Thursday, October 14, 2010

Frum, Fruitful, Faulty

I know a lot of people are gonna get in my grill about this one, but I need to talk about it.

Birth control is frowned upon by many rabbis in the Brooklyn community. Especially the Chassidish ones. As a result of this we see couples with 8, 9 sometimes 12 children being a standard. I myself grew up as one of 8 and have seen certain common denominators in large families that compel me to be against this concept. I don't know what the exact cap would be so far as how many kids is the limit, but I know 8 or more is too much for anybody. Even if the woman has full support of her husband from every aspect of the marriage (which is not always the case) its just not doable. There are a few factors to consider.

Financially, if you're in the frum community and can afford to have that many kids (most probably not), you're doing really well. Your'e paying on average $10,000 give or take in tuition alone. Not to mention rent/mortgage, food, utilities and any other expense a family of 10+ people would have. Lets say you hire help to raise your army of kids, well then you're not really doing the raising, are you? I personally am against having kids raised by nannies. Its a substitute for something that if could be done by the parents, should be. (I'm not talking about a babysitter who watches your kid for a few hours a day. I'm talking about a live in nanny who feeds, changes and teaches your kid the ABC's. A friend of mine was a teacher at a Jewish school with mostly kinder-gardeners from well to do families. Most of these kids were dropped off and picked up from school by their nanny in a limo and talked about how they're bored with their 12th trip to Aruba, what kind of childhood do you think they're having? The ocean of money isn't helping... I'm going off topic...) Point is, even if you can afford to give 8+ kids everything they need financially, it still means you shouldn't have 8+ kids because...

A person has only so much time, patience and energy in their day. Children need to get attention from their parents. They need to know that their parents are there for them and that they're important. I can attest to this. When living in a household of 8 or more, kids get lost in the shuffle. Growing up and being used to this "brushed off to the side" situation can seriously effect a child's upbringing and development (both emotionally and psychologically) for the worst. We hear about this "middle child syndrome". Well the more kids a family has, the more "middle child" the less needy kids feel. If one of the kids G-d forbid gets sick and needs more TLC, someone is going to suffer. Either it'll be the sick kid since mommy has to tend to everyone, or it'll be the non sick kids because Mommy is giving them less attention than the sick kid. Its like this with every aspect of their lives and shapes kids into being confused, angry or resentful adults. In every 8+ family, theres always a child or two who grows up with an issue or two as a result of this. (To add insult to injury, imagine a woman who doesn't know anything about the world or how to raise kids. Married for 8 years, the most of which has been spent being pregnant, trying to tackle a house full of wild/needy/neglected children on her own without the help of her "Women belong in the kitchen" husband...okay, maybe a bit extreme. Maybe not.)

I know some of you are thinking (as you usually would). Stop being so judgmental! Who are you to say how many kids a couple should have? What makes you the authority on the subject? Well the results speak for themselves, I have first hand experience with the subject and again, two people can only handle 8+ kids so much before something bad eventually happens.

Children need to be nurtured. The raising of ones kids shouldn't be done in a half-asked manner. Kids thrive when they get the full parent experience. If they feel like just a number as a child, they'll feel that way as an adult, along with all the issues and complications that go with that experience...and the reality is, the more kids you have, the less time, energy, patience and money you have for them. I believe having too many kids is, in part, why so many child therapy agencies (government sponsored of course...) in Brooklyn are packed to the gills with frum Jewish clients...(the topic of the next post) along with  being the source of many other problems...I'll discuss some of these in the next post.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Babies Sitting Babies

Babysitting is something every parent struggles with. You love your kids to pieces but sometimes you just need a break. For those of us who have parents who are able or willing to watch our little ones a trip to Bubby and Zaydie's house comes as often as possible. Some aren't so lucky.

For those parents who have older kids, babysitting pretty much comes as often as you like. The question is, what is the cutoff age for being too young to babysit? Peoples opinions on this vary, however, I think most would agree that some kids are just too young.

My wife was walking down a Jewish block in Midwood when she came upon a little girl sitting on her front stoop (front door closed), not older than 5 years old, crying her eyes out with a 1 year old in her lap. Naturally, she approached the child and asked "Are you okay? Where is your mommy?" and got nothing but endless sobbing. After standing there for a minute or so, her Mom comes back. Before she could even being to exprience relief my wife was astounded.

