My family and I have recently moved from Brooklyn, New York, to Bradford-on-Avon, England, for a year. Our mission: try out life at a slower pace. In my new series Brooklyn to England, I’ll write about the weekly adventures of living in the English countryside with my British husband, our three-year-old daughter, and my baby-bump (I’m due this month!). Come with me as I go from strollers to prams, nappys to nappies, and whatever else it takes to raise a family abroad.
“What do you want to do today?” I ask, pouring Trixie a second bowl of Sainsbury’s-own Cheerios (note-to-self, stop buying English Cheerios, they are ridiculously higher in sugar than American Cheerios).
Trixie chomps, slurps, and swallows, banging her legs against the cold metal chairs that came with our rented cottage. “I know! Let’s play baby!” she cheers.
I sigh in response. We play ‘baby’ a lot. The game is simple enough: Trixie says “googoo gaga” while I change her pretend nappy or rock her in the glider. She tries to pull my shirt down for a go on the ol’ milk-makers, to which I politely decline and offer a pretend bottle instead.
It’s a totally understandable game (I mean, isn’t it?). Any day now she’ll be a big sister, and I’m sure she’s right on track with her psychological development or whatever, but, to be honest, it gets boring. It’s boring playing walk-the-dog and “poorly” (a game in which she uses a stick for a cane and pretends to be old). Like I said, I’m a million months pregnant, and bending over a two-foot-tall stick or donning a leash made of jump ropes and tangled up necklaces is, well, kind of exhausting for me right now.
“Why don’t we sit on the couch and read books?” I ask, trying to entice her with a waggle of my eyebrows.
Trixie shakes her head. It’s futile, I know. I can’t dodge her games, and I have an inkling of why. It goes back to when we first moved to Bradford-on-Avon and I asked her nursery teachers if I could email a few of the parents in order to set up playdates. Instantly I was met with a cagey, surprised giggle.
“Erm, you see, it’s about privacy, ‘innit?” said one of the navy polo-wearing caretakers in her friendly west-country accent. “Can’t be givin’ away that sort of information, see? But pop us an email and we’ll be sure to pass it along, a’right then?!”
“Great. Will do,” I said. Within hours I’d sent a chatty email to the manager including a list of kids I’d heard my daughter mention, and would the school be so kind as to pass my phone number along to their mums.
Then I waited. And waited. It’s been over three months now, and not a single parent from Trixie’s school has emailed or called me. Sure, we’ve managed to
stalk make other friends, but what about her school chums? Aren’t they interested in the adorable American with the fancy frocks and wacky accent? To be honest, I was a little bit baffled … until I remembered something:
In that cordial first email, I implied that the head of the nursery school was my pimp.
In my defence, it was a joke. I swear. But I forget that not everyone has my sense of humour. Especially not in letter form (I am forever incorrectly inferring tone into email—it’s an easy mistaka to maka!). The nursery school manager is not my college BFF, nor one of my Brooklyn cocktail buddies, and, in hindsight, perhaps it’s not cool to equate your child’s caretakers with prostitution.
It’s possible that I’m overreacting. I bet the school does know I was kidding, and the radio silence has nothing to do with the pimp claim. Maybe the other parents are busy. Maybe the friend request got buried in their inboxes. Or maybe their kids don’t like my daughter (um, unlikely!). Whatever the reason, playdates haven’t been free-flowing, and so here we are.
“Mommy, come on!” Trixie says, clanging a spoon against her empty third bowl of cereal. “Let’s play zombies!”
“Okay, sure,” I tell her, and with an aching back and pulled groin, I shuffle under the blanket fort we made this morning in order to help my daughter fend off imaginary flesh-eating fiends. Using leaves and bouncy balls as weapons, I tell myself I will learn from this experience. I won’t rely on strangers for playdates, and as Trixie makes her way through kindergarten, high school, and college, I will refrain from likening her educators to pimps and pushers. It seems like the right thing to do.