We love celebrating our au pairs here at AuPairCare. Every year we hold an Ultimate Au Pair Contest that celebrates participants who embody the spirit of the au pair cultural change program, and we are happy to share a finalist from this year's contest! The Dai family from Seattle, Washington submitted a moving entry about how their au pair has truly become a part of their family during these unprecedented times. Read their entry on behalf of Japanese Au Pair Sakurako.
Why do you have the Ultimate Au Pair?
Sakura has been part of our family for the past 12+ months. We know her extension year started not too long ago, but thinking we only have 4 more months with her makes us feel sad already. When Sakura first arrived, our children, Amelia and Jonah, were only 2 yo and 6 mo - they are now almost 4 and 2 yo. We couldn't have had a better big sister to share such critical years for kids' growth and special milestones with us. Jonah was actually with her when he took his first step! Sakura screamed and we immediately knew what was going on, and rushed there with a phone in our hands to record the moment. First word, first tooth, first haircut, first day back in school, first online ballet recital - the list goes on. Jonah recently started saying her name all a sudden and it's the cutest thing in the world to see him call for her when dinner is ready.
What we feel most grateful about Sakura being here especially in the last crazy year of COVID-19 is that she not only provided childcare during the school shutdown, allowing us to continue working full-time, but also how she tried to make the most out of extra time she had with Amelia. They've done a lot of crafts together and practiced writing circles, using scissors and glues, and folding origami papers - We love it when Amelia runs to our "office" to show us what she made! Downstairs walls have her favorite Peppa Pig family she made with Sakura with colored papers and they were dressed in Halloween costumes in October and Christmas ones in December. This taught Amelia a sense of seasons and holiday events.
These challenging times have required us to have maturity, patience, understanding, flexibility and mental strength to stay healthy and happy. Sakura is the ultimate Au Pair to demonstrate all that!
She has also went extra miles to help us when I (Host Mom) had to work a lot of hours and during nights to launch new products. Stressed and exhausted, having Sakura's help was a lifesaver. Amelia and Jonah aren't the only ones who gained a sister - I also feel I have a little sister here. We share with each other what cosmetics are good and where we can get them with discounts, and we both love going shopping. It's so much fun to do that with someone who is equally passionate about the same things. We love Sakura, and we sincerely hope we'll have a lifelong relationship with her. We hope she'll be given an opportunity to come back to visit us again when it's safe to do so, so that she can see the parts that she missed out on during the shutdown.
What positive influence has your au pair had on your children and family?
Being from the same country, we might not be having as much "cultural share" in a traditional sense. However, we believe that AuPairCare program provides so much more than that. Sakura, for instance, has shared some common personalities she's observed about people in Okinawa (ex laid-back, not constrained with times) or dialects that we've never heard of. She's also shared her perspectives on how childcare operates differently between Japan and here, or how parents discipline their kids differently. Sakura has also taught us what is like inside the US base in Okinawa. When you are outside Okinawa, all we see on media is either turquoise oceans people like to vacation at or how people in Okinawa are concerned about having a US base there. Through her, we've been able to get more insight into what's like to live in Okinawa and how US base and the rest are integrated or not, all of which has made us want to visit Okinawa even more.
What special moments can you share about your au pair?
For kids, having Sakura has helped not only with learning Japanese, but also with exploring their creativity. For example, Sakura has taught them how to use empty toilet paper rolls to make humans. With that, we can't tell you how many Disney princesses Amelia has made. Amelia's Christmas presents for her grandparents were also grandpa and grandma she made with toilet paper rolls, origami, colored papers, and felt fabric. Sakura has also used her experience as a preschool teacher in Japan to make turkey paintings with their kids' hands and feet, or do a monthly art that's aligned with the seasonal event or theme of the month and organized them in a folder as her end-of-the-year gift for us, both of which made us tear up.
We've made some road trips to Bend, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, Monterey, and so on, but one of the most special memories was to go back to where we got married in Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands with her and our children. It just felt "complete" being back there as a family - Sakura included. And she had this really fun and amazing idea to re-produce few of our wedding photos. One that was funniest was us standing in a lawn exactly like we were with the historical Roche Harbor hotel in the background and me holding fallen, brown leaves as my bouquet. We all laughed so hard at the downgraded bouquet.
We wished there had been no limit as to how long Au Pairs could stay! We know our lives will feel so much different without Sakura. We appreciate her and AuPairCare so much!