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Tea for You, Tea for Me

31 comments | March 22nd, 2012

(story by Mir, from WouldaCouldaShoulda.com)

Both of my kids were big fans of the ubiquitous pretend tea party when they were little. We always had a tot-sized tea set (or two) floating around, and I would obediently fold myself into a child-size chair when directed, so that we could sip our air together. My daughter often donned a special outfit for the occasion—either from the dress-up clothing or her closet—while my son usually opted only for a funny hat. ("This is my tea drinking hat!") She would hold her pinky up and "act fancy;" he would dig through the play food and serve me a banana on a hot dog bun or something similarly weird, and then laugh and laugh at my reaction.

I want to tell you that I treasured every moment of those tea parties. I'd love to be able to say that in the moment I knew that it would all be over in just a few short years, and I savored it fully.

I could tell you that, but it wouldn't be true. Sometimes I savored it. Sometimes I loved it. But sometimes I looked at my watch and thought about all of the chores left undone or the work I needed to finish or the book I'd rather be reading, too. Sometimes I tipped up my little teacup and announced, "That was delicious! I'm all done, I'll see you later!" over the cries of, "Noooooo, Mama! Not yet!" Sometimes I rushed through and didn't appreciate what was in front of me. It's easier to appreciate the little moments when hindsight shifts your focus a bit.

Ironically, I'm a big tea drinker. As the kids got a little bit older, I tried to convert them; some lukewarm tea with some milk and honey, in a pretty cup. Delicious, right? They would sit at the kitchen table with me and sip a bit and ask if they could be done. I'd excuse them, and as they ran back to their toys and games, I'd finish my tea by myself. Then I'd clear their cups, still full of the tea they'd rejected.

This year, a funny thing happened. My son made a new friend at school, one whose passion is nature, plants, and especially herbs and roots. This new pal taught my almost-a-teen how to identify various plants, and which ones are good for steeping. And just like that… my son became a tea connoisseur. He devises homemade concoctions all the time, and while I don't always love the taste (he is big into pine right now, which… well, it's piney!), I love that he does it.

A far-away friend who I don't see nearly often enough is a fellow tea lover; when we do get together, we can sit for hours, just gabbing and drinking our tea, or not talking at all, just enjoying each others' presence without words. She sends me tea every now and then, when she finds a new blend she really likes. Of course, up until recently, "tea with a friend" and "tea with my son" were two entirely different experiences. Tea with a friend meant fellowship, and tea with my son meant "ooh and aah over whatever he's made this time."

Time has a way of sneaking past us, though. My son currently has a crummy cold, and a couple of nights ago when I asked him if he needed anything, he looked thoughtful for a moment, then said, "Do you maybe have any tea that's good for colds? I think that would be nice."

I put the kettle on, and together we rummaged through my stash, eventually settling on a nice chamomile blend. He took down the mugs and fetched the honey, I grabbed the spoons. When the water was ready, I filled our mugs and set a timer for three minutes. While all of this was happening, I asked my son if this is how he does it at school when he makes tea, and he told me a little bit about which herbs he prefers and where he finds them. He said he finds the whole process very calming, and suddenly my brain suffered a jolt of cognitive dissonance between the banana-hotdog-bun-serving preschooler he used to be and the thoughtful man-child he has become, somehow. The timer dinged and we removed the tea bags and went and sat down together in the family room.

We didn't talk all that much, nor was the conversation about anything important. But we sat together and sipped our tea, and we took our time. When the tea was finally gone, he thanked me, and I bit back every flurry of words I wanted to say to him that would've completely ruined the moment. I wanted to tell him not to listen when the world tells him that tea parties are for girls or that real men don't even know what chamomile is. I wanted to tell him I'll always have time for a cup of tea with him. I wanted to pull him close and freeze that evening in time, right there, while he's in this sweet spot between childhood and adulthood, and he hasn't yet fallen prey to the "shoulds" of society.

I didn't say any of that. I just thanked him for having tea with me. "Thank you, Mom!" he said. "I think it helped." His cold is as miserable as ever, but still… he's right. It helped.

Are you a "tea person" or no? Any idea why we've decided tea is "girly" in this country?

(get a nice hot cup of Mir right here)

 

31 comments

  • Valerie H

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    I absolutely love those moments of clarity when I totally “get” my kid and see what is really happening right under my nose. Big kudos to you for just soaking it in and then sharing it here. Absolutely beautiful reflections on childhood, motherhood, reality, imagination, coming of age and even independent thinking. LOVE it!

