The Rickles-Do family of New Jersey has hosted 10 au pairs (without a single rematch) so they are no strangers to the au pair program or welcoming another family member to join their crew. However, host mom Lori felt compelled for the first time to nominate her au pair, Ebba, for the 2016 Au Pair of the Year award. Cultural Care Au Pair agrees that Ebba exhibits all of the qualities of an excellent au pair and makes the most of her experience here in the U.S. Ebba, who returned home in January after two years with the Rickles-Do family, is the first of our 10 Au Pair of the Year finalists we will highlight. Enjoy just a part of Lori’s nomination below.
Ebba has become another member of our family in a very loving and seamless way. Our children view her as an older sister and we regard her as a daughter and best friend, the kind one would choose to be with as much as possible. She has forged loving relationships with our immediate and extended families so that she is never missing in our family gatherings and photos! Ebba has formed bonds with each of us—Stephanie (14-years-old), Benjamin (13-years-old), Lori and Cuong (host parents). But her bonds do not stop in our immediate family. She also has connected with the grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins on both sides. She has forged bonds with our closest family friends. There is a gigantic circle of people who have come to view Ebba as an integral part of our family and community in New Jersey, elsewhere in the United States and throughout the world.
With Stephanie, Ebba found a teen-age sister. Stephanie is an eager, curious and happy person who likes to explore new things. Ebba saw this immediately and helps Stephanie enjoy so many activities ranging from the typically scheduled to ones that involve creative planning. Ebba is able to give Stephanie the compassion and understanding she seeks when dealing with teenager issues. Ebba also gives Stephanie sound guidance that complements our family’s approach. Both girls enjoy just being together or hanging out. Stephanie respects and loves Ebba immensely.
Ebba works magic with Benjamin who is thirteen years old with autism. Ebba has found a way to communicate with him so that he listens, engages and responds appropriately. She has broadened his world, making it possible for him to feel comfortable in many new environments and that he can now navigate seamlessly. Ebba has helped Benjamin develop confidence in his own work and efforts so that he can initiate more complex tasks without too much difficulty. Benjamin looks forward to his moments with Ebba: pre-algebra homework, meal preparations, corps-building exercises, running, hot chocolates at the coffeehouse, bowling, jigsaw puzzles, Rummikub, or just being in the car and listening to music together.
For Lori, Ebba is a great friend. She is so trustworthy and thoughtful. There are many times that Lori seeks to spend “girlfriend moments” with Ebba—simply hanging out and talking or going on hikes or going to see shows in New York City together are cherished occasions. We have enjoyed outings to community events, cooking, reading books, political discussions, digging through snow…and really just about everything together. Lastly, Cuong finds Ebba to be a tremendous comfort and has come to rely on her greatly. He travels enormously and is assured that his family is thriving so long as Ebba is around. Cuong has a penchant for photography, and he enjoys sharing his passion with Ebba. The two are probably the best photographers in our family. Also, as Cuong and Ebba are our best downhill skiers, they share lots of fun moments on the slopes during the winter.
Our family has benefited greatly from a great number of discussions with Ebba on topics ranging from food eaten in Sweden versus the USA, France, Israel, etc. to how the politics of Syrian/Mideast refugees are playing out differently in Sweden, the USA and elsewhere and how these events will impact generations to come. All of our perspectives have expanded due to the insights that Ebba shares. Ebba has experienced our holidays, prepared traditional American dishes, learned U.S. geography, visited American museums, and experienced our elections. Ebba has travelled extensively (both with our family and friends)—to Canada, France, Israel, Hungary, Austria, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Washington, DC, Florida and soon to West Virginia and Hawaii. Together we would always explore the history, food, art, and local customs of each place.
In addition to helping our family expand our perspectives, Ebba has used the opportunity with us to expand her own horizons in so many ways. Ebba has taken and successfully passed with the highest grades college courses in sociology, interpersonal communications and photography. Especially in her coursework, she demonstrated true initiative and perseverance. For example, when initially denied access to the course she wanted due to space constraints, Ebba approached the director of the program and gave him every reason to physically create a space for her in the course. She successfully convinced him. Ebba has become a model advocate for us all.
We have watched Ebba evolve over her time with us. She first came with dreams of being a member of an American family, learning something about the American way of life and culture, enhancing her horizons, and improving her English. She has realized all these dreams and much more. It is with great sadness that we parted with Ebba at the end of January 2016, but we know that Ebba will return to Sweden as a confident woman who will carve her path with grace and focus. She will undoubtedly help make the world a better place, likely avoiding and reducing conflicts at different levels and in different domains. While her return will be difficult for us, we will always view Ebba’s stay with us as an incredible growing experience for us all and a priceless treasure to be valued forever. We will pore over our thousands of photos and tell countless stories for years to come! And of course, we look forward to the day that we can visit Ebba in Sweden and see the country that helped create the lovely person who came to us one January day. Thank you, Cultural Care, for giving us the most wonderful gift: time to know Ebba Charlotta Hakansdotter Larsson.
Thank you to Lori Rickles for sharing this wonderful story and for nominating Ebba for the prestigious honor of Au Pair of the Year. Stay tuned for more nomination stories in the coming weeks and months!