I look at my kids most days with a mixture of pride, amusement, and befuddlement. Sometimes I feel like a bystander watching them with soft observant eyes, comparing mental notes to my own childhood. Was I that spunky? Was I that incredibly loud? Did I have that same kind of crazy kid energy? Hmmmm….I think you know the answer.
At that age, I was watching Sesame Street and The Great Space Coaster, unpacking toys from my hallowed Happy Meals, hoarding bazooka gum wrappers to read later, and playing chase with the wily ginger-haired twins down the street. I remember taking pride in my red suspenders and bright corduroy pants, patched up at the knees with bright quilted flowers and butterflies.
I remember having a quiet, thoughtful conversation with a neighborhood friend, asking why her shoes were two sizes too big. They were careworn hand-me-downs. Her mom said she would grow into them. Looking back, I realized her mom couldn’t afford a new pair. As young kids we didn’t quite understand. It didn’t quite register until years later. Instead we laughed and played with whatever we could get our hands on, often coming home with dirt smudged on our faces and a twinkle in our eyes.
Then there was the evolution of my hair. Bowl cut graduated to pigtails graduated to ponytail graduated to spiral perm. Full stop.
Flipping through the leaves of an old family album, I would remember things with greater clarity. History condensed down to these album pages. I pause.
When did I become my parents? Why did childhood summers seem to last forever while the last few months race by – only to remind me of my own ephemerality. When did I become so old?
My solitary moment is shattered when my toddler daughter chortles and rolls around on the floor. She’s swiffering the floor gleefully with the force of her entire body. At the very same moment, not even a yard away, my son is obsessively doing the floss. His arms swinging back and forth with metronome precision, rapid-fire style. It’s a race in a never-ending loop. Impressive. Thank you Fortnite for this mind-numbing visual.
I can relate to my kids’ range of pure emotions that take them on a rollercoaster ride all in a 24-day cycle. Peals of laughter that would deafening in an echo chamber, hard stubborn expressions when the wrong sort of vegetables appear on their plates, and the saddest of disappointments when they fail at something important. I look at them through Seussian lenses, delivering the exaggerated character expressions that warrant their quizzical looks and verbal appeals of “mommmmmmmm…..”
While times have certainly changed, the fundamentals of being a kid have not. While we navigate our grownup world, we have the ability to hold on to our childhood essence for a lifetime. To play, to laugh, and to be authentic.
I love creating memorable experiences for my kids and finding special occasions to bring us closer together. Whether that’s a weekend adventure, a trip to a museum, or creative projects at home. With two young kids, I almost always feel exhausted at the end of any project or endeavor. My son is also at an age where he is over-the-top inquisitive. Parents, you know what I’m talking about.
My son, on the subject of Margherita pizza
Why is the pizza called Margherita? What are these green things? Do I have to eat them? What’s basil? Does basil grow in the ground or on trees? Did God make them? Does God eat basil? Can we get a pizza without basil? Actually, I just want pizza with no sauce, no cheese, no basil, and no tomatoes.
Me: No, because it’s no longer a pizza.
Fast forward: The basil and the tomato slices (on his side of the pizza) have been surgically removed.
I love that my son is curious. He has an existentialist mindset, questioning absolutely everything and defining his own sense of the world. Something we should always encourage as parents…to question things.
My daughter, when it comes to tea time
My youngest is a toddler with a bold personality. She can be a hurricane force of nature, and I can see the machinations behind her cherubic mien. In many ways, she and I are most alike. My mom says she is a mirror copy of what I was like at that age. Personality to boot. Embracing her English side, my daughter loves playing make-believe with tea sets and sipping from tiny cups.
My son was an easy toddler in comparison. He has a breezy, sunny personality and in my eyes, a total charmer. My daughter is far more intense in comparison, a roller coaster of fun and ebullience.
Afternoon tea with fine china
I had made an appointment to take my parents and the kids out for afternoon tea. It would be a first-time treat for my daughter and son. I thought “how cute” if I could dress up my girl in a frilly outfit and adorn her hair with a fascinator hat from her Auntie D. She was so good with her toy tea set. Surely this was an excellent idea.
Reality: Wrong, wrong, wrong.
The English Rose Team Room in San Francisco’s East Bay is a gorgeous place with fine bone china and tables covered in pretty tablecloth. Every inch of the place is covered in floral patterns. Very English I thought. But as soon as I walked in, I had a feeling of dread. Everything was in close quarters and the fine china looked incredibly delicate as I saw my toddler stomping her little feet.
Beads of sweat formed on my brow and on my upper lip. As we sat in chairs with little seat cushions, the server appeared and patiently walked us through the tea service.
Delicate teapots in the shape of chimneyed houses, cups with delicate handles, clattering saucers, gilded plates, and a 3-tier tray of finger foods appeared. Every inch of the table was covered with dangerously breakable items. Did I want hibiscus tea or mint tea? Cucumber sandwich or egg sandwich? Scone with clotted cream and jam, or carrot cake? Sugar cookie or apple pie? Everything was sumptuous, but I was too busy hovering around my little girl to have much of an appetite. Making sure she didn’t touch this or that, or worse actually drink anything from a tea cup.
I looked over at my son. He was enjoying himself and was quite happy with his special meal and apple juice in a tea cup. Bonus, he found a tiny dish of M&Ms next to his flower shaped PB&J sandwich. Talk about finger food!
My son was a perfect little gentleman and made his momma proud. My daughter, on the other hand, was building herself into a quite a state. Of course she wanted to interact with the fine ladies sitting at adjacent tables. An elderly pair were having a polite conversation to our right, while the table to our left had the most well-behaved pair of young sisters, bows and all. This was not going to be my day.
My daughter bellowed that she wanted to get down from her chair. Nana and I promptly escorted my mini-me outside where they had pretty tables and tea sets displayed in a garden party setting. Phew, disaster averted. We had escaped outside.
Pretty soon a stuffed bunny with long floppy ears caught my daughter’s eye. She managed to decapitate it with one quick swoop of her energetic arms. The bunny’s head was fortunately affixed to a wooden stick, so I was able to easily re-attach the head to its floating body. Another potential crisis averted.
So much for finding respite outdoors, the garden party setting was rife with adorable breakables. With defeated looks, we marched right back inside.
We finally got my little one to take a few bites of her meal. She managed to dip her pirouette straight into the frosting of a pink cupcake, and made a little mess of things. Bits of her beautiful floral PB&J sandwich ended up on her lap, and she slingshot launched the fascinator hat, nearly hitting me in the face. Her idea of sitting in a chair was to stand, so she was at eye-level with all of us. Did she think she was the Queen of England?
Our afternoon tea outing turned to be an abbreviated visit, and we left with a generous doggie bag filled with all the sumptuous food we had not been able to enjoy.
We’ll come back in a couple years
In summary, I loved the ‘idea’ of experiencing afternoon tea with the kids. My son happily nibbled on all the finger foods and loved the whimsy of the tea settings. It was too much to expect my toddler daughter to sit still for even a few minutes. Would I go back? Absolutely! But I’ll wait a while until my daughter is a bit older. At the moment, we’re better off taking her to the local pumpkin patch.