    In response to your question, however, I hate tea and could never be described as a “tea person.” Anything brewed tastes too much like dirt. Sometimes coffee smells good, but it never gets past my lips with a smile.

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  • Susa

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    I love tea, black, green, indian chai, herbs, whatever, and I love even more the fact that the wonderful Simon Baker acting as the “Mentalist” is a serious tea drinker! It is so nice to see something different in a TV show than the usual coffee pot…And although I enjoy a good coffee, too, I would always prefer tea if I had to choose. Maybe it´s a European thing – or Australian (as Simon Baker)…

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    • Trish

      Posted on March 22, 2012

      I was going to mention The Mentalist! Every episode he’s drinking tea. He wanders into everyone’s house and makes himself a cup. I love that.

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    • Caz

      Posted on March 22, 2012

      I was about to say how in Australia tea is a blokes drink too!

      While I have a huge stash of tea, and the ex-bf preferrs a few of the more traditional blends, having a cup of tea was a common after-dinner ritual for us (even as 26-year old who more often than not are drinking beer not tea). Any time we walked into his parents house we sat down for a tea or coffee and the boys were equally content with either.

      I love the ritual of it.

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  • Jill W.

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    I love tea and I love this story.

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  • Bob

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    I have just a minute bit of rose petal tea left that I bought years ago, I savor it every time I make it – its so aromatic, I close my eyes and imagine I’m out somewhere and’ve found a wild rose. Has Monkey explored flower teas yet?

    When the kids were born on Crete, we were introduced to a particular custom Greek women have of feeding newborn babies chamomile tea. On each floor of the maternity clinic is a kitchenette where they have a stove with an ever-near-boiling pot of water for sterilizing bottles & nipples and an ever-full pot of chamomile tea.

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  • Karen R

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    Most definitely a tea person. A pot of excellent hojicha or jasmine pearls in the morning (I save and brew the leaves three times, which cuts the price considerably), then herbals or decaf in the afternoon and evening. Summer is the same tea, iced.

    Nothing tastes as wonderful as that first glass of iced tea in the late spring, of that first pot of hot tea in the fall.

    My son developed a taste for tea long after he moved out. My youngest started enjoying it in college. A couple of years ago she took me to a teahouse for afternoon tea as a birthday gift. My husband will drink tea, but prefers coffee.

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  • Bob

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    I forgot to mention, in my trips to Bahrain, working at the plant every day around 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM the office boy would come down the hall with his cart distributing tea and biscuits (cookies). (Most of the staff at our plant there are Pakistani – ex-India, and therefore of old colonial England) I quickly got used to it and if I were out on the plant floor when it was tea time I wouldn’t get my “cuppa” and missed it.

    When we were in London on vacation we had “high tea” at Brown’s and it was lovely. We were there @ 2 hours (with a local friend to show us the ropes), had the finger sandwiches, the petit fours, we changed our cups half-way through – it was fun, and delicious. There is something indefinably “civilized” about tea time, even without the cakes trolly.

    Maybe playing tea party (and actually having tea parties) is a “girly” thing here in the U.S., but there are those of us of the male persuasion that enjoy tea.

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  • Victoria

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    How rare these days to find a story with tea as the central theme.
    How rare, too, to find a quiet, happy tale about a positive relationship between a son and his mother. Both in one article? MAkes my day better! Thank you :)

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  • Katy

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    I’m in the middle of planning a tea party for my 21st brithday! (The celebration date – before my actual birthday – inhibits other types of drinking, but I for one am okay with this.) Deciding on the theme (Mad Hatter tea) was the easy part. Now I’m deliberating over what type of tea to serve – but maybe it would be enjoyable to let guests bring their favorite blend to share.

    I definitely know at least one or two guys with a deep appreciation for tea. My family is Irish, so several of my cousins, and definitely my grandparents, grew up drinking diluted tea from their baby bottles. I don’t know that they would be eager to drink it out of frilly little china cups, though. We tend to go for full-size mugs nowadays.

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  • Aimee

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    I love this story so much. I think that tea always helps. Right now I’m obsessed with this cranberry green tea they have at Trader Joe’s. It comes in these beautiful little mesh bags, it smells and tastes like heaven. Just wonderful.

