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 in September!). Come with me as I go from strollers to prams, diapers to nappies, and whatever else it takes to raise a family abroad.
We’re one month in, and Trixie seems to be adjusting very well to life in England. She’s happy with nursery school, our house, and the new words she’s learning for the things in her life (like mum!). She’s even started to make a few friends … well, sort of. Turns out, my daughter has the frustrating tendency of hindering her own friend-making abilities. Let me elaborate.
Yesterday at the playground, Trixie was whizzing around on the flying saucer swing (a contraption I’ve not seen in the states, but it is awesome), when a towheaded little girl with a Cabbage Patch face and bouncy braid (I mean a plait as the English say) came up and asked to get in the swing, too. She looked a year or two older, and Trixie was instantly smitten. They giggled and sang until the girl ran off for more playground fun. Trixie wasted no time chasing after her older, bolder pal. For about 20 minutes the girls played and chased and egged each other on. I pushed them on swings, guided them on the ropes course, and bought imaginary ice cream from them … though my heart sank a little when the girl told us she didn’t live in Bradford on Avon, and was only there while her mom had a picnic with a friend (and left the caretaking to me, apparently). Turns out, our new friend was from Swindon, a town about an hour away (think Park Slope to Newark — and just as charming).
An hour away? I thought to myself. Ugh. Not to sound lazy, but that’s too far to schlepp for a playdate, considering we don’t have a car. Instantly, our plaited pal was dead to me. Trixie, on the other hand, wasn’t sharing in my geographical antipathy. The two girls continued playing but I retreated to a shady patch of grass, loath to make small talk with a four-year-old I’d likely never see again.
It wasn’t until a bit later that a blaze of ginger hair skipped into the playground and I heard a little boy yell, “Hi Trixie!”
My ears perked up. Hastily, I made my way toward them, smiling at the mother when she caught up with her son.
“Does your son go to the nursery school?” I asked, quickly pushing Trixie’s swing like I’d been there the whole time and not sitting on the grass reading my Facebook feed.
“Yes,” the mom said with a friendly smile. “And this is Trixie? I’ve heard Oliver mention her!”
“Cool!” I said, and smiled back.
We were off to a good start. The kids were all playing together and the mom and I were talking … but then all of a sudden Trixie and the Cabbage Patch Party Crasher zoomed off to another area of the playground. Oliver shrugged and went in the opposite direction, taking his mother with him. Noooo! Come back! I thought desperately. But I put on a brave face, secretly praying Little Miss Towhead would eff-off already. Yeah, sure, maybe they were having fun, but Trixie was ruining a perfect opportunity to befriend someone we might actually see again! Trixie, don’t be a fool, I wanted to scream.
But I’m not a horrible person. Not really. I stood back and let the girls have fun, occasionally using my psychokinetic powers to will them back toward the slides and adorable Oliver. To be honest, I can’t blame her. Trixie is a girl, and not just a girl, but a girlie girl. Of course she wanted to talk about Frozen and chase after a real-life Elsa clone rather than play bad guys with a boy from school. How was she supposed to know Oliver was a keeper, and that we’d probably never see blondie again?
However, I’m happy to report, it wasn’t a total bust. The three of them managed to band together for a game of hide and seek, and I focused diligently on chatting with the boy’s mother. (The girl’s mom, BTW, was still totally uninvolved and enjoying a picnic 50 feet away, which Oliver’s mum and I happily rolled our eyes at and bonded over.) Turned out, we had a nice conversation, and when a friend of hers arrived (with another of Trixie’s classmates), we all had a friendly chat. Eventually, Cabbage Patch McPlait was called back to the picnic blanket, and Trixie got in a few solid minutes with the two kids from her nursery school. And even though she kind of screwed it all up by chasing after a playground-one-night-stand, it all worked out in the end because, guess what: Trixie snagged an invite to a birthday party this weekend. Our first English birthday party –hooray!
So, ultimately, it’s okay if Trixie foils her chances at making new friends. That’s what I’m here for, and I’m damn good at my job.
Photo: Alex Richards