Thursday, May 28, 2009

Two Sides of a Judaica (Judaic Arts/Objects) Fair – Where as Parents do We Draw the Line?

Recently, there was a Judaic arts display in our town. The newspaper announcements of the fair made it look interesting, and I was thinking of maybe even buying some nice artwork of some type. The location and timing made attendance for me easiest as part of my way home with Ricki from her drama class on that Monday. I was a bit worried if Ricki would behave well enough to allow me to enjoy the display, but I figured that otherwise I wouldn’t end up going at all.
As we entered the hall where the fair was, Ricki made a beeline for the concessions stand in the lobby. I drug her away (after refusing a free sweet for Ricki from a saleslady), emphasizing that this trip was going to be a well-behaved one.
Entering the actual display area, we encountered a row of exquisite Torah-scroll encasings (Sephardic design). This display being light-years beyond my spending range, we just “Ohhed” and “awed”, and I attempted to move on. Ricki was however partaking from the candy bowl set out on the table, and was availing herself of the expensive color-print display booklet obviously meant for distribution to synagogue trustees who might have at their disposal the large sums needed to buy the merchandise being sold in this area. I made her put the booklet back, limited her to one candy, and we headed towards the next area.
However, Ricki already realized what this “fair” had to offer. She always went a step ahead of me, collecting brochures, business cards, and candy from each desk. And her mother, between looking at articles of Judaica (and a lot of irrelevant stuff that had no place in such a display, but that eager sellers were hawking), played “policewoman”. Small advertisements and business cards I let her keep, and candies I limited to one a booth. (The candy was hidden away after we returned home to be doled out SLOWLY.)
However, I was very much torn in two directions. On one side, I wanted and had hoped dreamed that Ricki would behave like a well-behaved young lady. And while I should have realized that this was really not going to happen, what bothered me the most was my internal debate: Should I have left her at home, knowing that she would not act 100% (although all in all, she was pretty good).... or perhaps I should relax a bit? The business people there seemed in general to be quite content to allow Ricki access to their brochures. Yet they didn’t speak “down” to her, nor did they try to prevent me from limiting her impulses for more expensive booklets or additional candy.(Only in one place did I have to demand that Ricki not be given a free $10 gift.)
The qualms and indecision I was dealing with was best seen at a booth selling vitamins. (Yes, at a Judaica fair!!???!) There they had a display decorated with several helium balloons, and when I arrived, several steps behind Ricki (here in Israel it is not as dangerous to be a few steps behind as it would be in the states....), they were giving one balloon to Ricki. I am not sure whose idea it was, but the teenage girls manning the booth were very obviously glad to bring a bit of happiness to her life.
So the query is this:
-Do I insist that she not receive the balloon, because she should neither be asking nor receiving gifts from strangers?
-Or do I realize that lots of people enjoy giving Ricki a good time, and since these were girls, the gift was of minimal value, and Ricki could do with some fun in her life... maybe I should just allow her to accept the gift graciously? Is it really that serious a crime for someone to give a special child, who has so many difficulties in her life, a special treat? Yet if I DO that, am I not condoning her non-normative behavior? [And if she ASKED for the balloon (rather than it being offered), I am only enabling her to continue to ask for handouts....?]

In the end I decided that I would let Ricki keep the balloon. I did mention that “big girls” don’t ask for gifts. But the fine line of knowing what should be done to teach normative behavior, and how much to accept non-normative behavior is a VERY TRICKY one.....

Note : This post is in lie of tomarrow morning's post; Tomarrow is the festival of Shavuot, and I will not be posting. Happy Shavuot!

1 comment:

G6 said...

Regarding "normative" and "non-normative" behavior, you must understand that at these fairs, ALL children (and MANY adults!) run around grabbing freebies.
In New York we have a Jewish Food Fair and you cannot imagine how ordinarily socially appropriate adults behave - running from booth to booth (strategically hitting all the dairy booths before engaging in the meat) and stuffing their faces.
These events are not necessarily the best place to teach normative behavior ;)