    As for why some people feel that tea is girly — who KNOWS why they do what they do? I swear, the idea that a man has to be a chest-thumping buffoon to be a “real” man is just the stupidest thing. I’ll take my sweet, poetry-writing, laundry-doing husband any day. :)

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  • Jamie

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    Oh, this is so awesome! My similar situation right now with my boys (8 and almost 11) is that I’ve finally made them quilts after making tons for other people. They both thanked me and I find them curled up with them in bed, in front of the xbox, on the couch, etc. Much to my husband’s “it’s not cold enough for a blanket” chagrin sometimes, my boys have taken after me in liking to have a blanket on them. We just don’t like the air from the ceiling fan blowing right on us. It warms my heart to see that they are like me in that way and that they are now curling up in their new quilts.

    I do love tea, too, but often can’t get into the really aromatic stuff (Jasmine, others my husband has brought home from Taiwan), but the boys were taught to make “Kung Fu Tea” in a real Chinese tea set by one of our Taiwanese friends and they couldn’t get enough of it. I think it’s time to make tea again!

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  • Jen

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    I too am a tea lover. Jeez, we have so many teas in our cupboards. My boys love tea, too, and don’t seem to be concerned that they aren’t manly. A warm mug of sleepytime remains the magic remedy for sleepless nights, a nice mint tea soothes unhappy tummies. My teen generally thinks anything I suggest is pure idiocy, but he still goes for the tea.

    Monkey’s tea-making has me intrigued. I’ve made the occasional concoction (fresh mint leaves and a sliced lime = delicious), but I think more experimentation is called for. I’m plating herbs in my garden this weekend – maybe I’ll add some varieties for tea-making!

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  • Kim

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    Hi Mir. I don’t know if you remember a few years back when we had a short email conversation about whether Monkey liked being “brushed” at school, as my son frequently reminds me that hated it. Ironically, my son who is now a big (6’4″)burley 21 year old is finishing a biology degree, loves nature and all things roots and berries, and is contemplating schools for a Masters in Conservation. While he is a daytime black coffee drinker, he loves tea of all kinds, the more natural (pine needles! Awesome!) the better. Monkey reminds me so much of a younger version of my son. Enjoy!

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  • Chuck

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    Gypsy Cold Care Tea is awesome if you can find it in your area. And as a guy who has recently cut way back on caffeine, herbal tea is a drink that I can enjoy – and do – often more than I like decaf coffee. Plus the tea bags are easy to take to work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    This idea of tea being a ‘girly’ thing is another one of those things that has been impressed upon us since we were little.. Learned from our parents and then, sadly, passed on by most. I try all the time to break the chain with my 5 year old son (its OK if you like to color with pink crayon, or like to play with your happy meal ‘girl’ toy.. or any of a dozen other things that are ‘girl stuff’)It is always what you make of it, whatever the idea and the ‘norm’ related baggage brings. And I applaud you, Mir, for making your teatime special for what it was… both now and back then.

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  • el-e-e

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    Never been a tea drinker. I’ve tried a few but haven’t found a taste that I like yet. Also, was raised with Louisiana-french heritage and lots of cafe au lait. But I’d LIKE to develop a taste for hot tea! It always sounds so lovely! I don’t know, I did it with yogurt (used to hate the stuff, now I kinda like it for breakfast with berries and granola mixed in)… maybe I could make the switch?

    Love this story, especially where you held your tongue. I have to work on that with my 7-y-o boy. :)

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  • Arnebya @whatnowandwhy

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    When I was a little girl, there was a hotel downtown that offered Sunday Tea. We’d leave church and go to have tea, just my mother and me. May I also say that I don’t actually “remember” this happening more than once. I am pretty sure I’m imagining it, but in my mind it happened repeatedly. Regardless, I used to love when my girls wanted to go to tea at their tiny tables. Except, of course, when I didn’t love it (same as you: thinking of errands, ready for the air sipping to end, wanting to nap). Today, my 8 yr old would DIE if I offered to have a tea party; she would be in heaven. The 11 yr old would come along, pretending to grumble, but she’d enjoy it too. The boy at 2 is only interested in eating/drinking whatever he’s made in the pot I let him play with. Usually it’s a shoe (to which mommy dutifully says mmmmm delicious). I love that my husband loves tea. I’m hoping it’ll rub off on the boy.

    I don’t know why it’s classified as girly. Why isn’t coffee girly? Or is it only certain types of coffee?

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  • Jackie

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    That was a precious story. It fills my heart just to spend time with my son. So I can imagine what a sweet moment in time it was just to spend some quite time with your son enjoying a cup of tea you both enjoyed.

    I hope Monkey is feeling better soon and that no one else gets whatever it is he has. Keep savoring the little things. These will be the things you will look back on when he is 20 or older and something as simple as getting a cup down for tea will remind you of this sweet moment with your baby boy.

