On the hunt for a gan
I had no idea that finding a gan — or mishpachton, nursery school, or any other kind of day care center — would be such an ordeal. I mean, this is Israel, land that loves children, land that is always last minute about everything. It just never occurred to me that I’d have to start looking for the appropriate childcare situation for my boys in December, for September.
But when you have twins, people told me, you want to be sure you get the right place with space for two kids, not just one. You want to be sure there’s the right ratio of ganenet — the gan teacher — to kids. As in 6 or 7 kids to one adult, as opposed to 12 or 15 to one adult (although I’ve never seen that on any of my gan visits.) You want to make sure that the food served for lunch is freshly cooked, not microwaved schnitzel. That they offer plenty of outdoor playtime, fun arts and crafts, and the right kind of space for naps.
This all made sense to me. After all, I’ve got enough reservations about putting my kids into an institutionalized setting at the tender age of two. If I’m really doing this, I want to make sure it’s in the right kind of place, with the right kind of teacher.
But something about the search made me feel like a New Yorker fighting for space for my kid in a top-notch private school, to ensure them the right path in life. As in, if they go to the Kol Haneshama gan, will that automatically send them on the Reform schooling route? Will a mishpachton in someone’s home not offer the same kind of finger painting options that they’d have in a more formal setting? And should it be an English-speaking setting as opposed to Hebrew-speaking, creating a bi-lingual option in their developing brains?
Yes, all these and more, were the questions floating around in my brain, knowing all the while that none of it, really, makes a tremendous difference at age two. I finally did what I usually do in these life-altering situations — as in profession, relationships, health — and went with my gut.
That led me to Gaby, a lovely South American ganenet who leads seven small people in her home-based mishpachton, just over the busy corner makolet owned by her husband and brother-in-law, where we often stop in for milk and bread. True, you sort of have to walk through the makolet to get to the staircase that leads to her apartment. And you pass crates of soda, boxes of cereal and the cups of Turkish coffee being drunk by the makolet workers from an overturned crate. But Gaby just calls down to Sasson, her husband, if she’s run out of Multi Cheerios for breakfast, and someone runs it up to her. And if she’s taking the toddlers down to the backyard for some outdoor play, her husband or brother-in-law come up to help everyone down.
You know how it is. It’s the Israeli way.