The other day, a neighbor girl dropped by to play with our kids. She is the same age as The Boy (actually a little younger, as she won’t turn 7 for another few months), and she is also an expat, having lived most of her life in Iceland and the last couple of years here in Tokyo. We met her a few months back in the park by our house. She often plays there by herself after school, and sometimes (especially when it’s cold out) she’ll come to our door to play instead. At first it seemed so crazy to me that this girl was constantly playing without supervision. And that she comes to our house to play, without me ever having met her parents (although I do see them walking her to school occasionally). She does have a cell phone (that only calls her parents), but otherwise she is taking care of herself most afternoons, and doing it quite well as far as I can tell.
So as I was saying, she came by the other day just as we had been planning to head out to a different park, further away from both of our houses. We abandoned our plans and the kids played well inside for the next hour or so, but then we decided to run around at the little park down the street for a bit. The Boy and our neighbor girl were ready to go almost immediately, but Little Sister needed to use the bathroom and get bundled up, and I knew it would take us a few minutes. The Boy asked me if he and his friend could go on ahead to the park. Which meant going outside, walking past two apartment buildings, and entering the park. Without a grown-up. And I gave him the go-ahead, meaning I wouldn’t be supervising this short walk along the edge of the road, and that Little Sister and I would catch up with him in 5 minutes or so. SUCH a small thing, you guys, but it felt like a really big deal to me. And everything was totally fine–and so far, he hasn’t asked me to go anywhere by himself again (phew!).
In other news, Colby and I took the kids to an outdoor antique fair/flea market last weekend. Colby and I got to go to one a few weeks ago when he had the day off of work for a Japanese holiday but the kids had school, and we had a great time and found some major scores–several scrolls, including a calligraphy one done by the former governor of Tokyo and a couple of landscapes (for 300 YEN! That’s like $2.50!), some vintage kimonos at 3/1000yen, an antique japanese sewing box that works perfectly for my jewelry, and a functioning antique wall clock. We wanted to check out another one, but this time it was on the weekend. We debated getting a babysitter so we could peruse the market in peace, but decided to try letting the kids do some shopping too. We gave them each 1000 yen (a little less than $10, currently–and much cheaper than a babysitter!) and split up at the market–Colby took The Boy and I went with Little Sister. And we had so much fun! The kids were so careful with their shopping, and carried their own money, and handled the transactions when they were ready to make a purchase. Most of the sellers were enamored of Little Sister and gave her a gift when she bought something–she ended up making out like a bandit! Next time we go I will let her hold my money too, maybe I’ll get a better deal on some antique furniture if she tells the person she likes that table but she only has $50!
For the record, The Boy purchased a large antique ceramic Maneki-Nekko (lucky cat) bank. He was a very deliberate shopper and wanted to find an item that would remind him of Japan. He even resisted the large Han Solo action figure that he found! Little Sister wanted something pretty, something to play with, or something to wear, and she ended up with all three! She found a decorative Japanese doll with a ceramic face and a red and gold kimono for 500 yen (and was given two mini-dolls made from kimono silk and bamboo as a gift), we bargained an 800 yen plastic Native American doll down to 500 yen since that’s all she had left, and then the shop owner gave her a 50 yen coin back as a gift, and then she found a sparkly necklace that she got for 120 yen instead of 300, since she had put a few extra coins from her piggy bank in her purse. Oh, and a tiny ceramic puppy as a gift with the necklace! I tell you, bring a 4-year-old with you the next time you go antiquing–she’s irresistable!
The other bonus is that now we have taught the kids that it is FUN to go to an antique market and it is WORTH IT to be patient while mom and dad look at things. We’ll see how it goes next time, but for now the kids are looking forward to another chance to go antique shopping!