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  • dad

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    I’m a coffee person. Tea itself is kind of vapid. It’s taste is too subtle to spark my taste buds or to conjure up thoughts of delicious delacasies. It’s just…there.
    What tea does have is a rare ability to taste like the flavor of the mood of the moment.

    That is its secret and a single insight into the psche of someone you love is worth at least a hundred gourmet dinners.

    As the Dos Equi guy says: “Stay thirsty my friend.”

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    • Katy

      Posted on March 22, 2012

      My father used to say the same thing! “Tea has no substance; it’s like drinking leftover wash water.” But then he had to give up coffee. Eventually, he found a satisfactory replacement in some sort of robust, “manly” tea that involves cinnamon and rooibos. I think it’s gross, but hey, to each his own.

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  • Nancy

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    When I’m with my son I’m second on the t-bag, which he thinks is totally wrong. We shared tea again when I visited him recently in New Orleans and it seemed some sort of tradition. I don’t think that as Mamas we have the time to enjoy every moment we should, but I’ve heard that’s what grandchildren are for. Someday.

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  • jen_alluisi

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    I like tea. I enjoy the ritual of it when I have it. I love having high tea at fancy tea rooms or hotels as a special treat. My mother-in-law is a total tea person, and I love that when we visit, she enjoys making me my own small pot in the morning to share her latest favorite blend with me, because her husband and nearby closest relatives are not tea-drinkers.

    All of that said, I don’t consider myself a tea person. I enjoy it, but I don’t invest in it. We have a few bags of tea here and there in the house, but I don’t seek out tea and I don’t fix it for myself often. When I’m sick, I do drink it regularly, but that’s about it. Otherwise, it’s just an occasional thing. Regardless, I honestly think that in America, it’s ingrained to be “girly” because it’s very British, and our ancestors had a real thing about being more “manly” than Brits. Ridiculous, and of course lots of men drink and enjoy tea, but I do think that’s where the perception originated.

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  • Amy

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    Different teas are attached to different memories or general sections of my life, like songs. There is this vanilla tea that defines college for me. I drank it in this wonderful little coffeeshop we had in the little town next to campus. For years I tried to find The One True Vanilla Tea. And then I did find it! And it was right there in the grocery store all along! And then Twinnings discontinued it. :( I still have 3 bags that I’m saving for just the right occasions. And I will NOT share!

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  • Heather

    Posted on March 22, 2012

    We are all tea drinkers in my family, which I imagine has a great deal to do with our British ancestry. Recently, amidst a difficult situation, and I was running around with all the “to-dos” about the house, someone asked me what they could do – my immediate response was “Put the kettle on!”

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  • Brigitte

    Posted on March 23, 2012

    If Captain Jean-Luc Picard loves tea, it can’t be un-manly!

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  • Therese

    Posted on March 23, 2012

    I have always been a tea drinker. Can’t stand coffee, no matter what flavor or what you put in it. Hubby used to drink coffee, but once I started him on the green and chai teas, he’s been converted to the dark side :) Now, whenever we go out for breakfast and he orders coffee, he complains all day that is makes him burpy. I’ve told him time and time again to order tea at breakfast. The last couple of times, he actually has and has been much happier all day! Me too, nothing worse than coffee burps!

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  • Karen

    Posted on March 23, 2012

    Oh, the memories of tea drinking. I was allowed to drink it as a child when we lived in Asia (Mom didn’t let us drink coffee yet, but tea was OK.) Drinking lapsang souchong with my friend Martha in her college apartment. Having tea with my cousin at Fortnum and Mason’s in London. Afternoon tea and sausage rolls with my friends in their home. Having my Indian boss’s husband bring us tea mid-afternoon at work. (BTW, I’m American.) And yet, I need my coffee first thing in the morning. The thing about tea is the community. I have my coffee alone, but my memories of tea drinking are all with friends. Hmmm.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted on March 23, 2012

    my husband, a very “manly man” loves his sleeptyime tea and he and one of my boys will often have a cup before bed! so much for men not liking tea!

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  • aem2

    Posted on March 23, 2012

    I drink tea 24/7. I’m fairly certain they put it in my bottle. My British granddad liked his tea “strong enough to trot a mouse;” I don’t want to think too much about that means, exactly, but I’ve taken after him that way.

    I don’t think drinking tea by itself is considered “girly,” but maybe the concept of the “tea party,” American politics notwithstanding, is.

    Think I’ll have a cuppa now.

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