This weekend is La Merce - a festival we attended last year with stroller in tow for Liam. It was a festival full of huge crowds and the stroller was most definitely something that slowed us down. But at 3, Liam couldn't walk far distances and tired easily. This year, the stroller is being left behind. Liam is almost 4 1/2 now and is constantly impressing me with his capabilities.
The boys are growing up. When we were on our way to the airport in January 2010 to move to Barcelona, Josh forgot our stroller at home. I freaked out and insisted that our driver stop at the closest Babies R Us to pick up a new one to take to BCN. How in the world would we be able to function in a city with a 2 1/2 year old without a stroller? It's hard for me to believe that in just over a year and a half we are past that stage in our children's lives and that they can function on a different level than they used to, both physically and emotionally.
Now they walk everywhere and don't whine about it, at least most of the time. When I used to pick them up at school last year I would haul the stroller with me so that Liam wouldn't need to walk the full mile and a half distance that wasn't covered by a train. And on the days I would leave the stroller behind I would find myself carrying him most of it. Fast forward to this year, not once has he asked me to carry him. He covers the distance like a trooper. And it's only one example of how much he's grown in the last year.
Liam is maturing differently than Aidan did, like all kids, they have such different personalities. Their milestones are different as are their interests. Liam is speaking Spanish more and more frequently, something I'd always hoped he would do when we moved here but never knew if it would happen. When we were home this summer he asked when we were going home to Barcelona. To him, this is home. And this has been a place where a lot of his emotional growth has happened, not to mention his physical growth these days as he's getting to be a tall kid!
Aidan's milestones are school related - reading, math, science, social studies... physically, he's getting taller, he's up to my chest now. By the time he's 10 I have no doubt he'll be taller than me. He's lost 5 teeth now and his face has changed to reflect his new, larger, adult teeth. His focus is very different than Liam. He's in jiu jitsu these days which requires him to be able to focus on each move and each instruction (which are often in Spanish though the instructor also speaks English to him). He's had a tough time adjusting to life here and for almost a year and a half he was pretty miserable, but I think we've turned a corner - I see more smiles and he talks more about the things he enjoys here, one being the La Merce festival this weekend!
Both kids are self sufficient at school. They go to school on a campus and know what building they are in, how to get there and when they get off the bus (2 blocks away from the school), Aidan has no problems getting to where he needs to go, while Liam, since he is 4 is still escorted by a chaperone, and for that I'm thankful! When I pick them up, I can see they are comfortable in their environment. They've grown up in this school system essentially and know their way around campus and it's most interesting to hear Liam talk about schools and his different teachers for his specialities and what he's learned. Most often when I ask him how school was, he gives me the thumbs up and then tells me "thumbs up mommy". He's a riot that kid!
And in a way they are growing up in this city. I know we will not be here forever but we are here during some key formative years. They have become city saavy which is something I never expected and they were like that very early into our time here. From living on a cul-de-sac in Attleboro where we would tell them to look both ways before crossing the street (most of the time it was ignored because what cars were around???) to living in an urban neighborhood where the cars are everywhere and they won't hesitate to hit you if you cross without looking first! And they get it... they understand that they need to wait for the green walk light AND that they still need to look since they know not everyone stops just because the walk light has turned green. They don't get too far ahead of us when walking thru the city and they know what areas they need to stick close by us compared to when we walk in our own neighborhood. Aidan is even getting little tastes of freedom - for instance he's allowed to leave for his jiu jitsu before Liam and I and walk there himself. We are on a small side street and his class is 2 buildings over from us, a 30 second walk. But he does it on his own and is so proud to do it! Will he be walking himself to the bus stop any time soon, hell no! But 2 buildings is enough freedom in a city for me at age 7!
They are not only city saavy when it comes to knowing their boundries but they also know their way around. Just like Aidan always knew his landmarks at home in the burbs and on the cape, he knows them here. Often I'll ask him how we get home from somewhere or I'll take a different route to get to a destination and he'll call me on it. He knows his surroundings for sure. And even Liam can chime in pretty often about where he is or what we are near.
I think it's amazing watching your kids grow anywhere in the world, but to me it's fascinating to see how they have grown and matured in a foreign environment and to see the world and understand it from a different perspective. To see if they can understand that this is not a "normal" life compared to their friends from home. For that matter it's not a normal life for most people, not just our friends at home. The ex-pat community is a small one and I hope that someday they understand what a gift this opportunity has been for us to be able to give them this experience. I want them to see that the world is bigger than just Massachusetts or Attleboro and I think they are slowly understanding that. They know that they have friends that are from all over the world. And to view this experience thru their eyes has also helped me to grow, even in my 30s :) They enjoy the travel (Liam more than Aidan) and are curious about the places we visit and are thirsty for more knowledge, another sign of their growing up.
I've learned so much from my kids during our time here in Barcelona. The time here is going by quickly and before you know it, they will be 6 and 9 and we'll be heading back home. But until then, I'm just going to try to slow time down a little bit and enjoy the last bits of them being my babies still.