Six weeks in Guatemala after a big move and lots of change. I want to zero in on each of the kids, look at the challenges they are facing and where they are thriving.
We did not embark on this adventure because of how amazing, giving people we are..on the contrary, things were not working for us where we were. As a sizeable single-income family in an affluent Canadian town with no close family near, we found ourselves taking more than our friends and neighbors could give. We truly felt that we could no longer afford life in Canada. We began to look to South America for options that could offer our family the sense of community we craved for our kids.
A big part of what kickstarted this whole change in our life was a conversation with my second son Royal one day:
Driving in the van on the way to the skatepark:
Roy- "Dad, can I get a scooter?"
Me- "I don't think so Buddy, you just got a skateboard a while ago, and somebody also just gave you a mountain bike; last year, you also worked for that BMX. You should just enjoy that now. Get good at it."
Roy- "Yeah, but if I have the skateboard, the bikes, AND a scooter, then I'll have it all, then I'll be happy."
(Insert skid marks on the road under our conversation here.)
At that moment, I knew that most of what I was doing as a parent was wrong and that I needed to take some drastic measures to change course.
As a working parent, I was stretching myself so thin, giving my children material possessions to occupy and entertain them while I was away. To me, their bikes, skateboards, and gear all became symbols of my time spent apart from them. When they inevitably broke, the broken items now symbolized the future time needed to replace the item. This gave way to entitlement and a nasty cycle of spending more and more time away with eventual burnouts. Ultimately, less influence in their lives as the strong father I long to be.
So, I've set that stage, and we've made it to Guatemala. How is it playing out?
Look, we have a lot to learn as parents and as human beings in general. It's by grace that we are still alive! The main lesson for me right now is that no matter where in the world, the right decisions are always the hardest. Furthermore, in parenting, right choices are rendered useless if they are not followed by a second, third, fourth...
Continuity and consistency build structure and stability.
Let's dive into how my beloved little shavers are all doing!
Simon: Age 11.
I have to admit that most days, we feel that we are failing our dear firstborn. 11 has been the most challenging age for us as parents yet. It's such an awkward age! He is so confident, yet when he feels disliked, I see him try harder and harder. He is so much like me, and I can look at him and remember the exact situational thoughts that went through my head at that age. I can relate to him so well in my mind. Unfortunately, that doesn't precisely always translate to connection.
Being in a new country with a semi-communal living situation with new peers to impress has definitely had its challenges. He is learning what his boundaries are. As a parent, it is easy to forget how crucial establishing and enforcing limits is for children at any age. With a youngest 11 month old that currently demands a fair amount of attention, we feel we could be doing better with Simon, our eldest. We are working hard to get there as we continue to establish a routine that includes scheduled time for just him and us every week.
Simon thriving: Simon loves sports and making friends. Because of these qualities, Guatemala is a perfect environment for him. While his Spanish has been getting stronger with his daily classes, it is really starting to take off now that he has enough of a basic foundational understanding of the language, allowing him to easily make friends on the soccer pitch.
Royal: Age 8
Royal is clearly the child that is in absolute heaven here. He will not want to leave. As a lover of animals, Royal has always wanted what any boy would love to have; a dog that follows his master everywhere. Shirah is a mutt who adopted us as a family and has taken a liking to Royal in particular. In fact, she walks him to Spanish class every day and waits for him there. When jumping in a Tuk-Tuk-taxi, Shirah runs behind us on the road dodging the crazy Guatemala traffic. Somehow even if we lose her, she seems to know exactly where we are heading as she is usually not long in showing up at our side. This has absolutely thrilled Roy.
One of Roy's few challenges has been staying emotionally independent from Simon. He is empathetic to the changes mentioned that Simon is experiencing.
Faye: Age 5
My favorite quote of Faye's entire life so far came just a few weeks into being here. She stubbed her toe on something and, in tears, yelled, "That would have never happened if we hadn't come to Watermala!" -She has definitely had the most challenging time adjusting, but we can see that once she does, she will be the child that least wants to leave. Five is such a darling age, whistling all day long and, like Simon, just begging for opportunities to meet new friends. We have recently just signed her up to take part in the Spanish classes with the boys. She has very recently made a great new friend named Lupe.
Faye's biggest challenge: she is struggling with accepting people that don't understand her first language. Five is such a critical age where children FINALLY have the opportunity to express themselves after 5 years of perfecting their speech. By coming to Guatemala, we have delayed this for her with anyone other than ourselves. We have minimal exposure where we are to other English-speaking ex-pats. Again, we are working hard on helping her with Spanish to get over that hump. The children's club has provided some great opportunities for her to meet some new girls her age and grow her Spanish vocabulary.
Katie: age 3.
Ok, I'm pretty sure Katie doesn't even remember or miss Canada in the slightest. I'm proud to say that she will never forget this as home. She is guaranteed to have flawless Spanish if we can manage to stay here long enough to see our vision play out in its entirety. Check out my original write-up on Katie here under 'Our Family.' Nothing has changed since. She remains curious, magical and really goes with the flow like nobody's business. She loves the variety of bugs, worms, butterflies and frogs, and even spiders. So much so that I will list this as our main challenge and concern with her as well. She is not afraid and considers every bug her best friend. Unfortunately, we have had several very gnarly spider sightings and have caught and killed scorpions in the house the last 2 nights in a row. Our training and strong attention are crucial at this point with her.
One more side note. Katie eats everything. She absolutely loves the food here and is out-eating all of us. Christina asked her what she would like to be when she grows up last night. We were expecting a bit of a lovey-dovey romanticized answer, but.. no, she just "Wants to grow a mustache and eat food." -We'll pray for a bit more ambition in her life. ;)
Columbia/"Rosalinda": age 11 months.
Upon arrival to Guatemala, we changed Columbia's name to Rosalinda. We had named Columbia after the mighty and beautiful river close to our home in Rossland. However, we realized that if we stuck with Columbia here, it would simply be taken as Colombia, the country. We wanted to go with a name that stayed true to her place of origin, so we went with "Rosalinda," which translates as "Beautiful Rose," for its proximity in sound to "Rossland."
Guatemalans LOVE it! Locals light up when they ask what our baby's name is, and we tell them a Spanish name! There is an instant connection point, and it's just fantastic to see Rosalinda's strong bond with Mayan women. She is so pulled towards them and never likes letting go of her newfound Tzu'tujil grannies.
Challenges: none to really write home about, although I'm aware that she has felt the change in climate and environment, I am also sure that she is the least affected by it due to her very young age.
She smiles a LOT.
Thank you all for your continued interest in our family, our individual lives, and what we are doing here in... Watermala.