I attempted to become an Aussie Mum.
Lost in translation
First things first, I adopted certain lingo. I now say nappies instead of diapers, pram instead of stroller, kinder instead of pre-school, catch-up instead of play-date, partner instead of husband, plaits instead of braids and nits instead of lice. (Thankfully, those nits were not in my children’s hair.)
I say, “would your daughter like to have a catch-up?” Other mum replies, “Of course, her and Claire are besties. Oh yeah, She’s keen.”
I pretend I know what all the other mums are talking about. One playgroup mum’s daughter just turned 4 and, equally stressed out with multiple children as the rest of us, says, “Oh, and I almost forgot to get her jabbers!” Hmmm, OK, birthday punches. That sounds like something aggressive, Australian boys would be raised on but nothing too strange, right? Other mums jokingly asked if she was brave. I’m asking myself, are these jabbers a scary right of passage? Later, another mum asks, “What did she get? Another MMR?” At least 5 minutes of conversation went by until I realized that jabbers are shots/immunizations. Duly noted.
I completed parent/roster duty. If you join a toy library, you need to volunteer a few hours a year. There I was one Saturday morning, counting puzzles pieces and cleaning old toys. If you are accepted into a community kinder/preschool you need to do duty once a term or 4 times per year. During every kinder session a parent or guardian is present to help the teachers and children.
Kinder duty seems silly to me, since all I did was clean off some tables, organize artwork and play with the kids for 3 hours. However, parent involvement is assumed and forced upon parents much more than in the states. I remember how hard it was to organize the parents in Claire’s former pre-school back in New Jersey. The Australian method seems to work.
I changed my son’s name to Cull’n. I am often asked to repeat my son’s name. These conversations go as follows:
Aussie mum: “What’s your son’s name again?”
Aussie mum: “What is it again?”
Aussie mum: “Sorry, can you spell that?”
Me, somewhat annoyed: “C, O, L, I, N”
Aussie mum: “Oh! Cull’n. Right. (pause) Must be the accent.”
Sure. Which accent would that be?
All seriousness aside
I avoid using serious words. While waiting for our children to finish kinda’, the mums happened upon a conversation about Toy Story 3, and its more serious bits. We eagerly talked amongst each other and noted the scary scenes.
Aussie Mum: “Including the bit in the garbage incinerator, going into the fire.”
Aussie Mums: “Yes, yeah, I know.”
Me: “Yeah, that was a little intense.”
Silence… “coodle ordles” from the magpies outside… more silence inside. Blank stares all around and, I’m pretty sure, held back laughter too. Good one, Meg. Apparently, nothing is intense down under.
I wear black leggings with brown boots, designer jeans, havaianas in 40-50 degree weather and oversized sweater coats. However, I still wear my top siders, gap jeans and t-shirts.
Aussie mums are a pretty cool bunch with the same nuances as American moms. I attempt to assimilate as much as I can while still being genuine. However, I’ll most likely continue using “how are you?” instead of “how are you going?” and yelling after my kids on the playground.