Thinking Outside the Misgeret

In the park today, I was discussing the sleep habits of a particular todder with his caretaker. One of the other babysitters said that toddlers gradually move from a morning to an afternoon nap. I pointed out that my daughter, age two and a half, still sleeps in the morning. The babysitter replied, “That’s because she’s not in a misgeret.”

Misgeret is a frame, or in this case framework–in other words childcare or gan (preschool). I pointed out that she slept when she was naturally tired and her sleep habits weren’t dependent on other people’s schedules. The babysitter said it depends on your perspective.

Here are some “truths” known to all Israelis about children.

  • They need to nap between two and four in the afternoon.
  • Even if they don’t nap, they must never go to friends’ homes during that time.
  • They need to be in a “misgeret” from the age of two, unless they are particularly advanced in which case they can be ready up to half a year earlier. A commonly heard statement: “He’s twenty months old and is getting bored at home; it’s time for him to be in a misgeret.”
  • Toilet training begins for all children at age two, weather-permitting (never in the winter, so it’s okay to advance or delay it accordingly).
  • All babies must eat soup (recipe below) as one of their earliest solids, and this soup will remain a staple of their diet for the next year or longer.
  • Bamba** is the first finger food and an essential component of a toddler’s diet.

Recipe for soup:
Potatoes, carrots, and zucchini. If the baby is lucky, some chicken or turkey will be added when he gets a little older. Mush all the vegetables and meat together, and feed to the baby every day. Never vary the recipe.

**Bamba is a highly processed, heavily salted, snack food made of peanuts and corn. Vitamins added.

Can my readers contribute any more?

Update: This post was featured on Israelity.

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Comments

  1. On the East Coast, young children are also often put into a “misgeret” from age 2 — I think more often by stay-at-home moms than working moms who would need a babysitter anyway. This way you can say, “I’m not leaving my kid to veg with a babysitter; I’m putting him/her in a program that will provide stimulation and social interaction.” Of course that is true, but it is not really necessary to have a program for that. Mothers can provide stimulation, as can siblings, who also provide socialization skills. And there’s nothing wrong with just getting kids together at each other’s homes. Now there is something positive that is largely from a bygone area, sigh! 😉

  2. mother in israel says:

    From what I’ve seen on American parenting discussion boards, preschool usually consists of three hours two or three days a week. Unless both parents are working, as you point out. Here it’s almost impossible to find that kind of arrangement.

    Getting together at people’s homes was definitely more for my sanity than for my kids’ socialization.

  3. SephardiLady says:

    I am a rarity–a “stay at home mother” (I prefer homemaker) who has not enrolled her 2 year old in nursery, nor intends to even do so 3 year old nursery.

    Since I am home and everything is going great, I just don’t see the need. On top of throwing off my kid’s natural sleep schedule (or non-sleep schedule!), I believe I am a perfectly competent and qualified “educator,” aka parent. Plus, getting in the car every morning to shlepp to nursery with a baby in tow doesn’t appeal to me as it isn’t a break. Three to four hours is too short to be considered a break, anything longer is just too much time away from home.

    But, I’ve taken plenty of flack for our decision (including one lady who was aggressive in telling us we were screwing up our 2 year old!). I told her she can send a check to our address if she really thinks it is so important for my children to spend their waking hours away from me.

    It seems that there is a lack of confidence amongst this generation in terms of child rearing. How many of us (with mothers who stayed home) went to 2 year pre-school? Probably none. And, even older kids had short days. I don’t view the “professionals” as anymore qualified in childrearing than I am. And, I enjoy the opportunity to be mechanech my own children.

    Many sight educational reasons for children to go to school (as young as 2). Social reasons are probably primary. As far as education. . . everything in the life of kids that young is education, from following Mommy around the house while she cleans, to running to the grocery and bank, to “helping” Mommy cook. Throw in a lot of reading, some games, and talking, and there is plenty of educational experiences happening. And, all of these experiences are done while bonding and attaching, which is so important for the future.

    And, as Ariella pointed out, socialization can be done informally, and why a kid need an entire day of socialization is beyond me. I have found that boredom can be positive. It allows an opportunity to find something to do. Other parents have told me they don’t want their children (younger and older) to be bored. I personally think that kids find their interests and loves when they need to find something to do because they are “bored.” IMO, overscheduling is more problematic today than “underscheduling.”

  4. SephardiLady says:

    Bamba** is the first finger food and an essential component of a toddler’s diet.

    Yuck is all I can say.

  5. Oy.

    Actually, back when the Eldest was in a part time program (afternoons, alas), it was a struggle to feed him and get him into the car in time to get to school. Usually, he’d fall asleep on the way and be annoyed and sleepy and grumpy when he arrived. Certainly in no condition to have a transition away from me!

    I started coming later, after his nap, and was chastised. finally, I was told that my lateness just wasn’t working, and perhaps this was not the right program for us? (It was the only one that offered us a spot, mind you.) I had to agree.

    Any program that adheres to it’s own structure over the child’s needs is not the right program for my kid.

  6. mother in israel says:

    SL,
    With such a long comment, I hope that you will update your blog soon! Good line about the check. SOunds like you might not take her up on it anyway. I also suffer(ed) from lack of confidence, and I guess that’s how this blog came to be written.
    Regarding Bamba, I actually know a mother who was told that if her child refused a “tosefet” (side dish like potatoes or rice, don’t know where the soup fit in) she should give him bamba.

    Mama–it’s so rare for mothers in Israel to pull their children out of gan even if they are unhappy. I remember one 3yo who cried at the gate almost the whole day for more than half the year. I had a similar experience to yours and learned a lot about myself in the process.

