tea and poo

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:

Breakfast: Wheetabix

Lunch: Jacket potato with beans and cheese and banana for my pudding (aka dessert)

Tea: Veg

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.


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.



Filed under culture clash, food, jonah, london, translation

22 responses to “tea and poo

  1. aunt barky

    Make sure you update us on Jonah’s number of poos after his second dinner is eliminated.

  2. Virginia

    That is hilarious. Seriously, though who would have known that? Our reports also told us consistency…so if say there were four poos typically they are trying to suggest that they are runny poos and well that my child(s) might be sick… In your defense…he wanted his second dinner its not like you were forcing it on him!

  3. Hilarious. Also reminded me how Josh would have eaten anything: 4, 8, 10… meals. With accompanying poos/poops.

  4. Auntie Fig

    This post and Aunt Barky make me laugh. Poor unsuspecting Jonah…just being a good healthy boy and eating when instructed.

  5. Faye

    We need a follow up post if Jonah misses dinner #2 and if the daycare girls comment on the reduction in poo…..

  6. you also have to remember that mealtimes have different names depending on what part of the country you’re from.

    I say breakfast/lunch/dinner – my other half (who is Northern) says breakfast/dinner/tea

    And then there’s supper…my nan still calls her dinner ‘supper’ and that confuses me.

  7. Sonya Hyde

    I laughed so hard at this my coworkers all turned around and wondered what the hell was going on in my side of the office.

  8. LOL This post so made me laugh as my northern British Beau and I have had many a confusing conversation surrounding meals as he is a breakfast/dinner/tea guy and my being an American, am a breakfast/lunch/dinner girl. Basically, breakfast is about the only meal about which I am sure we are on the same page. Other then that I find my self thoroughly confused because I don’t know if he is referring to my dinner or his and I hear tea and still think 3pm snack. Maybe when we are married and settled we’ll sort this all out! Until then breakfast it is!

    • yael

      I am glad you are on the same page about breakfast… although I am sure you still need to find common ground on baked beans and, what is a pancake- is it a crepe or is it delicious? ; )

  9. Tina P.

    Four poos! Sounds like a great day to me and I’d probably make it to my pre-pregnancy weight if I could swing that. I’d continue with sixes or whatever they are calling dinner over there.

  10. yael

    Thanks everyone for the support. I guess a poo update is in this blog’s future.

  11. big daddy butch pop-pop

    Agreed. With a record number of comments on this blog, you may has discovered that your readership has a deep and — if I may risk saying so — dark, obsession with things scatological. By all means, give them what they want — there is no shortage of “material.”

  12. Bonnie

    I have been laughing nonstop, I am crying, crying! this was the funniest thing ever. Yael you never cease to bring me a much needed true, awesome laugh. have you considered stand up? ethan came in from 2 rooms away and was like “what?” and i was like “yael” and he was like “you think she is the funniest person ever” and i was like ” you HAVE to read this”. so as the tears are still making their final decent to my chin, thank you thank you. and yes, a poo update is required in the near future. this story must not end here.

    • yael

      Oh Bonnie. How I love thee…

      When I take my show on the road, it will be a packed house of one. Unless you can drag Ethan and then we’ll have 2 in the audience.


  13. Pingback: a poo update et cetera « the part where we move to london

  14. Ggibbs

    “I really felt the pride of living here. I hate how American men dress. One of the few things the British get right.”

    As I was enjoying your blog so much up to that point, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you in fact meant to write, ‘One of the MANY things the British get right.’ Because there’s plenty to celebrate about Britain and the British (and to be fair, that does seem to be the general tenor of your musings on our little Island).

    Anyhow, thanks for helping pass what would otherwise have been a dull (but I suppose, at least productive) afternoon at work – I read the whole blog in a single sitting. It’s lovely to see people making the most of the opportunities that life’s afforded them, and clearly enjoying themselves whilst doing so. Have fun in London/Europe, and more power to your collective elbows.

    • yael

      Ggibbs, you are a welcome addition to this blog! Yes, you have me pegged… there are many things I like about the people of this island.

      I am currently reading “Watching the English” by Kate Fox and either she will fully convert or repel me once and for all. Watch this space… (as your people say)

  15. Ggibbs

    Wear-out. That was meant to be posted under the relevant topic – it clearly has nothing to do with the poo chat. Sorry. Oh, and four does seem like quite a high number of poos to cram into the working day – even if you work long hours. But having said that, better-out-than-in, eh. What’s the average for a child of his age? I worked with a bloke who spent about three hours every day on the toilet – The latrine machine or The Chod God were his two nicknames. Trap one was his personal fiefdom. He owned that cubicle.

  16. Ggibbs

    Hhhhmm. I skimmed through that when an Aussie colleague was reading it, and I’m afraid it annoyed me a bit. During my lifetime, I haven’t noticed a tendency towards social awkwardness or emotional constipation amongst my peers or the population at large. The bits I read were like something out of a 1950’s Japanese guide to Great Britain (where because they don’t encounter many of us, they still have this quaint notion that we’re a nation of impeccably behaved gentlemen and ladies – something you’ll have discovered yourself, is unfortunately, no longer the case)

    I don’t know if you’ve ever heard ‘The Village Green Preservation Society’ by the Kinks (it’s a top tune) but the book kept reminding me of that song.

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