Oh my goodness: those gurgling emotions that sit in your chest and swell and surge and gush and bubble. The ones about which people say you’ll never know “until you have kids”; the emotions that fill you and strip you, leaving you but with the fraught and desperate urge to protect, to nurture, to safeguard, to cherish. It took the search for Liliana’s gan to render me a definitive mother and an emotional wreck.
We got word of a gan and went to visit it. It was farther than we had hoped. (We have nothing but our feet here, and the stroller wheels for transportation).  But it seemed sweet. Sure there was noise and balagan (chaos) and crying kids, but the staff was welcoming and vigorous and warm and instantly fell in love with Liliana. “She’s so independent.” “What a character she is.” “I have never met anyone like her before.” We were assuaged. We felt our daughter had been seen.
So we started her there. We obediently placed her sippy cup in the box with all the kids’ sippy cups and bottles crammed in like sardines, and exhaled gracelessly. Upon first setting eyes on this sight, Lance and I had exchanged an uneasy smile, at once reflecting and dismissing our hitherto hygienic standards. But when Lance one afternoon went to pick up Liliana and searched for her sippy cup to take home with him, and the ganenet said “oh you can leave it here until the end of the week, and then take it home to wash it”, we could do nothing more than laugh. And insist on taking hers home daily.
We brought her in everyday to a thunderous and demonstrative welcome. Still noise, still balagan, still a crying kid or two. For about a week.
And then we discovered a gan near us. I had to satisfy my curiosity and knocked on the door one morning after dropping Liliana off at her gan. Enter peacefulness, self-occupied kids (a wider age range and a larger number of older kids), and an enveloping aroma of rice and lentils.
I couldn’t stop thinking about this temple of serenity. Should we switch her? Should we try it? She seems happy at her current gan but this one is closer, nicer, calmer… A week later we switched her to the new gan. But the sleepless nights didn’t stop there. A new set of nagging questions surfaced: Do they pay any attention to her? It seems like she’s always on her own with her Bear doing her own thing, they never seem to know or tell us anything about her (besides the fact that she’s very independent), no welcome, no good-bye, no singing her praises.
Long story short, I have soldiered along the training ground of my induction to Israeli society: initiating uncomfortable talks with people. And Liliana is now back in the first gan. It’s less spacious, less clean, less zen, less peaceful, less sophisticated, but brimming with kisses (“Liliana – neshikot (kisses) is the daily vociferous greeting with which we’re met) and chock-full of warmth. She is blossoming.
Modest as it is though, it is after all a Tel Aviv gan, and capoeira for tots is ostensibly stamped on the fashionable city’s early education topography. So every Wednesday Liliana hones her martial arts skills.
Last Wednesday I picked her up to discover a bite mark on her cheek. Lance quickly comforted me: you should have seen the other kid.