Within minutes of meeting her, literally minutes, we knew that Mayumi would be not only a perfect fit for our family, but a life-long friend. Now it is a bit over one year since we met Mayumi. We just received word that our application to renew for another year was approved and it was serendipitous timing to hear about the IAPA Au Pair of the Year award.
While it should be easy and simple to write an essay about Mayumi to nominate her for the IAPA Au Pair of the Year award, it is actually very difficult. Difficult because she has touched our lives and our family with her presence in our family, and has become so much more to us then ‘just’ an au pair. Difficult because it is always so hard to truly describe someone to whom you feel so close to - who you love - in plain words.
So how can we then explain why Mayumi should be the IAPA Au Pair of the Year?
We could tell you that before we knew Mayumi, it was the rare instance that we would ever leave our children without a family member and yet, with Mayumi, we could not imagine a person who is more trustworthy or responsible. Mayumi spends hours recording all the things the children and she have done in the daily log book while we are working; the log book is a definite keepsake, involving hour-by-hour records of their activities and lists of the food they ate, with text, pictures, humor and love. We could tell you that it is usually Mayumi who notes an irregularity on our children’s body ( a rash, a bump, etc.) and Mayumi who made arrangements to bring our sick child to the doctor when we both were working for the day. We could tell you that whenever Mayumi is near children, any child, they are having fun and are smiling. Our children literally go to bed singing her name and wake in the morning excited for the next adventure with Mayumi - even if only in our own backyard.
We could tell you that our children don’t watch television or use computers, so being in our home means one has to be very creative and integrate them into all the daily activities. We could tell you that our children make origami everything (from bowls to pianos to cows), make Japanese-style dumplings, love ‘Mayumi’ rice (very possibly the best rice ever), and many things with seaweed (and we were not a seaweed eating household before!). They now tri-fold their underwear and sing or listen to Japanese songs while they do so. We could tell you that our eighteen-month old plays peek-a-boo using Japanese words, that my four year old says ‘arigato’ as often as thank you, and that they both play ‘rock-paper-scissors’ in Japanese.
We could tell you that we are always striving to teach our children in a positive and loving manner, and that Mayumi not only was able to teach our four-year old to say thank you in one day (we had been trying for months!), but to do so while looking at the other person’s face - “so that your hearts connect” - when she says it. She has inspired us and made us think about how to better teach our children through her continual positive attitude.
We could tell you that Mayumi’s door is always open and her heart is open even wider - even when our eighteen-month old is knocking at her door at 6 a.m. so that she can say hello to Mayumi and her hermit crabs. We could tell you that Mayumi will sometimes spend the whole Saturday with us, just for fun. We could tell you that we have learnt about Japanese culture through the amazing food Mayumi will cook, her stories about family life in Japan, and the customs that she has shared with us. We could tell you that Mayumi sometimes wakes up at 7 a.m., when she is not working, to give our daughter elaborately beautiful hair styles, or make pancakes and wave to the children on their way to school. We could tell you that no one we have ever met smiles more then Mayumi, and that when she smiles, it is almost impossible not to feel her true joy.
All of these things are true. But really, it is not all. It would be impossible to merely explain to another that being with Mayumi is being with the meaning of love, kindness and fun. Mayumi is so genuine, so full of enthusiasm for everyday and every moment that she, in her one year with us, has made a lifelong impression upon our family. She is not only our children’s best friend, and a trusted member of our family, but is an exceptional person, a rare gem in the world.
We could not ignore the opportunity to nominate Mayumi Yano to be the IAPA Au Pair of the Year. She is should really be nominated for the IAPA Au Pair of the World, as she is certainly the au pair of our world!
We have one more year with Mayumi and we are already planning our trip to Japan!
Thank you for your consideration,
the Cahill-Yadao Family----Tony, Bevin, Charlotte, and Caitlin
Winner of 2010 IAPA Au Pair of the Year
Mayumi Yano from Japan
“Welcome home! I’m happy to see you.” When I hear this from my host mother, with her big smile, my weekend is over and my new week is beginning. I have met a family in which I have become a real member of the family. I believe this is destiny and a miracle to meet them in such a big country like the United States.
My host family consists of Tony (the father), Bevin (the mother), Charlotte, who is 4 years old, and Caitlin, who is now 19 months old. They are so warm and kind. All around, the home is full of laughter and love. My host parents teach and care for their children with all their love. Charlotte and Caitlin are growing so well, surrounded by so much love. When I came here, Caitlin was 4 months old. Now she can walk and can communicate with her words. Charlotte also has grown, both taller and with her heart. She is such a kind and a generous big sister. It has been so amazing for me to see how children develop so fast! Being an au pair has allowed me to participate in raising and watching this family and these children change and expand.
Being an au-pair might seemed like a fun job because one gets to play with children. And it is! What could be more fun? But it also involves more than just play. Taking care of precious children is a huge responsibility. At the same time, the host parents must place their trust in an au pair to attend to the needs and happiness of the children. If the au pair or the parents don’t have this trust and understanding between them the situation won’t be harmonious. In my circumstance we have created a good relationship through our communication. Both my family and I are always trying to understand each other. My family respects who I am and appreciates my ideas. At the end of each day, I write down the daily details. Then my host parents and I can discuss the happy times and challenging moments and gain understanding together. I know that being an au pair is a French word for ‘equal to.’ In this regard, I have been able to have a true au pair experience.
My family and I communicate a lot and together, we have reached a wonderful understanding of one another. We exchange and share our thoughts and ideas about the children and about life. I’m so glad that they accept my ideas and my culture. They have positive thoughts and an open mind. They are thoughtful people who are always supporting and recognize who I am. Even though we grew up in different countries with a different culture, when people try to understand and accept each other there is no difference. As an au pair this reciprocation and comprehension has been affirming to my ideas.
When my host family and I have meals together we say ‘Itadakimasu’ before eating our food. It is Japanese tradition at the start of the meal and it means ‘thank you for this food’. For me, this is part of my culture I have always done and can’t stop. When I first came to my family I explained what it meant. They felt that it is a good practice, and now we all do this together at the start of each meal. I also can cook Japanese food. My family, including the children, now loves Japanese food, especially seaweed! It is great that they enjoy totally different cultural ideas. We even like going to the Japanese market together to buy special treats. I am happy because I can enjoy my country’s food too!
With the children, and even their parents, we play with Origami paper and sing Japanese songs. We can say greetings in Japanese to each other. I think that Caitlin may know a lot of Japanese because she has heard it for much of her life. The children always make me happy with their smiles and laughter. It is so joyful to spend time with them.
It may seem different, but Japanese people don’t express their love so directly by words or body language, even among families. Kissing and hugging is rarely done. In this home showing affection is done on a regular basis. It took awhile for me to adapt to these customs, but they’ve been giving me a lot of love and naturally I started to adapt to this from my true heart. I don’t think that I could have been so open to this experience, had I not been receiving spontaneous kisses and hugs from the children.
I couldn’t do it without many people’s support. I want to thank to my family in Japan, my host family, my boyfriend, my friends, my coordinator Dawn and Interexchange. Thank you for choosing me! It is such an honor to be one of the six finalists of the IAPA Au Pair of the Year.
Now I’m spending the best time in my life here. It is so wonderful being a part of this family. I am an au-pair for people I love. I’m going to finish the au pair program this summer. Until I hear the last, ‘welcome home’ from my host mother, I’ll do my best being their au-pair, to assist my family and make more and more precious memories with them.