence within the home structure. Enrich her world by providing reading material and suitable games. Teach her cooking and baking and give her a free but supervised hand. She can acquire proficiency in many household areas that will serve her far better than other social activities, and without the pressure of the school year, can follow her own instincts and preferences in a leisurely manner.

Vary the routine at your own pace and whim, without outside dictation. Send her to relatives in the city or outside it, where she can spend time together with cousins/friends her age and then invite them to you in return for a reciprocal benefit. The long vacation period will pass and then will come the time to evaluate her choice. You may be the one to be convinced that it was wise, that her time was not wasted and that she managed to fill it with productive, positive activities. Or, she might come to the realization that her choice was not the best, in which case you can infer the proper conclusion for the coming year.


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