Yesterday was a huge milestone day for us! We had our first all-Hebrew-speaking playdate and it was great! I have been davening that this day would come sooner rather than later. After all, one of our goals is that our children integrate into Israeli society which means making friends with Israeli children. As I watched the girls play some sort of Israeli version of Chinese Jump Rope, giggling and chatting in Hebrew, I realized that we are being successful! This was a huge milestone for us, and I could not help but smile.
When my daughter asked me to arrange this playdate, I was surprised by my reaction. Of course, I was supportive and excited for her, but I was also really nervous. I had arranged and facilitated countless playdates over the years, but never one in Hebrew. I realized that I had to move away from my comfort zone and call this woman who probably does not speak a word of English. I realized I had no idea who this girl was. Would she play nicely with our children? Would I need to step in and help them figure out which games they could play despite the language barrier? Would I be able to communicate with this girl if necessary?
I took a deep breath and gained the courage to dial the phone number on my daughter’s class list. Despite my own difficulties with the language, I attempted to arrange a playdate. The mother of this girl was very friendly. She spoke slowly and interspersed a word of English now and then when she could. She was very appreciative that we called to invite her daughter. We discussed the time of the playdate, how the girl was going to get to our house, and where we lived. After I hung up the phone, I told my daughter that I am fairly certain that the girl was coming at one o’clock, but was not totally sure if I understood the conversation. We decided to wait and see what happened the next day.
While on the phone with the mother, I heard her daughter shriek in excitement when asked if she wanted to have a playdate with mine. I was so relieved. When I heard the girl’s excitement, I heard the message that my daughter was making Hebrew speaking friends. We have been so blessed to have a nice group of English speakers in our community. I am so grateful that each of my girls have made many friends really quickly. So far, we have been sticking with the English speaking families. I can not even imagine how hard it must be for my children to go to school and make new friends. I have been supportive of their social success and have not been pushing them to branch out to the Israelis yet. Over the past five months, we have spoken to our children about how ideally they would, but only when they felt ready. This was the first time that I realized that they were actually doing this all on their own. This girl was friends with my daughter and was excited to come for a playdate.
Sure enough, one o’clock came and went. I could not help but feel disappointed for my daughter. I felt a little silly that I misunderstood the plan. At around two o’clock, the girl’s mother called and asked if she could still come. I agreed and felt a little more confident that I did in fact understand the conversation.
At two o’clock, a sweet nine year old girl walked into our house. She was a little shy and I was worried about how the next few hours were going to go. My daughter walked right over to her, motioned for her to put her coat and backpack on the chair by the door and off they ran up to her room. I could not believe how well the playdate went. The girls found many activities to do together. They spoke in Hebrew and had a blast. They did not need me to step in; they played wonderfully. At one point, my daughter was trying to say something but did not know the correct word, so she ran over to our handy dictionary and looked it up. The girl was patient and eventually figured out what my daughter was trying to say.
After the girl left, I hugged each of my daughters and told them this called for a celebration. They looked at me and asked what we were celebrating. I described what a huge milestone this was for our family. I told them how proud I was that they were able to converse in Hebrew and make friends with girls that did not speak any English. They smiled and said “let’s do it again!”