“Mommy! Mommy! MOMMMY!!!”
“Coming!” I run up the stairs, wondering what trouble my preschooler has managed to get himself into after I tucked him in bed.
I poke my head into his room to find him still in his bed. “Yes?”
“I need my torch,” he says solemnly.
“Your what?!” I ask again, thoroughly confused.
“My torch,” he says, becoming increasingly frustrated.
“You don’t have a torch,” I say as I scan my mental inventory of every toy he owns.
“It’s over there,” he says, as he points to the flashlight on his dresser.
And then it hit me.
Hi, my name is Kat, and my 4-year-old thinks he’s British.
He calls his sneakers “trainers” and his flashlight a “torch.” He made us put out mince pie for Father Christmas. He asked me the other day if we could please go on holiday. After bumping into his brother, he warns him to be “more careful in future.” And his favorite thing is to play in dirt, but not just any dirt — dirt pronounced dert, said so eloquently that it makes it sound like he is doing something other than making a complete mess.
The “Peppa effect” is well-documented — the idea that a subset of American children develop slight British accents as early talkers because of exposure to the British accents of Peppa Pig — but my son seems to have taken it to an entirely different level. He hasn’t just picked up a slight accent — he’s developed an entire love of the culture. He has devoured British children’s shows for several years now, and whenever we try to steer him toward something American, it doesn’t stick.
“Thomas and Friends” is one of his all-time favorites, but he prefers the UK versions to the American ones. The show he’s taken to during quarantine is “Hey Duggee,” a show with some of the thickest British accents I’ve ever heard on American TV. My father, a fan of British sci-fi, took one peek at a “Hey Duggee” episode and said, “That’s got to be hard for a kid to understand.” But my son eats it up, understanding every word and laughing hysterically. I found him shrieking from the couch one day, “Happy’s talking about his jumper!”
There’s a subtle irony to my raising an Anglophile. As a teenager in the mid- to late 1990s, I envied my friends who found Monty Python funny and wanted to marry Prince William. I didn’t find Prince William — or Harry, for that matter — particularly attractive. I have memories of sitting around a TV in a friend’s den, everyone laughing hysterically around me, while I struggled to understand the jokes in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” When I did get my chance to visit London, I was saddened to find that the only things I liked were the fish and chips and the tea — the actual city wasn’t my favorite.
I haven’t told my son any of that, however. Even if I did, I don’t know that it would matter. He asks me weekly if we can visit London when the “yucky yucky germs are over.” If this is what he is aspiring to, I’m not going to stand in his way.
Anyway, when I was a kid growing up in western New York, I also spoke with a weird accent and aspired to visit a faraway city. And though I eventually lost the misplaced accent, I didn’t lose the motivation to someday get to that place — which is the very place where I’m raising my son right now. The lure of a city or country can inspire a great journey, both in travel and in life.