Let me explain. When babies are born, their age is obviously measured in months until they hit the age of one. Fair enough. However, my peeve occurs between the ages of one and two. "Oh, how cute! How old is he/she?" you exclaim. Proud Mom: (and it's usually Moms who answer this way, rarely Dads,) "He's twenty months now." In my head I'm frantically doing a calculation. What the heck is twenty months? Um, OK, around one-and-a-half. So why not say that? This happens all the way up to two: for some reason, age is described in months. Then, it stops. Past the age of two, he's not "twenty-nine months," he's "almost two-and-a-half." Is this the same on both sides of the pond? Maybe, but I haven't spent enough time with parents of small children in Britain to know.
Then there's the older child. Invariably when you ask an American parent how old their child is, you get the answer, "oh she's in third grade now." OK......right...... When I first came to the US, I created an index card to carry round with me so I could figure out how old kids were when parents said that. (I still have that card.) It completely confused me. Culturally, all Americans know how old "third grade" is, because they've been there, but I didn't have a clue. Ask someone in Britain how old their child is and you'll get the answer: "She's nine." Thank you. Now that Fiona is in eighth grade at school, I do understand it better, but I still have to do brain machinations.
The biggest difference in ages is when a child can legally drive and when he can drink. In the States, a teenager can get a learner's permit to drive at age 15 1/2. In the UK, it's 17. Legal drinking age in the US is 21, whereas in the UK it's 18.
There are a lot of opinions about this, and, one could argue that keeping the legal driving age and drinking age almost six years apart is a very good thing, but, let's look at reality here. Kids go to college at age 18. What happens in college? Everything. Yes, everything. Show me a movie set in an American college where kids aren't drinking. That's right: there aren't any. From Animal House to Pitch Perfect, 18-year olds are shown drinking at university, and they always will. At least in the UK this is recognized and accepted.
What really scares me is teens taking drugs: both illegal and prescription. In fact, it's prescription drugs - so easy to obtain - that are the cause of a lot of substance abuse. In many households, parents have prescription drugs for all sort of things: from depression to heavy-duty painkillers. I don't have anything stronger than aspirin in our house, and I guess I should be grateful that I don't need anything more, but I'm the exception, not the rule.
Anyway, I digress. Opinions on the legal age for drinking (although curiously not for driving) are as varied and heated as those on gun control and I'm not going to argue the point either way. It's just one more interesting difference between the US and the UK.
And I only have 20 months before Fiona is allowed to drive.