“MAAAHHHHHMMMY! HOW DO YOU SAY TRAIN IN HEBREW?!”
“Um, I’m not sure. We can ask Daddy when he gets home.”
“WHAT ABOUT SOAP? BUBBLES? PRINCESS? BABY DOLL? BROCCOLI? HOW DO YOU SAY THOSE IN HEBREW!?!”
This scene, in which my daughter yells various words across the house (thankfully, it’s a small one) for translation has been playing out several times a day since my daughter attended her kindergarten orientation at the Jewish day school she’ll be attending in the fall.
The thing is, I got nothing. Ok, that’s not entirely true, but I got almost nothing. I can say Hello, Goodbye, and Peace in Hebrew. And, thanks to a semester of ulpan, strawberries. I think. (I tried to Google it, but I couldn’t read the Hebrew letters that came up.)
Try not to be too impressed.
Oh, how I long for the days of “HOW DO YOU SAY COW IN SPANISH? CHEESE? GOOD-BYE? BRACELET? CHONIES???”
(For the record, “chonies” is a Spanish slang term for underwear, and I much prefer it to “panties” or “undies,” especially when my daughter yells, “MY CHONIES WENT UP MY TUSHY!!” in the middle of the grocery store. Somehow it seems slightly more couth than panties. Or maybe I’m just delusional.)
I won’t lie. I often fantasize about sending my daughters to a Spanish immersion program. Or moving to Tijuana and sending them to day school from there. (I’m not really sure how that would solve the problem, seeing as how they’d probably still be learning Hebrew, but at least the housing prices would be a lot cheaper than Boston.) What about a Jewish Day School dedicated to teaching Ladino to a new generation of Jews? At the end of a long day of feeling especially Hebraically incompetent (which really doesn’t take much), I’d even go for an English immersion program (also known as “public school”).
The truth is that I sound not entirely unlike a cat choking up a hairball every time I try to make a chet sound.
Which, as I keep reminding myself, is precisely why I want my girls to learn now how to make that light, scraping sound in the back of their throats that Ziva David nailed so beautifully in her eight seasons on NCIS. Not to mention the millions of native Hebrew speakers out there, of course. Ahem.
And so once again I find myself swallowing my pride. Well, what’s left of it, anyway. (There was a bit left at one point after the girls were born, but it was completely obliterated on the day when I thought the barista at my local coffee shop was checking me out until I realized he just couldn’t stop staring at the target-shaped stain of breast milk covering my left boob.)
As much as I hate to admit it, this is what engaged parenting is all about–stretching our limits, checking our ego at the door, and doing what we believe is best for our kids even if it’s not particularly easy for us. And so I’m going to keep trying to remember if the Hebrew word for love is Ahava or ahAva or or ahavA, and I’m going to get really comfortable saying, “I don’t know.”
Meanwhile, can anyone recommend a Hebrew/English dictionary that includes transliteration?