  7. I saw this post earlier but didn’t have time to comment…I can think of something to add to your list- how about: Chocolate spread- nature’s perfect sandwich filling?

    I also found all of those things a bit strange when I had my first child. Oh, and back then (10-11 years ago) everyone dressed their baby the same odd way- you took 2 long sleeved undershirts that tied with a string in the front- you put one on the baby backwards and another one on top of it, forwards, before you put the clothes on. I can’t believe I bought into that nonsense! Only for a few weeks though, then I wised up.

    When my first child started gan, he was 2 yrs. 7 months and I still thought it was too soon- everyone I knew here was absolutely SHOCKED that I waited so long. I know they were thinking “child abuse” because I kept him at home so long. My other kids started when they were 2- again, people wondered why I waited so long. “My child’s been in gan/mishpachton” since he was 3 months old!” one mother said to me, almost proudly. I didn’t tell her what I thought of that!

    I did the playgroup thing with all my kids, but like you said, it was really more for me than them- I made some good friends that way.

    Sorry for the overly long comment! This topic tends to get me going.

  8. mother in israel says:

    RR-welcome back; I was wondering where you were. Good point about chocolate spread–they still serve it in gan on Fridays. I think it’s fallen out of favor somewhat lately.

    My first was born in America so I don’t recall those undershirts. I wouldn’t have had anyone to explain to me how to put them on anyway.

    Don’t worry about the length; all bloggers love it when their posts get people riled up!!

  9. SephardiLady says:

    This topic tends to get me going.

    I’d say the topic could get anyone against the grain going. 🙂

  10. As an outsider (my wife is Israeli but we live in my native country, America) I sometimes wonder at the intensity of Israeli groupthink. On one hand, when I see a diverse group of Israeli families at Disneyland, I think “how nice it must be to have a large group of close friends who you would travel half way around the world with.” But stories like yours make me think, “thank goodness my neighbors keep their mouths shut about how I choose to raise my own children.” I suppose it is a tradeoff.

    I don’t know if these are real examples of even older Israeli conventional wisdom or just nutty anomalies from my wife’s family. (I keep telling myself that this can not be anything like a typical Israeli family. It is the only way I can remain optimistic about the future of the country 🙂 But here are a few that I have heard from them when our children were toddlers.

    1)You shouldn’t pick the baby up, or play with it so much. It’s bad for the baby and tires you out. (note, we’re not just talking naptime. They really think that babies should be confined to a crib, playpen or stroller even when they are wide awake and ready to play.)

    2) Having both a first and a middle name will confuse a child. We gave our children an English and a Hebrew name. When they objected, I explained that everyone in America has a first and a middle name. They didn’t seem to believe me. When I pointed out that I myself have a first and a middle name, they just nodded their heads as if that confirmed something they had suspected for a long time.

  11. mother in israel says:

    Hi Doug,

    I think that the coldness you see is somewhat exaggerated in your wife’s family. As for middle names, most of the kids around here have a modern first name and a traditional middle name, after a relative, like Matan Naftali. It could be that what you’re referring to is common in the secular community and I’m going to find out. If you look through the rest of the blog you’ll see some other posts on groupthink. Thanks for stopping by and good luck with the in-laws!

  12. You forgot,
    once they start this soup it is instead of a nursing meal, so baby begins to lose weight (since it is eating “diet” food) and mother is then told her milk is no good any more and she has to add formula (obvioulsy not you, but this relates to many regular mothers)!

  13. mominisrael says:

    Absolutely!

  14. I’m reading through old posts… as a secular olah, I can confirm that middle names are highly uncommon in our Israeli community. Interesting that they’re common in the religious community!

  15. Dalia Weinreb says:

    Just found this post even though its from a long time ago – absolutely had me giggling 🙂 Oooh the comments I have endured about not giving my baby that incessant chicken/veg soup every single day (don’t little people deserve to have real variety too and eat along with the family???) and the bamba thing – don’t get me started. Well done on your fabulous blog!

  16. Thanks Maya and Dalia for reviving the discussion!

  17. I LOVE THIS!!
    But I think I should apologize to my husband for the tirade he had to endure due to his mother insisting that our oldest was “bored” at home (at the age of 12 months). I thought she was just being silly – I didn’t realize this is one of the Israeli Parenting Laws!! 🙂

  18. I am opposed to groupthink, but sometimes I feel that a certain segment of society (Anglo, highly educated, etc) has its own groupthink with a lot of the opposite beliefs. My oldest son was 14 months and I was offered a place in the mornings in a small group led by a mother I knew. He went happily and came home happy. The first Friday after breakfast etc he went to get his little backpack and I said, “No, honey, we don’t go to school on Friday.” He sat down on the floor and BAWLED.

    Now, maybe my son was emotionally neglected and that’s why he wasn’t hesitant to leave me at such a young age. Or maybe he was, and still is, a very independent, social kid who was ready for a misgeret at that point and benefitted from it. It’s the mother sometimes who thinks, I must be doing it wrong if I, a woman with an advanced degree who decided to make her family her career, isn’t the best choice for 24 hour, 7 day a week caretaking. Not because it’s not right for me, but because it’s not right for this child.

  19. No, that’s not it. I was quite sure that I was doing the right thing, when I saw his reaction about having a day off. I just find it interesting that people can often see the problems in another culture, i.e. giving the baby soup, because it’s foreign to us, but the problems in our own culture are often invisible — especially if we are part of a subculture that puts a lot of time and energy into parenting decisions. When that subculture ‘decides’ that a certain practice is ‘best’ for children, then others who might disagree or who might think that the circumstances matter are dismissed as either uninformed or uncaring. Especially if the women in question gave up lucrative and important careers, or the possibility of such careers, to stay home with their children, the implication that more than one way can work is very threatening to them.

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