British Expat Parenting: The Trial of Having American Kids
Like many Brits in the U.S., I have children who, while being dual citizens and very comfortable in the U.K., are essentially American. (My use of “trial” above is a bit tongue-in-cheek.) With that comes the eye-rolling, giggling and general mickey-taking about some of my British habits and sayings, showing a complete disregard for the “Not Wrong, Just Different” approach I have always taken.
Oh, not the usual ones like aluminium, tomato and basil (although they’ll throw that in when necessary), it’s words like “squirrel” for crying out loud. “Mom, say ‘squirrel,’” they beg, eagerly awaiting the careful enunciation of both syllables. My kids claim to be pronouncing both syllables too, but to anyone with half an ear, it comes out more like “squirrrl.”
“Sloth” is another one. The other day I rhymed it with “both,” and all three kids turned and stared at me, before the little guy just said, “Sloth – rhymes with broth, mom.” Jeez, give a Brit a break would you? And I’m not the only one who rhymes it with “both,” so there.
Although I don’t eat my pizza with a knife and fork, I do put out both when it’s dinner time chez nous. I put them out at each place setting, and, if anyone looks like they’re struggling with just the fork (cutting lettuce, for example), I helpfully remind them of the other utensil sitting just to their right. Again, mucho eye rolling at the very Britishness of it all. But I’m not the one chasing chicken around my plate or trying to roll gigantic pieces of lettuce into my mouth while slapping salad dressing all over my face.
Fortunately, at various times during childhood palate-development stages, at least one of my kids has liked traditional British snack food such as beans or scrambled egg on toast, sausage sandwiches and so on. (At the moment, two out of thw three will have any one of the above for lunch. Score!) However, no matter how I doctor up the Brussels sprouts, they’re having none of it and cannot believe their own mother eats the dreaded things. Ditto black pudding, which I recently purchased at a British specialty store and ended up having to share with the dog. Mind you, I know just as many Brits who wouldn’t touch that either.
Not that I have the mouth of a sailor, but I do find the odd swear word somewhat cathartic. My favorite, not well-known around these parts, is “sodding,” an adjective that lends just the right amount of angry emphasis without being too offensive. My kids think it’s hilarious and mince around the kitchen, vaguely mimicking the Queen while repeating whatever the “sodding” thing was that I had uttered. When my eldest was but a toddler, she delighted in saying “baddy ell” when in company, knowing that our fellow Americans had no clue what she was saying but Mommy did!
Are you a Brit raising children in the U.S.? Tell us about it below!