When Eliana, my three-year-old, returns from gan each day, she is always showing off a new look. Yesterday, she came home with her hair braided, and I was amazed that Eliana let her ganenet (kindergarten teacher) braid her hair, because at home she cannot stand still for two seconds before jumping up and down and remarking on some earth-shattering event – “Look, Mummy, Tzofi has taken out your wallet and is about to eat your money,” or squeals like, “Aval [Hebrew for “but” – my daughter has yet to say one complete sentence that is either totally Hebrew or totally English. Ah, the joys of raising a bilingual child] Muuu-mmy, I don’t want a braid, I want kemo [Hebrew for “like”] you have – I want to wear a bandana.”
We remarked to Eliana how beautiful her braid was, and asked her who did it for her. She smiled coyly and answered “Sivan,” her ganenet. Her smile said it all. I am an angel in gan – butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth – but at home, don’t mess with me or my hair. It suddenly occurred to Josh and I that we didn’t know the word for “braid” in Hebrew, so we turned to our little angel in the back of the car, and without missing a beat, she enriched our Hebrew vocabulary and told us that “braid” is “tzama”(I think that’s what she said). It is the wackiest feeling in the world when your three-year-old is more of an Israeli than you can ever hope to be, and even though I studied Modern Hebrew in school, am familiar with Hebrew literature and poetry (I still remember quotes from Bialik and Agnon that I memorized for my Modern Hebrew A’ Level), she is teaching ME how to say words. I love it. My daughter, the Israeli.