Tuesday, 9 February 2010

I am becoming a Mommy

Sometimes I feel as if I am getting the hang of being a Mommy. That's as opposed to an English Mummy, who is blithely ignorant of customs and culture (I am often baffled by Littleboy 1's homework - for example this week he was asked who is pictured on the 'penny'. I had no idea that in America, this is a one cent piece).

I now know that if the preschool sends home a message, pre Valentine's Day, telling you how many kids are in the class, this means that you must buy, and write, cards for every single child as well as providing a 'treat' (we were even told to provide a bag with handles for 'all the goodies'). And that there is no opt-out clause, unless you want to be a complete killjoy. But also that there is no need to panic - every shop sells huge packs of tiny cards to which you can attach lollipops, precisely for this purpose.

I know that in the summer, it is imperative to have organised some kind of 'summer camp'; with school finishing in mid June, the summer holidays would otherwise be interminably long. And I also know - for next year - that you sign up on the day camp registration opens. I thought I was being incredibly organised signing up the boys at the beginning of February - luckily we scraped in by the skin of our teeth, getting the last two places available....

I know that it is not just customary, but obligatory, to send out a Christmas card that features a photograph of your children. I know this because I happened to glance at a school noticeboard recently where all the cards were pinned. Every single other parent had sent a glossy card depicting their grinning offspring (and sometimes themselves too) with a message like 'Happy Holidays from the Waltons'. Our card, a run-of-the-mill picture of a snowy scene, looked, frankly, crap and lazy.

However, I am still clinging to my Britishness in some regards. For example:

We did not give, or attend, a Superbowl party. We watched a very short snatch of the Big Game (which was extremely baffling) and rather spectacular Halftime Show. Then I turned over to watch the BBC's adapation of Emma, which was being shown on PBS. I suspect that I was one of the few people in the whole of America to do this. We also missed Barack Obama giving a key interview on CBS just ahead of the match (can you imagine if Gordon Brown addressed the nation just before the FA Cup final?)

I still refuse to drive a large people carrier, and am happy to zip around town in a little Honda (the Dodgy Dodge having being relegated to the status of The Doctor's car.) No doubt this is viewed as very eccentric.

I still call my children 'darling' and 'sweetheart', not 'honey' and 'buddy'.

We will be having pancakes next Tuesday. According to the internets, cooking up a pancake with lemon and sugar is a firmly British tradition, despite celebrations of Mardi Gras etc. But, I might serve them with maple syrup. After all, when in Rome......

25 comments:

Liz (LivingwithKids) said...

Valentine's cards for the whole class? Are they having a laugh? Sheesh I would definitely draw the line at that one. Christmas is bad enough.

Pancakes are a Catholic tradition, really... so yes, when in Rome! Mardi Gras is of course huge in N'awlins too. After seeing Princess and the Frog, I've had a terrible craving for beignets... at least you should be able to get some fresh ones. I'll have to make them from scratch *sigh*... unless Natasha's start doing them!

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

What happened to the tradition of totally ignoring that it is valentines day altogether?

You have to give every kid in the class a Valentine? I'm far too much of a kill joy to ever move to the States.

Michelloui said...

I must admit I still miss those packs of mini valentines cards. We used to bring in shoeboxes to decorate in white pink and red and place on our desk awaiting the cards... I was shocked that schools here ignored such tradition! But now, I think its quite funny how Americans get excited over the slightest mention of 'holiday'--just wait for St Patrick's Day!

Pleased you'll be incorporating the Maple Syrup!

Foodie Mummy said...

They have to be joking? A card and a treat for the whole class? My daughter's school is after banning any cakes or treats being brought in on the child's birthday. I also heard of schools banning homemade cakes for birthdays in case of allergies etc.. If you ask me, it saves on the bother lol.

Calif Lorna said...

I helped out in class the other day and we needed to recognise who was on each coin. No idea. I was of no help whatsoever.

Now, due to the 5th Grade homework, I can name all the state capitols!

Our Valentines gifts are all done and ready to go in, so I won't look as mean as last year. But I have to say, I don't like it, I just feel like it's a load of money, cardboard, plastic and chocolate going straight into the bin. Plus there must be families that can't afford to participate and it must be awful for them. I do think this holiday has grown out all all proportion.

So, I don't think either of us qualify as mommys!

Dumdad said...

When in Rome . . . I have to remember that over here in France. They do things differently, not wrongly. We eat and live French, I suppose, but Marmite is always available (other than me, only my daughter likes it) and there's Sarsons vinegar (son loves it, could drink it straight, I suspect) and lots of other English things.

The trick is cherrypicking the best out of each system...

Potty Mummy said...

Mmmmm - maple syrup. Another civilised thing to miss!

Expat mum said...

And of course, it's called FAT Tuesday and not Pancake Tuesday. I nearly bust a gut laughing the first time I heard that one!

Mwa said...

As if raising a kid in your own country wasn't hard enough...

Iota said...

Do you address the boys as "kiddoes" yet? Or "guys"?

magically ordinary said...

So happy I stubled upon your blog. As an American that grew up everywhere but America (not a military kid, just that of a business man) I love your voice and perspective. Fabulous!

Mud in the City said...

That's the best way - finding some middle ground.

I am in the middle of Chinese New Year celebrations out here and totally flummoxed!

Almost American said...

Glad you got the kids into camp! We're still waiting for the signup forms for our preferred camps here.

