Dear Mrs. Bluth,
Recently you printed a letter from a young girl who returned from seminary and complained about the untzniusdic way her mother and some of her friends dressed. My problem is just the reverse.
To better understand my difficulty, I need to tell you that we are a very yeshivish family. My husband and I are very medakdake on our children’s middos and put a lot of effort and emphasis on being exemplary role models for them. We do not own a television or allow our children to have electrical gadgets, cell phones, iPads or even use a computer for schoolwork without our supervision.
Here is our issue.
Our twelve-year-old daughter wanted to go to sleepaway camp this summer for the very first time. Pesach time, she “stole” the affikomon from her grandfather and asked him to pay for it. He agreed. Our boys had been going to camp for a number of summers, so, we did our due diligence and began researching camps that met our specifications and would accept her on a scholarship so as not to impose a great hardship on my parents.
She is the only girl, and I was very apprehensive, but with much verbal preparation and words of caution to pick her friends carefully, we sent her off at the end of June.
What we got back was someone I didn’t recognize. My quiet, sweet-tempered little girl who was every mother’s dream, had suddenly become loud, outspoken and argumentative. She had cut her beautiful long red hair in camp and it looked horrible; gone were her knee socks and mid-calf length skirts. They had been exchanged with clothes from a girl who was a good eight inches shorter than her and barely covered her knees. Unpacking her duffel bags brought more surprises. Almost all of her shirts and blouses had sleeves that had been cut-short or were rolled up – again, many not her own. I also found lipstick, which she claimed was lip gloss, and magazines that were totally inappropriate reading. Needless to say, she was also furious that we had gone through her things (without her permission!?!) and confronted her. We were at a complete loss for words.
It is now almost two weeks since she got home and a few days before school starts. She is fighting me on the length of her uniform, how she wants to wear her hair and many other things. I am terrified that she will get in trouble and fall in with a bad crowd. She still keeps in contact with some of her friends from camp.
I am at a loss at what to do and dread what will happen if she breaks school rules. I am also furious at the camp for accepting children with such diverse backgrounds and exposing sheltered children like my daughter from a yeshivish household to the ways of the world without proper supervision or protection. Please tell me how to reclaim my daughter and bring her back to the way she was before this camp debacle.
File this under tzar giddul bonim! Many things in life are unpredictable and we have to weather the outcomes as best we can, while other things are fairly predictable, and we still have to weather the outcomes. Your problem falls into the latter category and I feel for you. However, your angst is the by-product of a child’s “first taste of freedom” syndrome and generally vanishes as the new school year begins in earnest.
Children who are sheltered and shielded from worldly things are the first to fall victim to a crash course in materialism and desires when they are exposed to other children who come from homes perhaps more permissive from their own. With no parents around to say “No, this is not what a bas Yisroel should do,” along with the freedom of experimentation without reproach, your daughter was an easy mark.
You really can’t fault the camp. Yes, we would like to think that every child admitted to a summer program is exactly like your child, but you would be deluding yourself. Camps are a business and as such, they need to fill up to make ends meet with some extra to make it worthwhile. Although I’m sure they try to keep a certain decorum, they are not always successful, as the main objective is to give the kids a good time so that they’ll want to come back again next year. Parents, on the other hand, have to be prepared to “look away” a little bit and do damage control when they get their little darlings home again and into the reality of their pre-camp life.
Have no fear; I am fairly certain that your daughter will suffer no lasting affects from her “worldly exposure” during the summer. Just be consistent in your lifestyle and actions, without being too critical of her odd behavior and, I believe, as she gets immersed back into her routine of school activities, home-life and Yomim Tovim, summer will become a sweet and fleeting memory.
And hide the lipstick for when she’s older!