I have some old friends who have kids. Well, I have many old friends who have kids, but let's concentrate on one pair of them for a moment. They've been married for a decade and a half. Their older daughter is approaching ten, and their younger son is seven. I may be a bit biased in these kids' favor, since the son's name is quite close to mine. Purely by coincidence of family names, but still.
In any case, they have had a succession of nannies. Several have been young, female, comely and Israeli. I think they're enrolled in a particular program. A year or two ago I was visiting them for a couple of days, and was promptly introduced to Shoshana, who was the latest of their caregivers. Shoshana was petite, dark, very Israeli in look and mien, with one exception - she was fairly quiet. Not withdrawn, just quiet. She was twenty-two.
When I arrived, I went upstairs to drop off my bag in the guest room. I saw that their daughter's door was ajar, so I wandered down to say hi and ask what she was reading (the kid's a voracious reader). Poking my head in, I came across a somewhat odd tableau. The ten year old was stretched out on her bed with her head near the foot of it. She was partially up on one side, propping one shoulder up with her elbow, and she was staring intently at the wall. Quietly. Without moving. This was fairly peculiar behavior for her (she's quite gregarious, normally) so I said hello. She didn't respond, other than to give me an eye flick which conveyed both greetings and exasperation at the interruption. I tiptoed out with exaggerated movements.
Later, at dinner, her and her brother were their normal bouncy selves, so I didn't say anything. I was introduced to Shoshana at the meal, and we made typical how-are-you-how-long-have-you-known small talk.
The kids went to bed before my friends and I were done catching up, and I promised I'd be there for the first part of the next day - while their parents were working - and would be sure to hang out with them. Shoshana gathered them up with minimal effort or even words, and off they went.
The next day, I woke up late to find that my friends had gone to work, and the house was suspiciously quiet. I poked around without finding anyone, so I made a bagel and some coffee and headed out to the back yard. There, I found Shoshana sitting in a folding beach chair in the exact center of the back lawn with a cup of coffee and a book. I headed over and said good morning. She greeted me pleasantly.
"Um," I asked, "where are the kids?"
"They're around," she said.
I looked around the yard. Bushes on three sides, the house on the other. No kids. "Really?"
"Oh, yes." She picked up a plate from under the chair and offered me a cookie, which I was too much of a sugar fiend to turn down. "They're doing their exercises."
"And these exercises...?" I asked as inquiringly as possible.
"I have them doing practice," she said firmly, sounding more Israeli than she had yet. "It's good for them. Their self-control. Also, in general."
I wasn't about to give up, so I sat cross-legged on the grass. "I've just never heard them be this quiet before," I said.
"That's part of the practice," she replied, smiling.
"You're going to make me ask, aren't you," I said.
"What kind of practice?" I finally asked, grinning to show I was happy to play the game.
"Breathing. And presence."
That didn't make any sense to me. "But you know where they are?" I asked.
She didn't answer verbally, just pointed once off to her right and once over her left shoulder. When I didn't say anything else, she smiled again and went back to her book. I thought about searching the yard, but decided that even if the kids were there, it'd be impolite, so I went back in for more coffee. Twenty minutes later, all three of them came in, the kids bouncing. There was some quick tackling on their part, and some involuntary toppling on mine, and we roughhoused for five minutes before I cleverly distracted them with Looney Tunes on my iPad.
Later that evening, Shoshana was out with friends, so the family and I had dinner. When the kids had gone to brush their teeth, I casually asked what Shoshana studied. The mother said "Oh, she's not in school, she's here for a few months traveling. She's got to be back in a month."
"Why? What does she do?"
"She's in the IDF. She's a sniper."
I decided not to ask if they knew that their nanny was training their kids. I figured if they did know, they approved; if they didn't know, far be it from me to interfere with any advantages the kids were picking up.