Yesterday was a big event in the life of every yochien (preschool) child and parent at our school…it was strawberry picking day! Owen, Annie (siblings were allowed to come too), and I rode the train with a hundred or so other moms and children to a nearby strawberry farm. We had paid in advance – about eight dollars/person — and I was excited to eat these strawberries that are usually as delicious as the best in New Jersey.
At the farm, we gathered by classes on large veneer sheets, waiting for our turn to take a group photo (nothing is done in Japan without taking a commemorative photo!) and then being given about 30 minutes with our little containers to go through a given greenhouse and pick as many strawberries as we would like. Since we were near the back of the line, we had to cull pretty carefully to find some good ones, and were disrupted by a snake also making his way through (see photo). After exiting the greenhouse, everyone washed their strawberries in a bucket and sat by the side of the road eating them. Unlike the American custom of picking strawberries to take home for baking or freezing, the goal in Japan strawberry-picking is to eat as many as you can…none go home.
After the greenhouses were thoroughly picked over –it didn’t take long with lots of hungry kids and moms– we returned to the veneer sheets to eat the lunches that the moms had brought. Shortly after lunch, and catching a few frogs in the nearby water troughs, we headed back home by train. The video below shows Owen and three of his buddies playing the very-familiar Japanese game of “paper/scissors/rock”. Owen, as you can see (on the right), doesn’t seem to care about winning as much as doing scissorsover and over! But he’s so happy to know how to do the game.
I loved the chance to get to know moms better, and to watch Owen interact. He is very happy, and loves playing with his new friends. There was one point, though, that nearly killed me… We were changing trains, and Owen and his 3 friends were walking together…They went to join hands, and when Owen went to hold his friend Noa’s hand, Noa said, “No- I don’t like Owen.” I don’t know if Owen understood or not- I tried not to look back because it was clear his mom was upset by the comment. Owen went over to the other two boys and they quickly held Owen’s hand. And two minutes later Noa and Owen were playing happily. But me? My stomach was churning still. Oh- that I will not be overly sensitive! It’s only just started, and is still so innocent— but I know there will be hard days of parenting ahead where we will want to shield our children from meanness (and stop them from being mean, as well). Some things we don’t have control over, but some things we do. I hold tightly to my mom’s words, which echoed through our home when I was growing up: “The world is always trying to tear us down, but here, in our home, we will build each other up.” Help us, God, to create a nurturing home where we build up no matter what the world outside tries to do.