We clear the table and turn on the tea kettle. I rummage through the pantry and pick up a bag of coconut cookies and salted crackers. I grab some cheese and carrots and place it all on a plate to share. The children gather small plates and their favorite teacups. It’s nothing fancy, but it is special.
The kettle starts to whistle and that’s the sound that we have been waiting for.
It’s Tea Time.
We all sit together with our snacks, a warm cup of tea and a good book. It’s a routine and ritual we look forward to almost daily. A time to pause, to check in, to enjoy each other’s company.
Tea time was introduced by a Duchess in England named Anna in the late 1800’s. High Society in England would not eat their evening meal until fashionably late and so, they found themselves relatively famished between lunch and dinner. Thus, afternoon tea was born.
With the resurgence of English shows such as Downton Abbey and Bridgerton, watching the Lords and Ladies pause for a beautifully set table and a cup of tea reestablished the joy and need for our own tea time.
The families of the “Ton” in Downton and Bridgerton join together in the family rooms of their grand homes and are served tea, cakes and sandwiches during afternoon tea. They take their teacups and gently sip and savor. They gossip about Whistledown’s latest or smirk at the Countess’ speeches. They may sit at the table and play cards, write letters or read a book.
Our simple tea time is nothing near as fancy, we are American after all! But it has become a special, set apart time:: a tradition that I am wanting to keep more and more, especially as my children grow.
Why is Tea Time important?
I was introduced to the idea of having tea time with my children from author Sally Clarkson very early on in motherhood; an idea that I fell in love with and knew I wanted to incorporate into our day.
I wanted to use the time to pause, connect and enjoy my children in the midst of sometimes strained, stressed, and busy days.
When the children were smaller, I used the time for small training. We learned how to set a table, practice basic table manners, and the art of listening. As they grew, our tea times became a time to set aside the hustle and hurts of the day and connect over something yummy and warm. Nowadays, we discuss what we are reading, the news of the day or the last episode of WandaVision; we may even play a card game or read a family book or devotional aloud. Whether we sit together for 10 minutes or an hour, we cherish this time. I cherish this time.
How to Establish Tea Time in your Home.
Find a time that works well for your family.
Without much thinking, you probably already have a perfect time scheduled into your day. When my children still took naps, they always woke up in the afternoon famished and ready for a snack. I would place them in the high chair or at the little table in the kitchen, serve them their sippy cup and open a bag of goldfish or apple slices. Once I realized I was already incorporating this sort of “tea time” into their day, it was easy to make this time more intentional. As the children grew, this became a little more difficult, but I set it in place of the after school snack.
Set your table.
I am one that loves beauty and I have to incorporate it into my day to day life. When my kids were small and I was overwhelmed with keeping up with them and their little messes, I forgot how much my soul needed creativity, art and beauty. Tea time has allowed me to incorporate beauty into my daily life. I make it a point of having pretty flowers at the table as much as I can, or I send the girls to cut zinnias or roses from the garden and they take it upon themselves to decorate the table. We light a candle and sit down and pause for tea.
Have a yummy treat.
When I first started incorporating tea into our day, I intentionally enticed the children with food! I knew that if I wanted them to sit and pause with me, if I wanted them to recognize that this was special and important, then I needed to bribe them. Our treats may consist of homemade cookies, yummy cut up fruit in a bowl, chocolate milk or on cold days, hot chocolate with marshmallows; because we can call it tea time, but it doesn’t just have to be tea! It doesn’t have to be super creative or complicated…in fact, stay away from complicated or it will never work! My children’s favorite is buttered toast with a little cinnamon and sugar! What a sweet treat!
Engage with your kids during this time.
Now that my children are a bit older, we sometimes sit and enjoy each other’s company, but usually, and especially when they were little, I have some kind of activity planned. Activity? Hold on, don’t get scared! Most of the time we read during tea. I usually have a few books set aside that we read only during tea time. When they were small, I would read some fun stories, or if they had reading homework, I made this the time of their reading to me with the promise of a fun book at the end. Most days I am reading from whatever novel we have chosen to read aloud. Sometimes we play cards or a board game. If your children love to color or draw, buy a special sketch book or coloring book just for tea time and put on some music and color or create with them. Nothing is off limits! It’s just about connecting with them!
That is what tea time is all about. Pausing our day to day activities, pausing in our busy schedules, pausing the hustle. The chores can wait. The emails and notifications will still be there when you get to them.
Tea Time allotted into your day allows you to stop and look into your kids faces, listen to their hearts, speak into their lives, laugh over good books or fun games and bring calm before the end of the day shuffle.
As my children have grown I am grateful for this tradition and routine. It created margin in our day that knit our hearts together. We have learned to enjoy each others company. Nowadays, the older kids will pour themselves a cup of coffee or tea, set a plate with a small snack and sit at the table and read or do their homework and it encourages me to know that this is something established in their life, something they can look back on and remember with joy, something that can anchor them when they move on and establish their own homes, with their children. I look forward to the day I am invited to their tables for tea time.