Special Note: For the past few weeks, we have been discussing the sad state of little children who are abandoned to the care of maids. The letters keep pouring in, and many disturbing ramifications of this terrible neglect have come to light. Obviously, I cannot publish all of them, but I would like to express my appreciation to the many people who have taken the time to write. I would however, like to share one letter with you, for ithighlights the problem and also focuses on yet another aspect of this crisis.
‘Teenagers Are Also At Risk’
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:
I would like to congratulate the woman who had the courage and the wisdom to write about this deplorable situation. I could never understand how frum people who are so scrupulous about the observance of mitzvos, can be so insensitive as to hand over their most precious, sacred charges, to non-Jewish, illiterate help.
To my mind, there is absolutely no excuse for such blatant neglect. We daven to Hashem that He grant us children who will follow the path of Torah and have good midos (character traits), but how on earth can we hope to achieve this if we entrust this responsibility to people who have no clue as to how to raise a Jewish child? And what I find even more maddening is that these parents are mostly well-to-do.
The mother who hands over her little ones is not constrained to go to work to help put bread on the table. Rather, she is on her way to indulging herself and “having a good time,” because that is exactly what takes place at a resort. As you so aptly said in your response, “Parents who can afford to go away should use that opportunity to bond with their families, to “have a good time enjoying their children” rather than dumping them on strangers.
To be sure, there are mothers who must work to support their families, and they must be on guard not to fall into this trap. I have heard many horror stories of baby-sitter abuse and neglect. I recognize that in today’s economy, many families require two incomes to survive, but that does not give them license to employ child care people who are foreign to our Torah way of life.
I realize that appropriate baby-sitters are not easily found, but every mother should ask herself “What’s the point of working, if in the process, I lose the goal of my life – my children?” No matter what, little children should not be entrusted to the care of those who have no clue as to our Torah way of life.
I am writing you at this time however, because I would like to focus on another aspect of this problem – teenagers. They too are being abandoned – not to the care of maids (they are too old for that), but they are left on their own. In many circles, it has become vogue for parents to get away for long weekends – to Florida, the Islands, or even Europe, leaving teenagers alone in the house, believing that they can fend for themselves, with the maid there to clean up after them.
As a mother of teenagers, I can tell you that when these kids get together without parental supervision, they get into trouble, and I mean trouble, ranging from using “chat rooms” on the Internet, to drinking. The parents, of course, are unaware. They feel secure that their children will be safe and sound while they are away. After all, they are young adults.
But they are not young adults – they are adolescents, and that’s a very dangerous period of life. The best of them are vulnerable to peer pressure and can easily become involved in activities that are antithetical to our Torah way of life. This includes movies, music, and hanging out with the wrong people in the wrong places. It takes just one wrong turn, and that young person can get lost for a long, long time.
Finally, there is another factor – many of these boys and girls have their own cars, giving them the freedom to cruise around and get into further trouble. I know that all this is taking place, but I also know that parents don’t want to recognize the problem and are even resentful of reminders. In a sense, these young adults present an even greater danger than toddlers, for once they go off the derech – depart from the Torah way, it is well nigh impossible to get them back. Needless to say, the way downhill is always fast; climbing back up is a struggle.
Again, your readers might think that I am exaggerating. I wish that I was. I wish that I could say that these things do not happen among yeshiva students. But not only is it happening, it is a common occurrence and not only among boys, but unfortunately among girls as well. There is
much talk about teens-at-risk, and many schools have been established for such children, but why can’t we apply some preventive medicine? Why do we have to wait until it’s too late to take action? It all depends on the home – on mother and father. There used to be a commercial, “It’s ten o’clock, do you know where your children are?”
Well, I would like to paraphrase that question. “Do you know where your kinderlach are?” Parents should always know where their sons and daughters are, and it’s not only regarding one’s own children that one has to be vigilant, but regarding their friends as well. If they receive an invitation for a Shabbos, don’t just say “yes” because you happen to know that the friend comes from a good family. Sure, the family might be great, but the question you must ask is, “Will the parents be home on that Shabbos?” Because if they’re not, you should not allow your son or daughter to go. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough. Children should not be at home without parental supervision.
I realize that many people may take exception to my letter and feel that I am exaggerating. I wish that I was. I can relate too many actual stories of young adults who lost their way. I realize that you have been discussing this subject in your column for several weeks and might wish to call a moratorium on it and move on to another subject. But I felt it important to make unsuspecting parents aware of the pitfalls they are courting when they are not taking care of their children “hands on”.
Too late do such parents wake up and find that the road back is bumpy and hard. Thank you Rebbetzin for your outstanding service on behalf of Am Yisrael. Your column always focuses on issues that are of vital concern to all of us. May HaShem give you continued hatzlacha in your avodas HaKodesh.