Its been almost 10 years to the day since I boarded that airplane on a new adventure in Tel Aviv. But Mom, Dad, this has been a really tough year and I wanna come back to New York.
I’ve spent a decade living in this gorgeous, hot, smelly, tense, suffocating, liberating, rejuvenating, infuriating Country. And though I’ve lived through too many terrorist attacks and personal deaths, births and celebrations, issues with the taxes authority and with neighbors (both within the building and in nearby villages), it has been the school system that has broken me.
Immigrant parenting is difficult and heartbreaking, lonely and isolating. I’ve spent an entire year fighting and I’m defeated. My gloves are off and I’m out for the count.
I’ve spent an entire year struggling to help my eldest child in school. The language barrier the stumbling block that I couldn’t overcome. I’ve sat through meeting after meeting in a fog, clawing at the few words I could understand, constantly looking at my spouse to translate so I could respond and react. In my broken Hebrew, I struggled to advocate for her, to explain what our needs are, to demand the changes that needed to take place for her to thrive and succeed academically and socially. And it was fruitless, as my words fell on deaf ears.
And it wasn’t just my second graders experience, but my toddler too. Here I thought putting him in a gan setting with only 5 other children would be the best environment. A small group where he could pick up the language and slowly learn how to behave socially with other children. I knew that the language would be an issue initially, but young minds are much better at learning new languages, and I knew he would pick it up quickly. But I made the mistake of placing him in a group of children who had already spent an entire year together the previous year. And while I never would have sent an older child into a situation where he/she would have to break in to an established group of friends, I didn’t think that would be an issue with a toddler.
I was wrong.
And not just about the group of 5 children accepting him, although the gannenet insists that he was accepted into the group by Chanukah (that’s 4 months folks of him being the outsider, pushed aside when he wanted to play with toys, hit and yelled at when he accidentally sat in someone else’s chair, etc.) but the Mommies of this group of 5 kids were less than welcoming.
Shy about my less than fluent Hebrew, I kept to saying “hello and goodbye” during pickup. As the other Mommies chatted among themselves, I would collect my son’s things, try to figure out what the gannenet was saying regarding his day, and immediately leave. I rushed to my middle child’s English speaking gan where I found sanctuary. I was able to understand how her day was going, and speak freely and comfortably with the other parents. It was welcoming and comforting to be able to call the gannenet with an issue and eloquently converse, and even more comforting when I was able to fully understand the gannenet’s response. I yearn to be able to keep all my children in that English speaking gan, from both a language perspective and because the gannenet is truly an amazing, experienced educator.
But last night, well, last night was the proverbial straw. The 10:00 p.m. addition to a Whatsapp group of the Mommies from my son’s gan, where one Mommy apologized for just realizing I wasn’t a part of the group that was discussing the end of year gift for the gannenet. The gift, I discovered, would be a compilation of images of the children from gan into a movie for the gannenet. And they were planning on presenting it to the gannenet at our children’s end of year party.
Which was at 9:45 a.m. today.
That means that for however many weeks and days they have all been discussing what gift to give, and sharing images to include, I was not included in the conversation. That means they had weeks and days to go through photos, at their leisure, and share with the group. That means they all collaboratively decided this was the perfect gift for the gannenet, without my input or opinion.
And while I was annoyed that they didn’t include me, I was livid that they didn’t include my son. Further proof that he was never fully integrated into the group, further isolating and infuriating, further defeating and depressing.
I decided not to hold back though in my frustration, writing in the group exactly how awful it was for them to forget to include us in the present. I let them know that it was indicative of their lack of inclusion of myself and my son, and that I would not be participating in the group gift. And I wrote this all in English. Screw them, let them copy and paste into Google translate for once.
And suddenly, these Mommies and Daddies know English! I got a flurry of apology messages, mostly in English, about what they deemed an oversight.
An oversight is when I’m excluded from the Whatsapp group in a class of 38 kids. Not including me in the Whatsapp group for 6 children is intentional. Their apologies are too little, too late. They all speak English and yet, not once during the entire year, did any of them try to speak to me in English. And that’s just shitty.
Maybe it’s the time of year (I was never a camp person) or the heat. Or maybe I wouldn’t be so defeated by the school system and the gan experience if the situation in Israel weren’t so frightening. Maybe this is my coping mechanism for what’s been going on these past few days.
I don’t know why this is hitting me so hard.
But, Mom, Dad, after 10 years living in Israel, I just want to leave.