We just did the valentine's cards for everyone in the class thing tonight. A half-arsed effort on my part as I only bought the mini-cards (32 to a pack for $1.99) and no temporary tattoos, lollipops or pencils to go with them. DD came home today and announced that she has volunteered to bring fruit kabobs in for a treat on Friday!!! I had promised juice for DS' class, but he says someone else is bringing juice so I have to find something else! If only the snow were coming on Friday, then I wouldn't have to bother about it!

Rosie Scribble said...

You have to send Valentine's card and a treat to every single child in the class? And produce Christmas cards with personalised photos on? Oh my word!

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

you go girl! Pick n choose that's what I say. That's the ncie thign abt living in anothe rculture, adds richness but you can gain cultural knowledge so u don't feel stupid anymore but choose what's imp & what's not for u. It helps u ssee how WE like to do things & why or what our traditions & values are & which we wnt to hold onto. All gd learning & reflective experience.
Howver I am wth u on the car one. Some things are sacred, like driving an old battered car which i sperfcetly sufificent for getting one from A to B safely & hopefully economically wthout guzzling too much gas (petrol;o) )

Nota Bene said...

I read this with an American accent....

nappy valley girl said...

Liz - yes, unfortunately this whole class thing is prevalent throughout American schools. I'm only caving in because I don't want them to be the only kids in class not partaking....

Brit in Bosnia - see above. I'm sure if you'd told me a year ago I'd be doing this, I would have scoffed...

Michelloui - the mini packs ($2.50 special at RiteAid) do make it quite easy. At first I thought I'd be buying 21 normal cards at vast expense.....

Foodie Mummy - yes, many UK schools (and some in US) ban cakes because of allergies. Someone should probably invent a range of non-allergenic cakes for these occasions!

Calif Lorna - I'm definitely being educated by the homework. And agree that most of the Valentine stuff will be going straight in the bin; what a waste.

Dumdad - absolutely. We still have Marmite and Weetabix in the cupboard, but the boys also love hot dogs now!

PM - I feel for you. Perhaps you could douse the pancakes in vodka?

Expat Mum - Do you think that will be dropped as part of the anti-obesity drive?

Mwa - it's true. Quite often I didn't know what the right thing to do was in England....(maybe it's just me?)

Iota - not yet, although I do sometimes use 'you guys' when speaking to friends; a habit I picked up years ago, probably from watching Friends.

magically ordinary - thank you! It's lovely to find a new reader, and I'll be over to have a look at your blog.

Mud - Ah, well I grew up with Chinese New Year. Remember to tip every body with little red packets.

Almost American - I'd be furious now if the snow foils Valentines, after writing 45 bloody cards!

Rosie - it's perfectly true, and everybody here thinks it is normal....

Paradise Lost - It is nice to pick and choose. I'd like to think I'll take a few of the traditions home with me, too. (but not the Valentine's cards...)

NotaBene - you should hear Littleboy 1's accent now!

A Confused Take That Fan said...

I love how Americans celebrate EVERYTHING in such a spectacular way, but glad that I don't have to write and sign 30 valentines for my daughters class and provide a gift. It's so commercial anyway valentines, and even more so if you have to give EVERYONE a card, where's the romance in that? Also, do 3 or 4 year olds even have a valentine?? Surely they know nothing about it? YOu sure have to have deep pockets out there, with Halloween, fancy picture Christmas cards (a little smug?), superbowl parties, valentines...

nappy valley girl said...

CTTF - my boys didn't understand what the Valentines were at all, and I suspect nor will most of their class. It IS expensive here, but at the same time stuff like this is very cheap - about a quid for a pack of 30 cards and lollies. But I definitely get the feeling all the time that we are living in a rich country; people just "have" so much.

conuly said...

When the kids are older, CTTF, you give a cheap card to everybody but a home-made card to your close friends. This, of course, totally undermines the point of "give to everybody so nobody is left out", but so it goes.

Corina said...

Hi, newcomer via Expat Blogs
Wow, just read a good chunk of your blog! I'm an Aussie living in NJ. I just started a blog of my own seeing that sometimes I now have two hands free as my twins are about to turn 4. I've ben here 5 years. Now I am thinking- sheesh you wrote all the things I was going to write about only better. I'm kind of wondering now if I should even bother. Well OK, loads of people are writing about this stuff and I am so glad they do because it's not only educational and thereputic , we can laugh in recognition of ourselves and know, just between ourselves, that they are all completely nuts. So I will forge on , writing from what I hope is my own unique perspective (and spelling) , ie that of a half Chinese Australian married to a Greek Australian , SAH "mature" mother of three girls who has found that of all the places in the world in which she has lived...she has resided in this house in New Jersey the longest of all. How the flippin' !!!! did that happen.
Well I am so pleased to "meet " you ... I'm bookmarking you!!!
cheers
Corina

Heather said...

when in Rome and all that. I put syrup in my batter - very yummy.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

I like Dumdad's comment about getting the best out of both worlds. Nice way to see things. I'm sure I'd prefer "Emma" too!

nappy valley girl said...

Conuly - the boys got a mixture of cheap and handmade cards from their schoolmates. I figured the mums who painstakingly made 22 handmade cards must have too much time on their hands....

Corina - pleased to meet you, and will be interested to hear about life in NJ!

Heather - Mmmm, sounds delicious...

Hadriana - Emma was rather excellent. And what I saw of the Superbowl, I didn't understand anyway....

Metropolitan Mum said...

I had never heard of the name Siobhan before I moved to England and when some Siobhan sent me an email asking me to call her, I asked her colleague if See-O-baaahn was there and if he could call me back...