Were my kids always like this?

I have to admit to a secret notion I have been silently harboring since we moved here.

Israeli kids are a bad influence on mine.

I mean, how else do you explain the fact that my kids have become complete nut jobs since we moved here? How else can you explain the fact that my house has become a militarized zone; the weapons being my two-year-old’s stubby fingers and my four-year-old’s shrill voice?

I suppose you could blame it on the timing.

Perhaps each one of my kids were ripe for a “phase” and it’s just my rotten luck that all of their phases were timed perfectly together to take place three months into our move overseas.

Perhaps if we had stayed in the States, my sweet, non-violent four year old — who was loved and adored so much by both his preschool teachers and the kids in his class that they cried real tears when he left– would have still turned into a psychotic, schizophrenic drama queen.

Or maybe, my eight year old — who was voted “Student of the Month” at his elementary school right before we left and was considered one of the most mature kids in his class — would have tricked his American assistant principal instead of his new Israeli one into giving him a roll with chocolate spread for breakfast because he didn’t like the healthy sandwich his dad packed him.

And, maybe, just maybe, my sweet, gentle two-and-a-half year old little girl — who never hurt a fly — would have transformed into a pinching, pushing, screaming brute even if we hadn’t moved.

Maybe. But, I don’t know. It’s my inclination to blame Israel. (After all, she’s used to taking the blame.)

If you’re a Hannaton-nik and reading this, don’t ask me if it’s your kid in particular who I think is the bad influence. I’ll never tell you. Even if I think he is, I still want you to be my friend. And, let’s be honest here, you don’t really want to know.

Likewise, I don’t want to know if you think my kid is a bad influence on yours. So all around, it’s better if we all pretend nothing’s happening until someone loses an eye. (Or until my daughter hits your son with a garden mallet. Which she might. ‘Cause she already did. Today.)

Fortunately, no one seems to be too concerned about the dramatic behavioral changes in my children save for me and my husband. Everyone else thinks their “shtuyot” (nonsense) are normal — part of the “klita” (absorption.)  

Folks here on our kibbutz seem to really love and adore our kids. (At least, that’s what they say to our faces.) In fact, our oldest son is the local hero this week for his superb soccer performance against a neighbhoring community team.

Even still, I’m starting to get a little worried.

All the things I prided myself on as a mother are slowly slipping away: Fairly well-behaved, fairly polite children. Children who may occasionally hit or bite yours, but only on the level considered developmentally appropriate  by Brazelton, Spock, or Sears. Never enough to require major intervention or long-term action plans. Children who occasionally shout at me or each other, but never scream so loud their heads spin.

Now, my kids are so emotionally and physically unpredictable I have to wear protective gear. I’m refereeing living room throw-downs.

The two year old not only pinches her brothers, but puts them into choke holds. I kid you not, I’m starting to think they’re training her for the Golani Brigade in the Gan.

The four year old got so angry with me today (because I refused him a cookie) that he pulled down a picture he drew for me that was hanging on the fridge, took out the scissors, and cut the picture into a million pieces,  screaming maniacally, “A ha ha ha ha! A ha ha ha ha! Take THAT eema! I will never be sorry! NEVER!!! NEVER!!!”

I know the teachers are probably right. That the shift in my kids’ behavior patterns and personalities is normal; or at least directly related to the transition, the new language, the new rules (or lack therof) and expectations.  That like me, my kids are trying on new ways of being in this new way of living.

I hope so. Because I like it here too much to move away simply because my kids are picking up bad habits.

I’m crossing my fingers it’s a phase.

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