Get Off the Potty and Start Singing

If we're already having preschoolers sing the anthem why not infants too?


The new instructions from the Ministry of Education, which require preschoolers to raise the flag and sing the anthem every Sunday, aroused repressed childhood memories. Educators have recently expressed a fear of brainwashing. I'm expressing a hope for tushy washing.

Babies in a maternity ward.
Alon Ron

We were three years old, maybe four - an age when we no longer made in our pants. I apparently held it in too long, the sphincters failed and it happened. Rivka, the nursery school teacher, ran after me: "Where do you think you're going like that?" I didn't want to go anywhere - I wanted to escape.

"What do I do with you now?" asked Rivka. "How can I clean you up, and where will we find a change of clothing?" The children smelled something in the air and surrounded me. "Disgusting," they said, calling me a two-year-old baby who poops in his pants.

We had a big doll in the nursery. Rivka undressed it and dressed me. I looked at myself, saw how I looked, and started to run. "When will Mommy come to take me home?" The children chased me, taunting "Yossi the doll, Yossi the doll." And there was nobody there to stop the chase.

Only once did I tell that story to a friend of mine, a psychologist. You shouldn't ignore an episode like that, she advised. You should talk about it. So that's exactly what I'm doing here: Talking about the initiative of the Education Minister, hoping I'll feel better once I do.

The initiative is likely to ease the transition from the anal to oral stage for entire generations of Israeli children, on their way to affordable housing. It will also accelerate the weaning from overpriced disposable diapers by forcing infants to get up from their potties and start singing. Not just any nursery school song, but the nation's song of songs. And anyone who prefers an orderly nursery to a chaotic one, will congratulate the minister for his priorities.

If we're already having preschoolers sing the anthem why not infants too? Why wait when it can be played to them earlier, in the delivery rooms and hospital nurseries, like Baby Mozart, in order to accelerate their development - the way music is played to the cows in the cowshed to encourage them to produce more milk. And what kind of screwed up children do we have in this country, who only after nine months, ahead of Independence Day, will be familiar with the words?

My friend, the psychologist, phoned me this week. "Now you have to agree with me that the Minister of Education, a native of the country, a genuine Tel Avivian and a friend of MKs Shelly Yachimovich and Zahava Gal-On, is preferable to your old men," she said. "Had Gideon Sa'ar been a minister at the time when your personality was being shaped, rather than Ben Zion Dinur or Zalman Aran, you would have grown up and matured with fewer hang-ups. Your Jewish soul would also have been less silent and more alive."

Now, she added, nursery school teachers will be able to block the typical cruelty of children and rescue weak and sensitive souls like you. We saw the helplessness of your Rivka. The new Rivka will be authorized to start singing Hatikva, children will stand at attention, straighten up and join in. There is something about a national anthem that both reinforces discipline and lends meaning, she said. But we've already spoken too much about poop and the anthem in the same breath.

My friend hung up and left me to my thoughts. I find reason to argue about smell. But on second pedagogical thought, I'm toughening my stance towards preschoolers. Childhood traumas don't necessarily have to be discarded easily. Ever since the "Yossi, the doll" episode, I always check to see if anyone has attached strings to my back in order to pull; I make certain that I'm not your puppet, not anyone's.