My young child stamps on the floor tiles. What happened? ‘I got a bang from the floor. The floor is bad.’ Really? But the floor didn’t rise up to bang you, right? You fell. Yes, I received a bang. Where did you learn to be angry at the floor? At kindergarten.
And so, my kids walked into doors, walls, cabinets, tables, or chairs and all these objects were banging them. It was never ‘I banged my head.’
One day, I saw a young guy with a tilted plastic cup of cola. He was reading and forgot about his drink. By the time it was half empty he noticed. How are you going to wiggle yourself out of this one, I pondered.
No problem! He said ‘Oy, it spilled from me’ and walked away disappointed. I took some tissue to mop it up. If you can’t help that you spilled, you probably also can’t help cleaning up after yourself.
My daughter said: ‘But in Hebrew, you can’t say ‘I spilled’. If you’d say that it means you did it on purpose.’
This is great for kids with a religious upbringing. There is so much stress on always taking responsibility. How great when you have an outlet where you’re just a victim of circumstances.
And also for those who are not raised in the Jewish Tradition, this is great. No one tells them how they could improve or what they should do. Grownups call that: ‘It’s only a child — what do you want from him?!’
The truth is that now my kids are bigger responsible young people, they know how to say it in Hebrew. They’ll say: ‘Oops, I accidentally pressed the off button.’ But that’s obviously too sophisticated for youngsters.
It is nice though that Hebrew-speakers can work with one-word sentences. In Dutch, a child must say all of: ‘Can I please have a cookie, daddy?’ In Hebrew, you only need to look as if you haven’t eaten in three weeks and say: ‘Cookyyyy.’ In such matters of life-and-death, of course, you help.