Saturday, August 2, 2008

Teenage Invasion

This Shabbat was a particularly entertaining one for me. Liat had some friends over from the old country who are here on a six-week summer camp program (Sdei Chemed). Their parents are friends of ours. In addition, we had some other family friend's sons here who are on Mach Hach Ba'aretz . Seven teenagers filled my apartment. Good kids, all of them. It was fun for me to watch the two groups, initially awkward with each other, slowly relax and start to get along. They spent Shabbat playing games and talking in my living room.

Growing up in Williamsburg and going to a Bais Yaakov-type school I didn't have much opportunity to interact with the opposite sex. It was of course, frowned upon--to put it mildly--both in my neighborhood and in my school. It was not until my year in Israel, and after that, my involvement in Bnei Akiva that I started to have friends who were male. And that was fun. But "dating" was difficult for me. Many of my friends at that time coupled off and eventually got engaged and married. That did not happen to me and I had to start "dating", which I wasn't very good at. I didn't know how to be myself on a date and could never relax. I never really did learn the skill. When I met Isaac, he was relaxed enough for both of us and that took care of that. (I think I would be so much better at dating now, at my advanced age; but Isaac isn't into that sort of thing.)

Anyhow, it seems today, at least in America, that kids even in the relatively "modern orthodox" schools are discouraged from interacting with the opposite sex. They are expected to do a year or two of Israel after high school, come back, start "shidduch" dating, and get married.

To each his own.

I don't believe there is anything wrong with teenagers hanging out together. I like having a bunch of kids sitting in my living room, watching a movie (as they are doing right as I write.). I think it is actually healthy for them to learn how to interact with each other. Here in Israel, Bnei Akiva is a huge, religious youth movement, where teen-agers meet each other in a wholesome environment. I'm a little sorry that we came to late for Liat to feel comfortable joining this group.

I'm not naive about teenagers and their hormones. I know that there will always be kids who fool around and experiment. But I don't think others should be naive and think just because they keep the kids separate that this won't happen. As I said, I went to a Bais Yaakov High School. I knew nothing until one Shabbat a friend invited a bunch of us over and we were regaled with another classmate's "experiences". It was a very educational weekend for me. I never quite looked at a cucumber the same way.

I talk to my kids openly about the things they may encounter. They have my trust and I always tell them, I trust you until you give me a reason not to. I pray every day that they make the right choices because you could be the best parent in the world and still have a kid who does something really stupid. But I don't feel that separating them is what will protect them from themselves.

In the meantime, the kids are watching that movie. I sit here typing, but I keep stealing glances at them. They are beautiful in their intensity, in their joy at being together. I wonder at them, at their pimply faces, their braces, their self-consciousness.

Thank-G-d I'm not a teenager.


Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you. Complete separation is silly and doesn't help kids deal with the other sex later in life.
On the other hand, too much trust is sometimes dangerous too.I teach in a state school and some parents would be horrified at what their kids are up too.

Baila said...


yup, you do have to find the balance between setting limits and trusting the kids. It's not an easy thing to do...

SuperRaizy said...

I agree with your entire post, except the last line-"Thank God I'm not a teenager". Being a teenager is great if you have intelligent parents who teach you right from wrong and then let you explore the world in a safe way (the kind of parents your kids have). Learning how to interact with the opposite sex in appropriate ways is absolutely essential to building healthy relationships later on. My parents always let us hang out with our friends (male and female) in the living room. As my mother said, "Better under my nose than behind my back." She was 100% right.

Leora said...

Thank-G-d I'm not a teenager
I'm certainly glad I'm no longer a teenager! I remember being depressed a lot. Having my parents around or not around really wouldn't have helped; when I was 18, I was diagnosed with a mood disorder, and I finally got some help. Life got gradually less depressing, with ups and downs on the way.

I like the middle of the road for teenagers: interaction with supervision and rules. Of course, I'm only beginning the journey as parent of a teen.

Baila said...


What I meant by that line, is that I'm glad I don't have that feeling of "who am I, where do I fit in? am I, is my body normal?". I actually had a pretty positive teenage experience with the girls. We laughed alot. But for me, I would never trade the self-confidence I have as an adult for the uncertainty I felt then.


Middle-of-the-road, and common sense is exactly where I'm at, on many subjects.

Anonymous said...

Baila:Middle-of-the-road, and common sense is exactly where I'm at, on many subjects.
Sounds like a good motto.

RaggedyMom said...

Hey, Baila. It's interesting to read about how you transitioned from your upbringing.

RaggedyDad and I were lucky enough to have met on our own. Dating is a drag! I'd encourage normal, healthy opposite gender interaction like BA for my kids, too.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Teenage Zombies....sounds like my teenagers during Friday night dinner.

The second their friends drop by they are wide awake.

Anonymous said...

Give credit to Dov Hikind for fighting those who would stand by and cover up abuse in the Orthodox community:

Read it here: id=543

Or listen here: type=Audio

Kudos to Dov Hikind for really trying to make a difference.

Anonymous said...

Thank you brcher family for hosting all of them. i can't wait to talk to you to heat how it all went. Your home always was like a second home to us. Thanks again so much.


Baila said...


Definitely easier when you meet someone on your own. Thanks for stopping by.


It's really miraculous how they recover as soon their chevra comes by.


Okay, but that's a bit off-topic.


It was great having your boy here! We miss him.

Anonymous said...

I always love books and movies where an adult gets to be a teenager again but with their adult sensibilities. Wow. that would have been great. But I'm sure the insecure messes that we were was part of the charm...

Jack Steiner said...

I remember having some of my friends quiz me about girls. They knew nothing.

I am not a big fan of the separation.

Lion of Zion said...

agree 100%

although from what i understand חברה מעורבת is no longer a given in israeli BA?

Baila said...


No, the kids are separated, but there still seems to be alot of interaction amongst the teens in most of the snifim that I'm familiar with.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Our snif is separate...and then is totally mixed in chevraya bet.