5 am: Ben gets up to get in a fifty-mile bike-ride before work.
6:30 am: If we’re lucky, this is when Sophie wakes up. Some days, it’s 5:30. Some days, it’s 7:00, and that’s nice, because I can wake up first and do some yoga without her constantly trying to get my attention by knocking me over. Whenever it is when Sophie wakes up, we first make tea (Sophie’s “tea” is plain milk plus hot water), get her dressed, do her hair (it will not stay out of her eyes, whatever I try), eat some oatmeal cooled with yogurt. Ben and I take turns watching Sophie while the other one showers.
7:30: Wave bye-bye to Daddy. Commence puttering about the house, because it’s too early to go to the parks – it’s still chilly out, and the parks will be soaking with dew, and the municipal cleaners won’t have arrived yet to clear away last night’s beer-cans from the children’s slide. So this is when I clean our house, do the dishes, the laundry, the vacuuming. Sophie plays with her paper dolls, tea-set, markers, legos. There’s not enough toys for her here, though, and soon we will both be desperate to leave the house.
8:30: Bike out of the city, along the canal path, to say good-morning to the brown cows and two horses who wear hats (the hats are there to help prevent a fly-induced eye-infection). Every morning, Sophie declares, “I wanna see cows! I wanna see horsies with hats!” I am happy to oblige. It’s my favorite part of the morning. It’s only a seven-minute bike ride to get to the horses, almost all of it on streets with no traffic. It’s only seven minutes in the other direction to the center of town. It’s amazing how well these British cities work, with the rural bit right up next to the urban bit.
9 am: On our way back from the horses, we stop at “Green Park,” Sophie’s latest favorite. There is also “Yellow Park,” “Red Park,” “My Soccer Ball Park,” “Baby Park” and “Other Side Baby Park,” as well as a few other parks that Sophie has not yet named. There was a great deal of frustration, for both Sophie and me, while Sophie decided which color to name each park and I struggled to follow her shifting names and park requests. We both like Green Park, though, which Sophie also calls Cow Park. Its actual name is Stourbridge Commons. I spend a large portion of my day pushing Sophie on the swings.
10 am or so: We eat a mid-morning snack and finally leave the park. We may go to a museum (most museums open at 10 am), or pester our neighbors (our only friends, here), or go exploring downtown. We may go to another park, or the library, or to the local church’s play-hour, or out for groceries or other errands. Someday soon we plan to go swimming. Another day soon, I am going to bike Sophie the 7 miles out of town to a farm-museum on a classic British estate – but each time I have tried it, she has gotten impatient and insisted on detours after only two miles or so. Yesterday, I tried to take her kite-flying, but by the time I had found the string that goes with our kite, Sophie had declared that kites are a Daddy-only activity. Eventually, I am hoping to figure out a way to take Sophie on the train to London while still letting her have her nap.
After that, I am out of ideas, and stuck with endless swing-pushing, or probably revisiting some local Cambridge museums. Our days are both boring and crowded. Because of late opening times (plus Sophie’s need for free-play run-around-the-park time), there is only the 10am to noon window for morning adventures, and because of Sophie’s napping and eating, there is only a 4pm till 5 window for afternoon adventures. We get a lot more done on the weekends, when Ben and I get more ambitious, ignoring Sophie’s need for down-time and nap-time. Then I spend the early part of every week helping Sophie recover, returning to our days that are full of routines, but short on adventure.
Noon: Return home for lunch and quieting Sophie to sleep. Sometimes Ben bikes home from work to join us, which is nice, because it means I get some adult conversation in my day. Sometimes I keep her out later than noon, but that tends to lead to both of us suffering, when Sophie will get desperately tired but unable to find her way to sleep.
1 pm: Sophie naps. In June, I used this time to work on my manuscript. In July, I am using this time to plan classes, somewhat, or read novels, sometimes, or – at the moment – blog. I don’t know what non-working, non-blogging mothers do during nap-time. It actually bewilders me. I rush to the computer as soon as Sophie is asleep. We have no internet at home, so I actually get a lot of academic work done in the early afternoon.
3 pm: Sophie wakes up and we eat our second lunch.
4 pm: Another park, or out for groceries, or maybe just jumping in rain-puddles outside our home.
5 pm: “Daddy home!” Sophie exclaims every time she hears anyone in our apartment building open the front door. Eventually, Daddy actually is home. I make dinner while he plays with Sophie. Sometimes I go out, to get a few hours baby-free. Sometimes we go out together, for a family stroll.
8: bed. To those of you who don’t have kids, you might not understand how dinner can take almost the full hour from 6 till 7, but it does with clean up and distractions and all. You really might not understand how bath can take the full hour from 7 till 8, but it does, with the help of Sophie’s tea-set and all the pretend-drinks she attempts to serve us while she bathes. Bedtime itself usually isn’t over till 8:30 or 9. By then, I may sleep myself. If I’m ambitious, I work more before bed. At first, Ben and I watched movies together, but by now, we’re mostly exhausted.
I’m not sure if our British life is all that different from our American life. In America, Sophie is in daycare three days a week, we drive more than biking, we visit fewer museums, and there are no nearby horsies that I know of, with or without hats. There are more friends and playdates, though. That is what Sophie misses the most, here, perhaps because she senses that it is also what I miss the most. She has started struggling to pronounce names I have never heard her say before. “I want to see Mila. I want to see Tori. I want to see Gracie. Kai and Elijah. Chloe. Sarah, Maci, Nevin. Bryan Christine. Momma? I want to see Mila…” That recitation is also part of our daily routine. Every time we see a train, she remembers that back home, she rode train with Mila. Sometimes she wants to play a game where she announces, “Bye-bye! Sophie airplane now,” kisses me like her Dad kisses me in the morning, then orders me to cry. Then she repeats the whole routine.
I suspect that as soon as we get back to Mila, Tori, Gracie, Kai, Elijah, and everyone else, what Sophie is going to be saying is, “I want green park. I want horsies with hats.”