We feel it is time to dedicate a post to Amber. Given the amount of time we spend playing with her, cooking for her, talking about her, and worrying over her (the order of which changes regularly), a post about her is probably overdue.
She is at a exciting stage in life – less a baby, more of a toddler – her understanding of the world increasing by the day. We are in a privileged position to both be around for all her ‘firsts’ – the little things like her first ice cream and all the new words she keeps coming out with, as well as the big stuff (which make me cry) like her first hair cut and the first time she walked properly. As clichéd as it sounds, all of a sudden it feels like she is growing up unbelievably quickly. We did a double take in unison the other day when we realised how big she has become – suddenly before us was a little girl where I swear less than two months ago there had been a baby.
As the weeks have gone by, we have delighted in watching her personality become bigger and more pronounced. It is an exciting thing to behold, your baby growing up. So, lest we forget it all, we are jotting down here some of the key things that we are observing about her (and in doing so, what she is making us realise about ourselves).
- She is enormously resilient. Our primary concern before coming away was how she would cope with not having a permanent home. Now that we have been on the move for a while, and we have watched her respond to a number of different transitions, we have seen her resilience and flexibility shine through. She handles the days of long travel with heartwarming grace and ease (although it is important to acknowledge here the role played by repeated episodes of In The Night Garden); she engages with fellow passengers by smiling, chatting and thrusting Bunny into their arms (as we cringe audibly in the background because despite regular washing, dear old Bunny seems to only be getting more and more grotty); and her approach to arriving in each new home is one of excited exploration, strutting around opening cupboards and drawers, introducing Bunny to everything and anything. She has always been a fairly solid sleeper, but we have been constantly amazed by her ability to arrive somewhere new and go down straight for a nap. We never EVER take any of this for granted.
- She is a whirlwind. Full of energy and fun, increasing amounts of cheekiness and a delightfully dirty laugh, she keeps us on our toes and fills our days with laughter. She is engaged and curious, watching everything around her and not missing a beat. And now she is getting older – and plunging headfirst into toddlerdom – she is more communicative, more outgoing, more questioning, and ever more demanding. At the moment it feels like she is developing at a rate of knots and seems to be coming out with several new words every day. She wants to hold everything, see everything and do everything NOW. And as the early signs of toddler frustration start to show, we are having to gently reinforce certain key life lessons, such as learning to share, waiting your turn, understanding that no is no. Lessons that are being met with acceptance and resistance in equal parts.
- Her love of dogs is unwavering. Whether an actual dog, or just a picture of one, she never fails to acknowledge their presence, loudly woofing and blowing kisses in their general direction (a response which generally results in puzzled and even alarmed glances from passers by as neither her woofs nor her kisses are immediately distinguishable as such to the untrained ear). She spots them a mile off, woofing wildly, often leaving us struggling for several seconds to see what she has seen (she has the Leeson 20-20 vision). Recently, she has also got into birds and, ahem, men, shouting ‘Birrrrr!’ or ‘Man!’ almost every time she sees one. Given that Buenos Aires has your standard ratio of dogs, birds and men (ie. A LOT), outings have become almost too exciting to bear.
- She is an extraordinarily unpredictable eater. Just a couple of weeks ago, after having a particularly difficult run of refused meals, we were describing her as annoyingly fussy. However in the last weeks, her appetite has come back and she is eating everything on her plate and more. This is probably in part because we have made the small but important change to mealtimes in that we now eat all meals together (it means us having dinner at a very early 5.30pm, when most Argentinians are just about finishing their lunch and heading for a siesta, but given our days often start at an eye watering 5am we are happy to fall in with Amber’s routine). It could also be because she is going through some kind of growth spurt. Whatever it is, we have realised that she is not fussy per se, however like all of us, she is sometimes hungry, she is sometimes not. It could go either way! The joy…
- She is constantly teaching us about ourselves. Parenthood acts as a mirror that is placed in front of you, forcing you to take a deeper look within. And we have come to realise that in our desire to do the best by her, we are relentlessly self-critical and always think we should and could be doing better. We consistently place ourselves under a lot of pressure to make sure everything around us is perfect (eg. the meals we cook, the itineraries we put together, the outings we go on etc). We are slowly realising (and even more gradually starting to accept) that there are so many unknowns in travelling, so many things that we cannot control, that is a fruitless endeavour to aim for perfection (whatever perfection even means). And despite our changing homes, different diets, new environments, Amber continues to do well, in fact she is thriving. So little by little, we are learning to take the pressure off ourselves, stop over-analysing, and teach ourselves to just let things be. As with Amber, these lessons are also being met with acceptance and resistance in equal parts. I wonder where she gets it from…
So we are living and learning about Amber and ourselves, constantly looking upon her in amusement and awe, and trying to look upon ourselves in a slightly kinder and less critical light. And we will no doubt learn more as we go along. Which is just how it should be.