I finally found a practical use for my faux British accent.
As a longtime anglophile, I feel like everything has been leading up to this. The obsession with London; my celebrity crushes on a bevy of British actors; the trips to England and research into my Irish and British family lines (a whole 13% of my lineage, according to 23andMe). I even famously — and totally coincidentally — packed up a bag with the Union Jack on the Fourth of July.
Yes, friends, it’s all come together for nightly performances that turn my kids round-eyed with wonder. I begin with a few vocal warm-ups — peas and carrots, peas and carrots, la la la — and then step fully into my favorite roles to date: that of young “Peppa Pig,” complete with voices for its star and little brother George. (You’ll be shocked to learn Spence and I are often Mummy and Daddy Pig.)
I don’t know that Hadley and Ollie have an understanding of accents, per say, but they know that Peppa and crew talk differently than we do. I’ve shared the concepts of states, countries, continents — and the fact that the Pig family lives across an ocean in England. (Well, you know, “live” is relative; we are talking about cartoon characters here.)
I’ve always loved geography, so it isn’t exactly a chore for me to break out a map, digital or otherwise. The kids like switching to “street view,” pulling up familiar roads and places on Google Maps. Ollie’s recent hobby is holding my phone while the GPS is activated. The kid figured out how to change the “car,” matching the little vehicle navigating roadways to more closely match our van. Ah, youth.
As I scroll across the Atlantic to where Peppa lives in her house on the hill, the kids’ obsession only grows. And it’s certainly not just at the Johnson residence. With its pastel colors, soothing voices and catchy jingle playing on a loop, this show is addictive to the toddler set. I remember my friend Brandon telling stories of his nephew, a little guy from Baltimore, suddenly answering everything his uncle asked in a British accent.
I get it now.
If you listen to Mummy and Daddy Pig enough, you’ll start talking about “changing a nappy” and “watching the lorries” as well. It would be challenging not to. Whatever Hadley and Oliver love at the moment gets woven into the wool batting of our family. From 2015 on, we have the eras of “The Muppets,” “Sesame Street,” “PAW Patrol” and “Team Umizoomi.” Spence and I still quote them all to each other at random moments.
I never quite notice how the switch happens, but gradually what was once requested 76 times a day becomes old news . . . and new characters come marching into our living room, dominating conversations and leaving a mark in Johnson family history.
It’s like this with all children. I remember my sister and I requesting the same programs over and over again, making our parents crazy, and becoming so enamored with TV shows like “Power Rangers” that we could talk of little else.
All told, the Peppa era isn’t a rough one so far. The show is actually quite cute and witty, with enough parent-appreciated humor to make it feel like less of an assault on the brain. I also love that each episode is really a collection of short stories lasting no more than a few minutes each. For kids who find transitions challenging, it’s much easier to get out the door when we can wrap up a snippet rather than wait the required 23 minutes to finish a whole show during breakfast.
Plus: the accents. When we have a bunch of characters spread out on the kitchen table, Hadley is purely delighted as I take over the voice of Pedro Pony or Suzy Sheep. They don’t know that I’m doing a pretty laughable job. The kids know Mommy is pretending to be someone else — inhabiting a character, if you will — and I take it seriously.
I’m trying, anyway.
Right, then. Cheers!