Mom started yelling at her child. "Why are you crying!? I was only away for 2 minutes?!" then grabbed the keys, opened the front door and said "Get inside!". Later we discovered that this is a Mom of 8+ kids. The exact number is uncertain but it is definitely more than 8. If this is how she treats her 5 year old, I shudder to think what kind of experience the older ones had growing up.

Besides this being illegal reckless endangerment that could put all your kids in foster homes and you in prison, and besides the obvious danger and utter stupidity of leaving 2 children susceptible to being kidnapped, what about the possibility of your kids getting hurt on their own? What was this woman thinking? That her 5 year old could handle the situation if faced with something dangerous? How does she rationalize this in her mind? The answer is, she probably doesn't, or maybe she has this whole "Hashem will watch my kids while I'm gone" thing in her head. Is it really so difficult to bring your kids along with you wherever you're going for 2 minutes?

Albeit an extreme example, this is not by any means an isolated situation. I see girls as young as 8 years old babysitting more than two kids younger than 3 on a regular basis. I see them walking on commercial streets and across 4 lane parkways. Everywhere. All the time. Whats to stop some pervert from kidnapping these kids never to be seen again? What about accidents? G-d forbid some of these kids get run over, or one has some other kind of sudden medical problem. Whats to be done then? I don't think these meidelach are trained in CPR or Jiu-Jitsu in case of emergencies.

This trend of leaving babies to watch other babies is dangerous and unfortunately commonplace. My rule is, if you're not old enough to sign for the UPS package, you're not old enough to babysit. Call me crazy, but I'd rather see my kids watched by a responsible adult than watched by all of New York on the 10 o'clock news' "have you seen this person" segment.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Kosher Hitch

I'm not sure about other communities, but I know in Boro Park, Brooklyn it is common practice for frum people to hitch rides. Now, if you're an adult and make the choice of hitching a ride, albeit a stupid one, its your choice to make. When a person hitches a ride they are putting themselves at the mercy of a total stranger who can essentially drive them anywhere. In Boro Park there is also the understanding of, if theres a frum person driving the car, you're "safe". Again, if grown men and women want to risk getting into a car with a complete psycho, they are free to make that choice.

However, when kids are involved, its a whole other story.

I was recently in a conversation that included a friend of a friend who is a Boro Park resident. The topic of discussion went from high tuition to school bus service. This guy told us that he doesn't use school bus service because its too expensive (The school he sends his kids to only offers private bus service.) We asked how his kids (aged 7, and 9) get to school every day. He nonchalantly told us that he stands on the corner with them and hitches a ride. When he sees a frum person pull over, he talks to them for a minute to make sure they're "kosher" and sends the kinderlach off to school.  Yeah. Every single day.

While my other friend and I were rolling our jaws up from the floor, I thought the obvious. What would possibly compel a person to be so lazy (or stupid), that they'd put their kids lives at risk so they wouldn't have to take them to school?! We tried to explain to him the dangers of doing this, especially on a daily basis. His repeated response was either "Its okay. They're good frum Jews. Its perfectly safe." or "You don't live in Boro Park, you wouldn't understand." I definitely don't understand. After mentioning this to a few other Boro Park residents I learned that this sort of thing is common practice, although all the others said they wouldn't let their child hitch until he or she is Bar/Bat Mitzvad.

13. A 13 year old child who gets driven in strange peoples cars to and from school with the only condition being, the driver needs to be dressed the way Totty dresses. I had hoped that this was really some elaborate chassidish carpooling system, but this really is just complete strangers driving other peoples kids. How do these parents sleep at night?! There needs to be some voice of reason from within the Boro Park community about this problem. Allowing your kids to hitch rides with a complete stranger, no matter how frum they look, is reckless and irresponsible. Heck, even hitching with occasional acquaintances is dangerous! Haven't they seen enough child molesters in handcuffs to know the risks of leaving children unattended with unfamiliar people? I guess not.

This needs to be enforced either by rabbis in the community (not likely) or the police. I'm not sure how. All I know is this is a serious problem that can't continue. Maybe a child or two needs to (G-d forbid) die or get kidnapped before Frumville starts waking up.