What children do in their holidays

Here in Turkey the school summer holidays run from the middle of June to the middle of September.  We do not, however, see much more of our neighbour children at this time than we do for the rest of the year.  Firstly, and sadly, a portion of our neighbours’ children are not sent to school.  Schooling is supposed to be compulsory but that is very difficult to enforce.  This problem is not confined to Turkey – there is parentally condoned truancy in England as well…

So, for the children who are sent to school, what is there to do in the holidays?  Well, here in Selçuk the Belediye run free youth camps with activities.  These are for older teenagers and young adults and seem to be very well subscribed.  What most children do, however, is help their parents.

We visited a Turkish friend who was helping out in her brother’s restaurant.  A young lad (a relative) was visiting and insisted on working as a waiter for the day.  He was doing well at it.  When our carpenter came round, he had a young lad (either his son or his assistant’s son) running back to the van for drill bits and holding things.  The man who fitted our new iron bars to the side window also had a young assistant.  Our boat trip was driven by a lad somewhere between 8 and 10 years old, under his father’s supervision…  He was quiet, polite and concentrating very hard on sailing the boat.  He took obvious pride in his own competence.  He seemed to be enjoying himself.  When we stopped off for afternoon swims, he was leaping into the water and squirting his father with a water pistol and generally acting like any child his age.

On the way back from our recent trip we noticed an advert in one of the petrol stations.  It was a picture of a man washing his car with his young son (maybe three or four years old) helping him.  The child was approaching the task with intense seriousness and concentration.  I found it hard to imagine an English child of that age pictured in a similar situation.

Child labour can be a terrible thing.  We think of sweat shops, of children forced to work hard under conditions that are often dangerous and unregulated.  We think of children who miss out entirely on their childhoods.  And this is, indeed a terrible thing.  But what we are seeing her is different in a number of ways.  These are children working alongside loving parents who watch out for them, who teach them.  These are children who want to learn, who want to be useful to their families, who have a real sense of responsibility.  And, when they are on a break, or when their working day is over, they play as noisily and as mischievously as children everywhere.

Here in Turkey we don’t hear children complaining that they are bored, demanding that their parents (or, very often, older siblings) find something to amuse them.  They take part in the life of their families and their community.  And, as long as they still have time to play, as long as they are not kept away from school, as long as they are not forced into working, this strikes us as not entirely a bad thing.

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10 responses to “What children do in their holidays

  1. Hi there! You know what, I really like your observations re children working to help their parents. I agree, here it is completely taken for granted that they will help out. Yes, good observations….

    • Thanks. I think it’s good for the children and I’ve never seen any of them looking miserable about helping. I think they thrive on having some responsibility.

  2. I’ve observed this a lot over the years – if you go to the industrial areas (sanayi) you’ll see youngsters working during the school holidays. They are not patronised but are treated as co-workers as they learn/carry out tasks. Like you I don’t see it as exploitation and if you talk to the youngsters, neither do they.

    • The children who came with the carpenter and the iron man came from the sanayi. In the UK, a lot of my generation had paper rounds. I (H) think my first ‘job’ was when I was 11 – helping out at my mother’s workplace. I enjoyed the work.

  3. Years ago, I used to get very upset seeing the 8 and 9 year olds, covered in oil, work in the industrial sites. Thankfully this now seems to be a thing of the past. In Bodrum, there are council run sailing, swimming and tennis clubs for kids in the holidays.

    • There are various schemes in Selcuk but there are still youngsters working in the sanayi. Many, I guess, find time to fit both into their lives. My impression of Bodrum was that it was considerably more affluent than our part of Selcuk which is very village-like. In Bodrum I saw few children playing in the streets, though I guess that was just that we stuck to the tourist areas.

  4. I think as long as children are not exploited, it can be a good thing to help parents with their jobs, either in the house or outside. Kids do like to feel useful, and be praised for what they do.

    The one thing that I do like about children here is that they seem much more able to use their imaginations when they’re playing. Most families don’t have the money to buy them toys and computer games..most haven’t a computer anyway, so they amuse themselves with whatever they can find. It’s a joy to watch a child running along with a plastic carrier bag attached to a piece of string and seeing the wind catch it as if it’s a kite.

    • I think there might be questions around where exploitation begins, but I all the children I have seen working have seemed to be working because they wanted to do so. The carrier bag kites are very popular round our way and we see children up on the hill behind our house, just playing. To me (H) it all seems to be part of treating children as part of the community, not as some separate species to be locked into a house for their own safety.

  5. A good read,Turkish families seem to be very close,

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