Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ava and Afternoon Tea

Jason was home on Tuesday afternoon, so I picked Ava up from school and took her out for a bit. They'd been home from Manila since Sunday morning, but we'd been so busy ever since that I hadn't gotten to hear much about her impressions of the trip. I didn't want to let the opportunity to let her share about it get away from me. You read other blogs sometimes where moms share all these warm moments of togetherness that they have with their kids. My attempts of warm moments usually result in someone pushing someone else or someone stealing someone else's seat or someone needing to go to time out. And then none of us are feeling very warm at all and I'm like, "Why don't I just turn on some cartoons for you guys?" Sigh. So I read those blogs and think: Dang it! I need more warm moments!

So, we went up to our local shops and had some afternoon tea together. She was really excited to have a babycino. Actually, I think she was most excited about the marshmallows, which at nearly 7, she still calls "mushrooms".

I started asking her questions about everything they did, and asked her to recount each day for me. I expected her to tell me about how different everything was there, or maybe talk about how seeing the poorer parts of the city affected her. But she didn't really focus on that. It was kind of a funny experience for me. As a parent, you kind of have the urge to manage your child's interpretations of things. (Or at least, I do!) Sometimes I think this can be a good thing. I mean, after all, who else is going to help them understand the world and their place in it? But other times, I know I just need to sit back and let Ava or Nate think what they think.

So here, in no particular order, is what made an impression on Ava:

1. "Street cats": In the neighborhood where they did the Habitat build, as well as in other areas, there were a lot of stray cats roaming around. Ava loved these! She told me all about the different ones she saw. "I wanted to pet the white one--that was my favorite. But I couldn't pet it cause they said I might catch something." Yes, indeed. My heartfelt thanks go out to whomever told her that.

2. Waffles for breakfast: For the first half of the week, they stayed in a very basic motel near the places they were visiting and working. Later in the week, when Jason's conference began, they moved to a very nice hotel. This hotel had a massive breakfast buffet where Ava ate waffles for breakfast for four days straight. This is far and away her favorite part of the trip. Waffles. We can get waffles in Australia too, you know. But this is where I have to remind myself to let her own her experience!

3. Swimming everyday: Once they moved to the nicer hotel, they swam every morning. As it's winter here in Oz, this was a Class A treat in Ava's mind. One she hasn't failed to tell her brother about several times.

4. Visiting someone's home. The group worked with the Real Life Foundation, which among other things, provides college scholarships to students. Most, if not all of these students are the first of their families to attend university. And as they graduate and start careers, they earn enough to put their younger siblings and relatives through school as well. Ava got to meet May, who is soon to graduate from college. They went to May's house and met her family as well. Ava was telling me about how small the house was and how many people lived there, how many little children and babies there were. "Wow," I said, "Think about our house and how big it is--and there are only 5 of us! What did you think when you saw how many people lived in that one small house?" She thought for a minute and said, "I was impressed, actually, that they could find a way for all of them to live there."

Isn't that answer interesting? My responses to situations like that are usually compassion, pity, wanting to help--something like that. But I thought about Ava's answer, and it really is impressive.

The biggest thing she noticed about the house is that, at the top of the stairs was a toilet "with NO door"! Here she is describing going up the stairs and seeing it there:

I thought it was funny how vividly she described seeing it and being shocked by it. We spent a lot of time talking about this toilet! Why there was no door, how the family handled it, what she would've done if she lived there, etc. To a 6 year old, a bathroom with no door is the ultimate in craziness.

I really enjoyed our conversation. It is amazing to see a little person emerge from the baby and toddler and preschooler you've raised. I know that this is the first of many overseas trips for her. And while she didn't come home with a revelation of the need in the world and her role in meeting some of those needs, it's a start! (And no, I didn't really expect her to!) What I did notice and love is the simplicity with which she experienced the whole thing. She just enjoyed where they went, what they did, who they met. It's our prayer that, as they grow, our kids will learn to look for where they can help and serve others.

But in the meantime, waffles and streetcats have their place, too.


  1. Awesome. Thank you for sharing her impressions! I love seeing what she thought. Especially her answer about all the people managing to live in one house. It makes you think about all the "filters" we give our kids to mediate their experiences. Some of them are necessary, and some of them may be limiting.

    And how grown up she looks in these pictures!

    I fondly remember babycinos as a nice part of Oz. On more than one occasion, I ordered a flat white for me, a babycino for Hank or Laura, and then consumed it myself.

  2. Ava reminds me so much of you at that age. She is a sweetie!

  3. wow! that is so nice...your afternoon tea date with Ava. And don't worry, they see how you guys exemplify service and living for others and she is sure to follow in your steps:)
    btw, I asked her how her trip was on Sunday and all I could get out of her was "good", so I was glad you gave me some more insight into what happened in her world over there:)

  4. I loved reading this post. It is fascinating to see what sticks out in her mind. You guys gave her such a gift by taking her there. I loved reading her answer about how impressive it was that they could manage living in the house.

  5. I loved her comment about it being impressive. I had a very large family growing up (7 kids, my parents and my grandfather) and we all lived in a 3 bedroom 1 bath house. It was insanity squared for many years. Now that I have my family of 4 living in a 3 bedroom 2 bath I think it is amazing that there were as few major conflicts as there was.

  6. This is a fresh, lovely post, Amy. I can imagine Ava's delight at your taking her for tea. You and her need to do that more often. Those are precious times together. It is so interesting to hear her impressions and thoughts, isn't it? She's seeing the world through six year old eyes, and streetcats and toilets without doors struck her imagination. When I think of Ava, which I do daily, the word that comes to my mind is "tenderness". She is a joy. Thanks for sharing this experience with us.

  7. What a great post and a great story! Like everyone, I love the "impressive" comment.

    And, I was thinking, I remember that in the 5th or 6th grade, we were assigned pen pals in what was then the USSR--this would have been close to the end of the cold war and after I had spent many many years hearing my parents talk about their "Beyond War" meetings, etc.--and being told by the teachers, "You know, kids, the children in the USSR are just kids like you." And I remember that my response was, "Well, duh." I am thinking that Ava sees you helping others so much, if you tried to help her with a filter about "we ought to help others when we see need," she would respond with, "Well, duh. But lemme tell you about this cat."

  8. I've heard from several couples that live overseas that kids look to their parents for cues, so she probably saw that Jason was going with the flow (as he does so well;) and she knew it was a-okay. And who wouldn't love to swim every morning and eat waffles, that's like the best vacation ever!

  9. Amy, this is a great post. It warms my heart to hear about her thoughts and imagine how much she enjoyed having tea with you. She's so precious!

  10. I love it! What a sweet and very refreshing post in the life of a 7 year old. I LOVE listening to Matthew and Jackson tell about life through their perspectives. Oh and I love your pictures of sweet Ava.

  11. Wonderful, all around. Yep, you have to let them take away what they take. Not that you can't sometimes draw a little pointer arrow to part of it for them, but it's THEIR experience.

    Just finished reading the Newsweek article on creativity, which says research tells us that cross-cultural experiences increase creativity. Yet another small reason to continue doing exactly what you're doing with your kids!