In 2 weeks we leave Córdoba for the final phase of this crazy adventure before our next one begins! We will spend time touring Iguazu Falls, Rio de Janeiro, and Manaus in Brazil before touching down in Seattle at the end of July. Before saying goodbye to so many wonderful new friends in Argentina, it’s time to dig into the impact this parenting experiment has had on our kids. Deciding to turn our lives upside down for a year and move to Argentina was done so partly out of a selfish need for adventure, but primarily as a gift for our kids. The time we’ve spent together and the shared experiences are priceless. It has been both incredibly rewarding and difficult to watch the kids adapt, react and grow over the past year. We asked the kids to share some of their experiences in Argentina, while Erica and I have summarized our thoughts on how each of them have changed before our eyes.
Best memory? All the asados we went to with friends.
Favorite food? Costilla (ribs).
What I will miss most? My friends and all the people.
Favorite place? Going to Bariloche because there was lots of chocolate, beaches and dogs you could take pictures with, and our house we rented we really fun.
Hardest part? School and tarea. The way they do division in school because it’s backwards from how we do math in the United States.
Of all the kids, Elliott seems to have adapted the best to Argentina. He’s always been a very positive, easy-going child. He embraced this adventure early on and has seemed the least homesick. Elliott’s met lots of new friends and integrated wonderfully with a new social circle, thanks in large part to the gracious Córdobeses. It’s been hard to watch him experience frustrations in school this year. We fear he’s started to dread school already and worry about the long-term impact this year might have on his academic confidence. Erica and I take solace in the fact that his spoken Spanish is terrific. He’s a kid who has always loved sports, so it’s been wonderful to see him embrace rugby. Elliott never seems more focused or free than when he plays sports. He’s completely in the moment and engaged. Joining Club Bajo Palermo (rugby) was a game-changer for all of us, providing an incredible link to the community, new friends and a great way to learn the language for both boys. We’ve also watched Elliott approach adolescence before our eyes in Argentina as girls have shifted from annoying to intriguing! Of course the smell and drama factors have changed as well, not for the better.
Best memory? Going to Bariloche with Grandpa & Grandma. There was really good chocolate.
Favorite food? Chocolate & matambre empanadas
What I will miss most? My friends & rugby
Favorite place? Bariloche
Hardest part? Having a broken collarbone and not being able to play rubgy. Being a long ways from Chase, Charlotte and Wyatt (cousins).
Ben has always been a home body in many ways. To this day, he insists he’d be perfectly happy in the same house and same neighborhood in Portland forever. He’s a kid who needs to know the plan at all times and can be a bit anxious. Needless to say moving to Argentina has served as forced therapy of sorts for Ben since even the best laid plans don’t count for much sometimes here. He’s been forced to accept a level of uncertainty and has become more easygoing and flexible over the past year. It’s interesting that although he’s clearly the most homesick, his language has taken the biggest leap forward. Ben had only completed one year of Spanish immersion kindergarten when we arrived. Now he’s easily the most fluent in the family. His accent and use of local slang marks his Spanish as distinctly Córdobese and seems to come utterly naturally. Ben has never had the interest or commitment in sport as Elliott, but his experience with rugby this year has definitely fueled his confidence as his height skyrocketed. This year has highlighted just how different our boys are in school as well. Despite not being the social animal that his brother is, Ben has excelled in school with almost nonchalance. For the most part the boys have been a mystery to their teachers in many ways. The idea of teaching a non-native Spanish speaker is completely foreign. We might as well be from Mars, but Ben has integrated himself in the system and kept pace at every turn.
Best memory? Friends like Maria Lourdes, Sofia, Josephina
Favorite food? All the pizza, helado y galletas y chocolate and candy.
What I will miss most? My friends and Violetta and going to kiosco to get Violetta cards. Also we won’t have a swimming pool in Portland.
Favorite place? Bariloche because I had my birthday there. I liked Mendoza too because we cooked pizza and we painted wine.
Hardest part? I’ve missed my friend Inez and my cousin Charlotte a lot.
Physically, Molly has grown the most since we’ve been in Argentina. When we got here, she was a 3-year-old. 3-year-olds are babies! Molly slept in a crib up until we left for Costa Rica last July (mostly because we didn’t want the hassle of buying a bed that we would soon have to store). She is now a very sassy 4-year-old who sleeps in a big-girl bed, and has told us in no uncertain terms that she expects a blue, pink, and purple big-girl bike with a basket, bell, and ribbons from the handlebars upon our return to Portland. Molly has grown out of more clothes that I thought was possible for one child in the course of a year. When we arrived Molly spoke almost no Spanish. We enrolled her in a half day Pre-K nearby for the dual purpose of forced immersion and social interaction. She wasn’t a big fan of school at first, given the fact that none of her classmates or teachers understood a word she’d say. Nine months since she began, her comprehension is terrific. Early in the year she began to constantly ask how to say certain words in Spanish, illustrating her interest and learning process. When put in a situation where she’s playing with a non-English speaker, she now jumps right into Spanish with no problem. Molly has always had a strong personality, but we believe this experience has only enhanced her confidence. In fact we’re a bit worried about her reaction when we return to the States and total strangers no longer refer to her as “princesa,” “preciosa,” or “hermosa!”
While the kids have undergone a tremendous amount of change and growth this year, so too has my own parenting style. I’m closer to my kids than ever before and I’ve had lots of practice this year learning what works and what doesn’t. We’ve had plenty of rough moments as we’ve spent an intense amount of time together this year, but our bonds as parent-child and siblings are stronger than ever. Erica and I hope that the challenges and experiences we all went through together will only serve to make our family stronger and closer as we look to the next phase in our lives.