Let me set the scene here. Baby sister has been sick for two days. Her fever has broken for what we hope is the last time. Her tummy is aching (we think from hunger), but nothing sounds good to her.
And ice cream.
(No vegan comments, please. Thanks.)
Dad is at church. The four of us stayed home. The older two aren’t sick, but Gabe has a meeting right after church, and I didn’t want Livi and Ava riding a tuk-tuk home alone.
I can’t go out and get something, because Nina doesn’t want me to leave her. Sigh. Wracking my brain for a solution.
Ava: I know! Livi and I can ride our bikes to Angkor Market and Joma and get Nina bacon and ice cream!
(Ava has found a passion in life. Riding her bike on the streets of Phnom Penh.)
Me: Hmmm… I don’t know. (They’ve never ridden anywhere without one of their parents yet. I know they’re 14 and 12, but this is big, scary Cambodia, right? I take that back. They’ve ridden around the block alone, but all right turns and no crossing intersections or shopping by themselves.)
Ava: We can do it! We’ll be fine! Livi, do you want to??
Me: Okay, you can go. If you promise to be super careful.
I give them money and instructions and pray for their safety and tell them, if they’re not back in 30 minutes, I’ll… Well, I don’t know what I’ll do, because I can’t leave Nina to go look for them, and she’s in no position to come with me. I’ll just pray a lot.
(These places are not very far away, and the roads are not very big, and we’ve been there tons o’ times as a family.)
Ava: (completely giddy look on her face) Bye!
This bike thing is huge for her. As a middle kiddo between two sisters who are different from her in many ways, she is excited to have found something that gets her motor running.
Twenty-five minutes later, I hear flip-flops on the stairs. Ava’s huge grin is the first thing I see.
Me: You’re back! (I had actually kind of forgotten about them, lost in my coffee and journaling. Oops.) How did it go?
Ava: Good! (grinning so big) There were two kinds of bacon. One was cheap and one was expensive, so I got two cheap ones. And I got the kind of bread Nina likes.
Me: Perfect. You’re awesome. Livi?
Livi: Good! They had raspberry and lemon ice cream, but I could only get one side of bacon.
(Ava went to a corner market and got raw bacon. Livi went to a cafe to get the ice cream + a side of already-cooked bacon. “Ice cream with a side of bacon, please.”)
Me: No worries.
Livi: Oh, and the girl behind the counter looked around and said, “Ma?”
Me: Ha! That’s hilarious. What did you say?
Livi: P’teah. (house/home)
Me: Nice. Way to use your Khmer!
Ava: Do you have more errands for us to do?? (bouncing up and down)
Me: Not at the moment, but thanks for asking.
Ava: Do you think Dad would’ve let us go if he was here?
Me: I’m not sure. I think so.
Livi: Remember how [person’s name] was all worried that we would get kidnapped in Cambodia, and you and Dad said, “We won’t let them go anywhere alone. We’ll always be with them.”
Me: Yes, I remember that. Hush. And, besides, I stand by what I said then. I feel safer letting you girls go somewhere by yourselves in Cambodia than in the States. It’s much easier to abduct two teen girls at Easton (shopping mall near our old home in Columbus) than it is here. They couldn’t take you without making a huge scene, and they’d have no way to get away fast.
So, there you have it. A little peek into us navigating life in Cambodia with teen/pre-teen girls. Baby steps toward independence and responsibility. Being smart and wise and careful without being helicopter parents. Cherishing our time together as a family unit while helping prepare the girlies for the day they leave the nest.
This is not a task for the faint of heart.
Livi: So, when can I get a moto?