Tea for You, Tea for Me
(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)