Parenting Podcast: Baruch Atah haBromance – Same Gendered Bonding at Summer Camp
In this week’s parenting podcast, Deborah Meyer and Daniel Brenner of Moving Traditions talk about what we can do for our teenage children. Deborah encourages us parents not to pull back too far, to let our kids know what we want for them and from them. As a parent of a seventeen year-old girl and a thirteen-year old boy, I often find myself negotiating with them about their “Jew time”–You can go out after services. Why not invite your friends to Shabbat dinner? You can go to the movies after you practice your Torah portion, and so on. But when we approach summer, the negotiating stops. Camp Harlam, Kutz and NFTY in Israel have changed the whole dynamic. They look forward to their summers because of fun and friends.
Deborah and Daniel also address the gender-specific needs of teens and how Judaism can address them. This caused me to reflect on my change in attitude towards the idea of “bromance,” a close relationship between two male best friends. I didn’t quite feel comfortable with the term or the idea of bromance. It was a little too intimate for my taste and quite frankly not macho enough. Then I started to witness intimate same-gendered moments at camp: packs of testosterone-driven young men embracing an ultimate Frisbee game as if it were their last, working together to cheer up a homesick camper, dancing wildly in a pack under a star-lit night, or warmly hugging one another after a Shabbat service. At first, I was intimidated and a little uncomfortable. Then I realized that safe, supportive opportunities that encourage honesty and acceptance for boys on boys’ terms are way too rare. One young man, a counselor in training, said he appreciated camp so much because it gave him relief from his full time job of being a teenage boy.
What I’ve come to appreciate is that these summer programs have the unique ability to create same gender groups that celebrate my children’s individuality while also teaching them that they are part of something so much bigger than themselves. Teaching them to balance concern for self and concern for others empowers them to try new things, connect with each other in special ways, and be thoughtful, caring and engaged youth.
Miriam Chilton is the Director of Business Operations, URJ Camps and Israel Programs.