A Second Look at Visiting Day

It’s time we stopped complaining about it

With Shavuos behind us and the months of July and August rapidly approaching, the summer season is officially beginning. For some people, summer means two months in the Catskill Mountains. For others, these months are spent at home, albeit with some modifications to the regular routine, especially with regard to the children.

Day camps abound, and the schedule and itineraries of these day camps are very different from those of the regular school program. But perhaps the biggest change in the summer is for those who send their kids off to sleep-away camp.

The change from having one’s children based at home every day and taking care of all their needs on a day-to-day basis to sending them off for a four- or eight-week stay at camp cannot be minimized. Still, for a lot of people, the biggest issue associated with the idea of sleep-away camp is that dreaded day that comes one time each half-summer.

The day I refer to, of course, is Visiting Day.

Now, let me begin by recognizing that there are many hardships associated with that day, and I am not, in any way, brushing them off. There is even, I believe, a case to be made for not having that day at all. (A well-known Rav I know even told me that before he agreed to send his children to sleep-away camp — as opposed to a local day camp, which was his preference — he told them that if they chose to go they were also choosing that he would not be coming to visit on Visiting Day.)

I will leave it to others to discuss and argue about the wisdom of having a day set aside for visiting — and I have no doubt that they will do so.

But even allowing for the traffic to be truly awful, the hassle of having to schlep from one side of the mountains to the other to pick up/visit multiple children in multiple camps, and the fact that most of the day is spent waiting on line in stores to buy things such as shampoo, deodorant and bottled water (and, if you are lucky enough to find parking, waiting on line for pizza as well), there is an incredible value to the day that is often overlooked — often because of a mistaken approach to what the day should really be about.

Very often, parents take a look at all the work they put into Visiting Day and wonder if it was worth the bother. “What,” one can ask oneself, “did I get from this entire day, besides a headache?” The question itself would indeed be a good one, if not for the fact that it is based on a faulty premise.

Harav Mattisyahu Salomon, shlita (may he have a complete refuah), is quoted in With Hearts Full of Love, pointing out a common mistake made in chinuch.

“It is not enough to love your child. You also have to act entirely for his benefit and leave your own needs out of it. Otherwise, you risk abject failure. You have to do only that which makes your child better, stronger, more secure… The primary purpose of having children is not to have nachas from them, but rather to help them lead the kind of life that will culminate in their holy neshamos entering Olam Haba. That is the goal that should define the tone of our chinuch. The chinuch of a child is not an investment that is supposed to bear fruit for the parent. There is no question of ‘what’s in it for me?’ That is not the purpose of having children.”

And that really is the point, isn’t it? Parents really do not “get” much out of Visiting Day, but that is not really what it should be about. It is about the child — and the truth is that although children hardly ever express it, the knowledge that parents put up with that much hassle just to come see them means the world to them.

It might seem as though at the end of the day, all the child is left with are the shampoo, deodorant and water bottles. But what is really happening is that children get to see how important they are to their parents. That is a great way to help them feel “stronger, [and] more secure.”

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