Advice From YidParenting
By Rabbi Yitzie Ross
Q: My wife and I have started reading this column weekly, and we enjoy it tremendously. We feel that you have a good grasp of what’s going on, and your advice is very helpful. You wrote a column last year about families in a specific location going away for midwinter break, and we wanted to ask a bit further. We don’t go away since we both work; logistically it won’t work out. Therefore, we have four children at home who are bored, with “nothing to do.” Any recommendation that won’t break the bank? It seems that many midwinter camps are popping up, but we can’t afford or justify spending almost $1,500 altogether so our children shouldn’t be bored. Do the yeshivos realize what they’re doing to us? What are your thoughts?
A: First of all, thank you for your kind words. The column you’re referring to was written last January; you can read it here: Yidparenting.com/blog/mid-winter-question.
Your question has two parts. First, you want to know what working parents should be doing with their children when they are home from school. Secondly, you are wondering why the yeshivos give off.
To answer your first question, there are ideas I can share with you. Most of them won’t break the bank, although they might take some time to set up.
(1) Arranging playdates is a great idea. It would be wise to do this very far in advance, with other like-minded parents. Obviously, you need to make sure there is appropriate supervision wherever your children end up. Transportation might be an issue, but if you set this up weeks ahead, you shouldn’t have that much of a problem.
(2) Hiring a babysitter is another solution that many families opt for. This won’t take away the “bored” issue, but it’ll help in the supervision department. It might also help if you find a neighbor who has the same problem. You can split the costs and your kids can have a change of scenery.
(3) You mentioned that you and your wife work. If you could each take off one day, that covers two days, and it gives your kids some great Mommy and Abba time. I’m sure taking off a day isn’t easy, but it’s certainly worth it. There are so many day trips your kids would enjoy–especially if it means spending the day with you. Some examples include museums, parks, ice-skating, or bowling. Additionally, it might be a wonderful opportunity to visit an elderly grandparent or relative. Concluding the day with a trip to the ice-cream store would leave the kids feeling accomplished, wonderful, and satisfied.
(4) If your kids are old enough (or if you have teenagers who are off from school), you can help them create a schedule. Structure is key: what minyan they should go to, breakfast, quiet time, electronics, playing outside, getting together with friends, etc. You can include outings, such as bowling or pizza. While your kids are at home, I would suggest having a neighbor keep an eye out, or at least calling and checking up constantly. You can also insist they call you every hour or so.
(5) If you have enough neighbors in the same boat, you can pool your resources. Instead of sending the kids away and spending a few hundred dollars, you can hire a high-school boy to do something with all of them. It’ll be a lot cheaper, and they’ll have more individualized attention.
Your second question stumped me. I know some yeshivos don’t give several days off; rather, they have a few extended weekends. This year, the timing is a bit funny since many yeshivos just gave off a few days for Chanukah, and now they’re providing a mid-winter break as well.
However, a little time off isn’t a bad thing. It gives rebbeim and teachers a chance to recharge their batteries. It also gives the kids a break from school and time to unwind. It’s not easy on the parents all the time, but I’m pretty sure that yeshivos have been giving this vacation for many years. As kids, you probably loved it, so it’s not really fair to complain now that it’s an inconvenience.
You should certainly not complain about it in front of your children. If you display disrespect towards the yeshiva your children attend in front of them, you can’t expect them to take it seriously. If it really bothers you, call up the yeshiva and ask the menahel or principal what the logic is.
Enjoy your vacation!
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a well-known rebbe and parenting adviser. To sign up for the weekly eâ€‘mails and read the comments, visit www.yidparenting.com.