Bébé is two!

It’s been a year since my monthly letters to bébé ended, and now that bébé is two, I thought I’d start doing yearly letters to make sure I keep some sort of record of all the cool (and not so cool!) stuff he gets up to.

Dear bébé,

You are two! And you can even say “two” and “deux” though never when someone actually asks how old you are. You do say it when you see the number. You also recognize the number eight, and can (mostly) count to ten in both French and English. You skip three in French, but make up for it by saying “onze” (11) and “douze” (12) once we get to ten.

Starting to count has impressed the people at daycare. You’re good with names too, say “bye-bye” to everyone, and blow them kisses when you leave. Everyone says what a bright, smiling, friendly guy you are, and you are fully aware that you’re everyone’s favorite. Unfortunately, you are going through another bout of separation anxiety, so at least one day a week you cry when momma drops you off.

But it could also just be that you are turning into a huge momma’s boy! Dinner is  complicated with you on momma’s lap, but it’s not so bad since you’re not too heavy yet. You’ll go to the doctor’s this week for a checkup, but you still seem to still be in that 50th percentile for height and 10th for weight. Though maybe weight will be lower than expected, since all you seem to eat is peanut butter and crackers.

However, we’re not too concerned about you being a “picky” eater, since you do usually try most things, or at least stick out your tongue and pretend to. A surprising thing you love is fried calamari. So hopefully that spirit of discovery and adventure continues! (And you eat fine at daycare, so we know you’re just testing our parental limits when you won’t eat at home.)

Sleep has gotten much more predictable in the past few months. You nap very well at home, usually 2 hours, though less at daycare, where there are more distractions. At night, you fall asleep between 7:30 and 8, and are up around 6:15 (pushing back bedtime by 15 minutes has drastically reduced the 5:30am wake ups). Your bedtime routine starts at 7 and is a half hour of books and about 5 ounces of milk (almond or cow, depending on what we have in the fridge). Sometimes you play games first, since recently you’ve gotten better at entertaining yourself, making towers and trains with duplos or playing with the colored peg game your mamie sent you. But you always come back to books; you love them so much! Your favorite books change weekly, but lately it’s been “Poisson un, poisson deux” by Doctor Seuss, and a pop-up book about Lola who goes swimming and meets lots of sea creatures. It’s pretty cute to hear you say “poulpe” (octopus) and “tartoo” (“tortue” – turtle).

Your vocabulary in both languages definitely focuses on animals. You can say all the farmyard animals like cow, pig, horse, sheep, and duck, and their noises. When you say “Oll Do” we know it means you want us to sing Old MacDonald. Other songs you request are “whee bus” (wheels on the bus) and “bababacsheep” (baa baa black sheep). These are all songs you learned at daycare, so sometimes you ask for something we can’t decipher, and you get frustrated.

You still use a pacifier for naps and at night, but almost never during the day. Once you see the dentist for the first time later this month, it may need to go away forever, to keep all your teeth in line. You have pretty much all of them, and you absolutely love to brush them! But you hate if momma brushes them, so we’re not sure how clean they’re actually getting.

Some funny things you do:

  • take off your socks so we can put them on your hands, then you try to eat and play with them like that
  • at the splash park, you do this little “fountain dance” where you move your fists up and down, imitating the way the water shoots up
  • you like to imitate a video of yourself at 13 months making lion noises
  • holding a phone (or any rectangular object) to your ear and have a very lengthly conversation on it, mostly saying “aloo?” a lot, but also some babbling

You don’t just babble though. In addition to animals and body party, you say “daddy,” “papa,” and “boubou” (momma’s name for daddy) but only “mama.” You say “peeese” (please), “si pait” (s’il te plait), “merci” and “tank oo” when prompted, and you’ve started using “terminé” instead of “all done” when you’re at home.

We speak only French at home and when we’re out just the three of us, but we’ll read you books in English if that’s what you pick out. Your favorite videos are in English, but we managed to switch the one app you play into French. It’s Crayola Colorful Creatures, and you love to color and play with all the different animals. It’s hard to say how much screen time you get, because sometimes you go four or five days without anything, then other times it seems like you manage to charm us into a few minutes in the morning as well as the evening.

And you are definitely charming! Just insanely cute, with a mischievous grin that pops up whenever you know you’re doing something bad (which is more and more often). You know what you want and say “no” to almost everything, but almost never to kisses and cuddles. Which is lucky, because if how you spent your birthday is any indication of how this year will go, it won’t be just fun at the pool and running around parks. There’s also going to be lots of tears and tantrums. So kisses and cuddles will help to balance all of that out.

It’s getting both harder and more fun for momma and daddy, and we can’t wait to see what new things we’ll all learn this year.

Bisous & kisses

Your momma

This is thirty

Here it is, the big 3-0, and I’ve apparently done everything one is “supposed to” do by this age: college, travel, marriage, baby, job I mostly enjoy. So why upend everything to move across the ocean? Why fix something that isn’t broken?

