When we left for Paris on April first, our son Arlo was one year and 11 months old. The style of parenting Shane and I had been attempting to adopt up until that point was based on a fair chunk of reading we’d done, with foundations of Magda Gerber’s RIE parenting strategies, and Jennifer Percy’s “Parentspeak.” Personally, I am interested in parenting “differently” than what is generally expected in and accepted by the modern world, with the hope that we will raise a child that “…you not only love, but you love being around,” as Gerber famously said. Well. Were we in for a shock. Spoiler alert for anyone planning an extended European adventure with a person who is little more than an infant, and who is developing at the fastest rate that he ever will in his life. Obstacle ahead!
We both had to start using “STOP!” and “NO!” much more frequently than we had been, as the boundaries and environment shifted around us. Every time we travelled, we both knew it was going to be fractured with little hurdles which involved keeping our child appeased; with boundaries that guarded him safely, but allowed him to grow. Some of you reading this might say that this is parenting a two year old… and you’re probably right. But as a first time parent, it’s very difficult to know if your child is “being a toddler,” or if you’re doing something wrong. When Arlo was under two, I would get compliments on my unending patience in the most frustrating situations. These days, that is far less likely to occur, and instead I have to count to ten with deep breaths or take a moment to myself to regain clarity and control. Man, is two years old a test of character. Mine, of course.
We’ve left France now, and have been on the road (literally, in a campervan) for three weeks. For sure, space is everything. A one bedroom apartment in Paris didn’t suit us, but a two bedroom apartment with a huge garden in Biarritz changed everything. Now, we’re travelling in our home and bedrooms are bunk beds. We both have to remind ourselves of some of the literature we’ve read, with the main takeaway being that “needs drive behaviour” and “environment is everything,” when trying to allow a child to flourish. Something I’ve discovered, low and behold, is that trekking through Italy in a campervan is actually not terribly simple when you have a toddler who needs big sleeps to refuel his seemingly boundless energy. And I mean boundless.
And now is the part that I talk about all the good stuff. We are, undoubtedly, very lucky to have been able to partake in this adventure. We created it ourselves; we made a big dream something achievable and we had the support of friends and family to prop us up. We knew that this sort of journey could only benefit both us as adults and even more so, our little boy. It’s been challenging, yes. But would I change anything? No! Would I recommend it for others with young children? Yes…but before having kids is advisable and favourable!
Being a parent in itself is a devine gift, no matter which deity you worship. Sometimes it seems like there are overextended moments of frustration, but these always pass and are flushed away with the sound of his sweet little voice, an unexpected embrace or just the memory that he is a tiny person, learning the ways of the world. And indeed, the world! At two years old, Arlo has seen more of the world than I had at 18. He’s been exposed to the acquisition of two languages at the same time. He has had the strength of perpetual love and full time presence from not one, but both of his parents for nearly seven straight months. He has a sense of adaptability that is beyond his two and a half years, and that will only increase in time. He’s been able to experience the culture and lifestyle surrounding not only one country, but a whole handful. He’s seen the beauty of snow capped mountains and had the joy of throwing snowballs with ice cold hands. His hair has been bleached with two, coming on three consecutive summers, and his love of the ocean is unmistakable.
Hopefully reading this, you sense the honesty I’m trying to convey. We have come across countless young parents, out doing the same things we’re doing (tourist-wise) but without their young kids. And I know this because it’s always them who approach us, making comments like “good for you, doing this with the little one!” and “we left ours at home!” and we all share a jovial little moment bonding as parents. A few hours later however, there’s a tired toddler who needs an explicit routine, yelling, roaring, hitting and spitting (I can’t believe I’m writing that) at people who want to pat his head and tell him how lovely he is. It’s these moments that we look at each other glaringly, both thinking the same thing – what do we do?
But alas, we leave Italy on Thursday and head to Switzerland, and by now we (sort of) know what we’re doing. And that’s a really good thing. I say sort of, because there are still lots of question marks; it doesn’t ever seem like we have anything solid established before things change again (#parentlyf.) And things are going to change again, because…we are now expecting our second child. I am twenty weeks pregnant, and seeing as I look like I’m nearly full term, we figured it’s probably time we shared the news. After Switzerland we fly to Hungary, then to Germany and Austria, and on to Scotland before we land in Sydney on October 27. We’ll spend two weeks seeing family and friends before heading home to Perth for Christmas, and to organise our home for baby number two.
I am excited to see what the future holds for us. Or should I say what my belly holds! When our first born is well slept, he is a gorgeous young human. Sensitive, affectionate and clever, he’s more switched on than your average toddler. He knows the difference between French and English and can name a vast number of things in both languages. He is funny and caring
and rough with his toys and with Shane and I, and he’s inquisitive, confident and independent. At certain times too much so for the environment, if you ask me! I couldn’t love him more if I tried, and I am thrilled to be able to give him a brother or sister to grow up alongside. Arlo will turn three years old just after the baby arrives in early March, 2020.
Good for you, if you read to the end of this post! This is in fact our Pregnancy Announcement, and if you would like to leave a comment, I would love for you to post here on my blog instead of on the Facebook page link if that’s how you got here. That way the secret is reserved for those who read the whole piece of writing.
I appreciate the time every person takes to read what I write, so thank YOU for doing so.
Here’s a snap of my tummy 🙂 it feels bigger than it looks, I tell ya! Yes, I am wearing pyjama shorts, and don’t mind Shane’s undies off to the left 😂