American in Spain

State of the Offspring Address - July 2013

July 31, 2013
Well hello, there!

After six long months of cold and rain, the longest spell of bad weather anyone can remember, literally when we changed the calendar on July 1, the weather turned into the nicest summer weather we've had in the eight years I've been living here. With Nora out of school, we made a lot of effort to go to the beach, which is difficult since the beach is not really a good place for a two month old baby. Many times either my wife or I would go with Nora and the other parent would either stay home with Ian or walk along the sidewalk that lines the beach for the hour or two that Nora was enjoying the sand. Nora at the Beach

Nora's favorite activity at the beach is making sand "castles", which are really just towers shaped like the bucket she has. We settled on a "recipe", which she enjoys repeating over and over again. It goes something like this:

Nora at the Beach
  1. Walk the 100 meters (the beach is really wide!) to the water to fill up the bucket and the watering can with sea water.
  2. Due to the relative weights, the adult carries the bucket, and Nora the can, to our towels.
  3. Nora uses the shovel to spoon dry sand into the bucket, displacing the water.
  4. When it's heaping full, she checks with the adult, "More water?" To which an affirmative answer must be given. (this step is very important)
  5. Nora begins pouring the water from the watering can over the heaping bucket, washing away any excess sand, checking exactly once with the adult, "All of it?", which is answered in the affirmative.
  6. Then she goes to find a spot for the tower to go, usually linearly adjacent to any previous towers.
  7. The adult flips the bucket over to make the soggier-than-optimal tower.
  8. Go to step #1.
Beach family

When a suitable number of towers have been constructed – she often starts with a target of five, but, like most engineering projects, usually ends up expanding to eight – she likes to sit on each tower, one by one, crushing them.

One day, when we had agreed that we were going to fetch the water for the eighth and final tower of the day, we came back from the surf to discover a valuable lesson of sand castle construction and life in general. Someone had taken the liberty of stepping on and destroying all of our previous towers. Nora was quite disappointed, and I expected some tears, but she stoically declared that "Whoever did that is a very bad person," and accepted the loss. I was very proud.

Well hello, there!

Ian is progressing very well, doing what a baby his age should be doing. He smiles an awful lot. Nora didn't really smile at his age, but Ian gets in these moods, especially before bed, where he's a delight to be around, grinning and cooing. He really likes bedtime. If you can pull yourself away from his happy adorableness, you can just leave him in the crib and turn out the lights, and he'll coo and kick happily until he falls asleep. We know from experience with Nora and from talking to other parents that this is a huge blessing, and we hope it continues.

Happy Baby and Family

Ian is also pretty good about sleeping through the night. He lightly crescendos up to a cry when his stomach is empty, about twice a night, and has little problem returning to sleep after being fed.

Okay, that's all the good stuff about Ian. Now for the bad stuff… And it's not really bad, of course, it's just who he is and his personality… He requires constant attention during the day. He won't stand for being left alone like Nora did. His favorite position is with his back against an adults chest, looking out into the world. And don't try sitting down, either; he requires that you be up and walking around. He's a curious little fella.

Whenever I tell anyone how demanding Ian is, they immediately, almost without fail, respond, "Whatever you do, don't pick him up all the time! You have to let him get used to not being in your arms. Otherwise you're just setting yourself up for a lot of work in the future! Better to let him cry!" My standard response to that is, "Yeah, easier said than done." But what I really think is that that parenting methodology is bullshit. Babies don't have wants; they have needs. There's no subterfuge going on. He doesn't have a self-satisfied chuckle every evening about what total control he has over The Big People. He's a baby and he needs love and touch and care, and refusing him that "to toughen him up" is neglectful and abusive.

It's naked baby weather today.

This final week of July, I have been de Rodrí­guez, left at home to work while my wife and kids went down to Extremadura on vacation. I will join them soon, but it's been very quiet around here lately. I miss them quite a bit, but I've been calling every day. Nora is extra cute when we talk on the phone; she seems so much more mature than when she's talking in person because she's normally so fidgety. Plus, her bilingualism is more evident when she's in a Spanish-only environment, but talking in English. Sometimes when I ask her about what she did the previous day, she says, "Hold on a second… [turns away from phone] Abuela, ¿qué hemos hecho ayer?" before returning to me to translate what I just heard her abuela say. In previous years, she has been too overcome with "Why are you so far away!??!" emotion to speak for long on the phone, but she's doing a lot better this year, only bursting into tears once when we had to say goodbye. When they first got there, I told her that it would only be six more days until I come, and she said, "Are you looking on the calendario in the kitchen?" I said that I was. "Okay, then you need to call me every day to tell me how many days until you come, okay?" I agreed. She assured me the day after the crying incident that it was okay now, because they had made a calendar to track the days.

The state of the offspring is strong!

Ian and Nora