Fine, we’ve heard the joke about “two nations separated by a common language”.
And to be charming, Americans might say “rubbish” and the British might say, what, I don’t know… “cowabunga”?
But all kidding/having a laugh aside, I try really hard to blend in, to pick up the lingo, to understand what the hell everyone is saying.
For example, I have learned from tv that perhaps there are special designations for mealtimes outside of the usual three. There are two snack times that have their own names.
“Elevenses” is a mid-morning snack. Like our “coffee break”. The names refers to the approximate time of day that it might be taken.
“Tea” is- wait, I know what you’re thinking. Everyone knows what “tea” is. China. Pinky out. Scones. Cucumber sandwiches. Saying the words “brilliant” and “quite” over and over through pursed lips.
Oh but this is a modern land. Tea is a concept. An afternoon snack. A light meal. I suppose you could “stop for tea” and have a Diet Coke and a cigarette and maybe it would count. I always notice a flurry of activity at work in the kitchen galley around 3:30pm. Tea time seems like chatting time.
For three months now, every single day when I pick Jonah up from nursery, I am handed his little daily report card. They are really sweet. They often say things like, “Mummy, today I clapped my hands when Melissa made a funny face” or “I really enjoyed looking at the picture books” or “I danced to Beyonce’s Single Ladies and it was fun”. The report also details diaper/nappy changes, nap times, ounces of milk taken and meals eaten.
The middle of every sheet says, for example:
Lunch: Jacket potato with beans and cheese and banana for my pudding (aka dessert)
The first time I saw this I died a little inside. Of adorablitis. TEA! For babies!! Come on, how sweet. And I came to appreciate that even babies get to have the mid-afternoon snack beloved by a nation, a people, a people who colonized a lot of nations.
And every night I bring Jonah home, put him in his high chair and feed him elaborate DINNER meals made by yours truly. Steamed squash and risotto and beef stew and apple and pear medley and macaroni cheese and whatever his tubby self desires. He cries for more avocado. Demands toast. Shoves fistfuls of fish mash in his mouth.
A few weeks ago I noticed that when I picked Jonah up from nursery in the evenings, the girls working there would make a point to tell me about Jonah’s elimination accomplishments. Or more specifically, (and you have to imagine this in a British accent) someone would say very loudly, “OH HELLO MUM. JONAH HAD FOUR POOS TODAY. FOUR!” They say poo, not poop. It’s kind of awesome.
And the first few times, my natural reaction was to think we were all in on a joke together. I would laugh and say with a big smile, “That’s my boy! What a good eater!” And I would give the employee a noogie. Or you know what I mean.
Then I realized a week later the girls were saying it a bit more admonishingly. They wanted me to understand the gravity. They would explain in detail that they had to give him a bath or that he had 7 nappy changes and now has nappy rash. And I remained perplexed at this point. This is a profession built around babies and escaping bodily fluids. How had my son managed to stand out? So I would apologize and say more seriously, “what a good eater.”
One day, Kely and I had this conversation:
K: (British accent) Mum, Jonah had FOUR POOS AGAIN TODAY.
Me: Oh my goodness Kely, I don’t know what to say. I think I am feeding him a normal amount for dinner each night. He is just such a big eater.
K: YOU FEED HIM?!
Me: Wait, what, I am supposed to give him dinner, right? Am I? What do people do? KELY, PLEASE HELP ME, I AM AMERICAN!
K: (looking away like a proper Brit and now mumbling) Every parent is different.
So back to dinnertime we go.
But it’s been nagging at me. Each week, each day, the self-doubt has been creeping in. Why does the report card list three meals as breakfast, lunch and tea? What does the world know that I don’t? Why isn’t this in my expat manual? And then the final straw: I overhear my officemate saying to his 8 year-old daughter at close to 6pm, “E, have you had tea yet? Do you want to go to Pizza Express?”
Tea? At 6pm? At a pizza restaurant? I can’t really deny the evidence anymore. So we launch Operation Tea Definition.
And now who is the laughing stock of the land?
Tea is the evening meal given to a child. It means
So for three months I have been giving Jonah Dinner Part II. No wonder so much pooing.