March 6, 2009: Well, I can officially confirm that your children's behavior does not change when you move to a new country. I mean, I never really thought that was going to happen, but recently I have realized that some things just stay the same - but seem worse in a new country. Well, actually that is mostly true. In general, the level of whining, dilly-dallying, hissy fits, fighting and public embarrassment has been even-steven with typical behavior in Crested Butte. But, Ella really has grown up in certain ways the past few weeks. So let's start with how Ella has changed - for the better.
Ella has become more autonomous - content playing by herself, not needing frequent encouragement at every passing moment of a game, drawing or word she writes. That's not to say that we don't give those things to her. She just doesn't search for that validation constantly like she used to do. She also has started to help with Grace and Mia. Up until now, she wanted little to do with them and seemed to find them a nuisance - getting into her toys, messing up her bed, choosing "baby" shows to watch, just being in her way. She had little empathy for their occasional problems such as sickness, pooping woes, food dislikes, toy fights. And now she helps them by providing stories of "what she used to do when she was little" and how she got through those problems. They seem relieved and comforted by her new-found empathy and she seems to like them admiring and looking up to her for advice and help. So those two behavioral changes have been monumental, in my eyes, and show a glimmer of hope to where Grace and Mia might get in the coming year or two.
Grace and Mia's behavior has not really changed for the better. It is status quo, I think. For sure, their openness to these new adventures and schooling are awesome, but I think in exchange for that openness they expect more leniency when it comes to whining, fighting and general misconduct at home. Direct disobedience, saying "no" to your face, purposely pushing you past your limits to see what might be the result or reaction. On the other hand, Grace has substantially reduced her potty accidents that she frequently had in Crested Butte. I think she has had only one accident in the last three weeks of school and that is fantastic for her. It is difficult to fully understand how their behavior has been at school since their teacher and her aide speak little to no English. They speak to me in French, I probably pick up on 40-50% of what they are saying. I hope they would see in my eyes if I didn't understand a very crucial thing they just shared and needed assistance in conveying their concerns. As I have said in the past, the teachers are quick with hugs and support - their arms are probably sore from hugging Grace and Mia the past three weeks. But for now they are still welcome at school and the teacher seems genuinely fine with how they are performing at school so I can only hope they save their whining and fighting for us here at home.
Yesterday, the school principal called to say that both Grace and Mia were sick with colds and just generally unhappy and whiny. So I decided to keep them home from school today. It was a relaxing day for the most part. They actually seemed better today than yesterday but no harm in keeping them home for a long nap and allowing them to just check out for a day. A positive development was that they did request to watch Sponge Bob in French instead of English and I think that is a really big step! You would think being home for the day, they would want familiar but they choose something strange to them. Maybe it is becoming familiar? I hope!
Around 4:15 p.m. we had to leave to pick up Ella from school. My only plan was to pick Ella up and to walk straight home. With Grace waking up very groggy and cranky from her nap and crying that all she wanted to do was go "home" for 20 minutes, I was expecting a bad 5 minute walk to school. But amazingly, the minute she stepped outside and got some fresh air, she was a new person! Happy as can be. Mia said, "Grace, what are you so happy about?" So we all three held hands all the way to school, successfully picked up Ella and left without any huge behavior issues. We stopped at a big patch of grass on the way home and they ran around for a while. Then we took a different way home than ususal and stopped off here and there to play at the micro-parks along the way, all of the girls taking turns nicely. At a nearby patisserie, I bought them all lollipops and they were saints for the next 45 minutes! I decided to make a few extra stops at the fruit and veggie vendor hoping for uneventful behavior. They were so happy with their lollipops - which they told me were the very best ones they have EVER had (such an Andrew thing to say : ) ) that it was indeed uneventful. The past few days I have been asking them not to touch this or that but they simply don't listen. I now have a newfound respect for lollipops as it seems that children are so preoccupied by holding one and the the flavor of one that the seem to instantly purge all tentacle-like behavior. So from now on, I might just be sure to have a secret stash of lollipops on hand...
Pictured above: Grace and Mia running around the park, Grace, Mia and Ella playing at the micro-parks along the sidewalks in Caen, Grace, Mia and Ella enjoying their lollipops.