Sunday, June 26, 2011

Blogging the chofesh hagadol (Big, huge, no-end-in-sight, looong vacation) Week 1

The "Chofesh HaGadol", or "long vacation" is the term given for the summer vacation that Israeli school children have every year. All elementary schools here finish on June 30 and begin on September 1st, thus leaving two full months for vacation. The teenagers (yes, that would be my kids), finish about June 20, giving them an added bonus of ten days.

In America, the bulk of the summers were nearly as structured as the school year. When they were younger the kids went to day camp and were out of the house from about 7:30 in the morning until about 4:30 in the afternoon. As they got older they started going to sleepaway camps and could go for four or seven weeks. The summer we made Aliya all three were in sleepaway camp for a month. I would have sent them for the entire summer had we not moved here.

In Israel the younger kids also attend day camp, for a shorter day and a shorter period of time. Older kids (over 16, I think) can get working papers and find jobs, but there are alot of kids competing and it's not easy to find summer work at that age.

The toughest ages to deal with in the dog days of summer are the kids who consider themselves to old for day camp (and there really aren't programs in place for this age anyway) and are too young to work. I have two such children, and well, it's going to be a long summer. (My oldest, Liat, found a job working in Camp Moshava, [IO], so she is not part of this discussion).

Both will be attending their Bnei Akiva (youth movement) camps for about a week, and Orli is signed up for a two-week camp that combines volunteering in the morning, with trips and activities in the afternoons, and Tali has a two week job in a day camp. Which leaves 7 additional weeks with not much planned.

When we first arrived here in Israel, I arranged my work schedule so that I was home by 1 and then we'd pile into the car and go to the beach. Good times, those. Now my girls make it abundantly clear that they want to go places with their friends and they want to go alone.

I need to point out here (and I plan to write more about this in follow-up posts) that parenting teens is much more.....difficult, annoying, complex challenging than parenting the little ones. Yeah, I know some of you reading this with kids, say 9 and under, don't believe me. And that's okay, we all have to go through what we have to go through, but I'm telling you it's true (parents of teens, help me out here, wouldya?). I was a confident parent of little ones. I knew how to handle them, how to set limits, how to talk so they would listen and listen so they would talk. I am having a much more difficult time now with them as teens. I second-guess myself all the time. Sometimes, well, it's not pretty.

Several weeks ago I was contacted by some parents of the 8th grade who wanted to set up some guidelines for the long vacation. Things like curfews, making sure the kids have a parent to accompany them when they leave the city. I went to a couple of the meetings, agreed with some of what the parents said, but was also turned off by some of the parents saying things like "my son/daughter is a good kid". Hey, let's agree that all our kids are good kids. Sure some of them are rebellious, some of them are starting to do things that are not good for them, but let's just assume they are all good. I couldn't quite put a finger on what else bothered me until Carol clarified it for me. She noted that there are always parents who are willing to abdicate their parental responsibility to the group. "I don't want my kid traveling to the mall by himself, so let's set up a rule that none of the kids can go unless a parent accompanies them and then I don't have to be the bad guy to my kid".

But here's the thing. We all have different views about what is permissible for our kids. You might think I'm to permissive, I might think you're to controlling and the other guy is waaaay to permissive. As a parent, I have to decide what is the red line for my child and then stick to that. I'm not going to let other parents decide what is right for me. Sometimes I struggle with what the right limits are, but in the end I have to do it on my own and not rely on some committee to establish rules for me.

Tali and Orli started their vacation last Tuesday. Since then, they've been to the mall, to the pool, to the beach. Both have babysat and done some "mother's helping", they have hung out with friends. We've argued discussed curfews and bedtimes, and I see that it's not going to be easy. Hopefully, we'll come through this in one piece. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.

That was week 1 of the chofesh hagadol. Looking forward to telling you about week 2. Not.


mother in israel said...

When I had small kids someone said something like that to me--how teens are much harder. I never forgot, or forgave. I still have PSTD from the constant activity and noise, let's face it, crying, of small children. Teens can be tough, very tough, emotionally draining, but they are more or less independent most of the time. I don't need to gather kids up and get jackets on them to get a liter of milk--I can just ask a teen (or pre-teen) and hope for compliance.

Gila Rose said...

Yeah, Baila, us parents of young 'uns we need some POSITIVE stuff about teens to look forward to. Or our sad little crumb-covered selves may just give up now.

Baila said...

I hear you both and in re-reading what I wrote I will admit that there are lots of great things about kids (the least of which is that they take care of their own, ahem, hygiene needs). I'm just going through a bit of a rough stretch now. I'll put up a post about what is great about teenage girls soon. I (seriously) look forward to writing that one.

Ariela said...

I hear you sister - chofesh hagadol is very stressful.
I have three teens - 17, 15 and 13 - a 9 y/o and a 4 y/o. The teens are so much harder than than the little ones.
On the other hand, the hardest time of my life was when the three oldest were little. That was physically AND emotionally draining.
Perhaps the reason I can enjoy my little ones so much is that I have the bigger ones to help (don't worry I have to beg, threaten etc...)
The worst part of chofoesh hagadol is it istoo darn hot to be outside!

Gila Rose said...

But you're right that it's super long and super hot. And the too-old-for-camp-but-too-young-for-work age is definitely the hardest to entertain.

matto said...

Get all IT Certifications preparation materials in just $99 package deal with money back guarantee in case of failure in exams only at

TestKing, BrainDumps, pass4sure, ExamCollection, RealExams, ActualTests

Exam Collection, BrainDumps, ActualTests, TestKing, Pass4Sure, RealExams

Brain Dumps, Actual Tests, Test King, PassForSure, Real Exams

Brain Dumps, Actual Tests, Test King, Pass For Sure, Real Exams

Exam Sheets, Exam Cram, Exam Notes, Exam Papers, Actual Exams

ExamSheets, Exam Cram, ActualExams, Cert Killer, Test Killer

TestKiller, Test Papers, CertKiller, Exam Questions, Exam Dumps