It’s the question we’ve been asked a hundred times in the past few months: why are we moving to the States? As you can probably guess, there is no simple answer. The short response I give to most is what you’d expect: wanting to see family and friends more, hoping for better career opportunities, exposing bébé to American culture and education, it makes taxes so much simpler . . . But the “real” answer is more complex, because there are a million other questions involved I’m still working through.

Am I just freaking out about turning thirty and feeling like I need a change? Yes and no. I think all expats thrive on new adventures, or you’d give up after about a week. But is the goal of expatriation assimilation and adaptation? Or just discovery? When you come over as a young adult, a big part of your identity is defined by life in a country you did not grow up in. There’s a certain amount of pride from making it through more than a few years living in another language, another culture. The simmering spirit of competition amongst expats can make a return “home” feel like giving up. But to me it almost feels like the opposite. To stay would be too simple.

I know pretty much what life will look like in France if we stay. It’s not exactly what I imagined my life to be, but it really is a great life. By most people’s definitions, I’ve succeeded, I’ve assimilated, I’ve thrived. But part of me wonders if the reason I’m staying is that I’m afraid I can’t do the same in the States. Expats are often outsiders in their home countries, and find comfort in knowing their oddness is forgiven by their status as a foreigner in their new country.  (Canedolia had a similar post recently that I really enjoyed though neglected to comment on, because life). I won’t have this safety net of “well I’m not from here” to get me through awkward situations and struggles with employment or social norms.

A big part of my identity and personality is related to my “special” status in France that I’ll lose when we move. Once back in the States, I’ll be just another American like any other. But I also need a break from being special. Constantly on show for the past eight years, singled out at parties or other situations to be asked the same “What do you think of France? Why are Americans so fat?” questions for the hundredth time . . . For me, turning thirty means starting to grow out of my middle child need of wanting to feel special all the time. Even my Christmas birthday bothered me less this year, when every other year I made a huge fuss about it (though I suspect motherhood may be influencing this as well).

My twenties were defined by my expat label. I want to spend my thirties figuring out who I am without it. (Hmm, maybe the “real” answer is simpler than I thought!)

 

Holiday birthdays

My husband’s birthday was this week, and I felt bad that I wasn’t in the best shape to fête it like we usually do. He was still on vacation most of this week, but went back to work on his birthday, which confused me, since if you have the choice, who wants to work on their birthday? But I don’t really know how people feel about “normal” birthdays, since I have a holiday birthday.

I was born on Christmas, which was a great present for my parents but has not always been easy for me. There are good things, like never having to work, and the food is always yummy, and people are in a festive mood. There are the bad things, like less presents, but as an adult you’re not really allowed to say that because by now you’re supposed to understand that Christmas is about more than just presents, right?

Growing up, my parents always said they would make me whatever I wanted if I didn’t want to eat the turkey with everyone else (though I rarely took them up on it; turkey and mashed potatoes is fine by me any night!) And I was very particular about my cakes (purple strawberry, cupcake cocktails). In France, since we don’t host the dinner ourselves, I have no say in terms of menu and dessert and even cake choices, which has been hard. But again, as an adult, you’re not supposed to make a big deal about things like this. It shouldn’t matter what you eat, Christmas is about being with family and celebrating other things besides whiny little you.

Despite not really knowing exactly when the bébé will come, he could theoretically be born on either July 4th or 14th. At first it seems like this would be pretty cool. But then I really think about it, and there would definitely be drawbacks. Yes he would have fireworks and we wouldn’t have to work, but unless we hosted a party, friends and family would probably already have other stuff planned that day. Or they’d all be on vacation (though this is a problem with all summer birthdays). And any party would pretty much have to be a barbecue. And if we didn’t throw a party, it would be hard to find a restaurant open that day if we wanted to go out. And eventually he would realize that all the celebrations and parades have nothing to do with him.

It seems like little, stupid things to care about, but if your birthday is supposed to be a special day just for you, holiday birthdays are hard because you’re automatically sharing it with everyone else. And it does seem like people try to avoid them as much as possible (though that might have more to do with hospital staffing than the mother’s choice):

(The chart and interactive table are just for the states; I would love if someone did something like this for France!)

In the end, birthdays are something you have very little control over, other than how you choose to celebrate. And holiday birthdays come with lots of built-in celebrations and traditions that you may or may not like.

But for my husband and his “normal” birthday, celebrations this year involved inviting his family over today and cooking for them, followed by a leisurely walk in the sun along the river. And really, when I think about it, that’s the same thing we do for mine: eating, talking, and spending time with loved ones. So no matter what birthday bébé ends up with, we’ll always try and do the same! (And if it is a holiday, and he doesn’t want barbecue, I’ll make him whatever else he wants to eat).