When we moved to Barcelona in January 2010, Liam was 2 years and 7 months old. August marks the point where Liam has actually lived in Spain longer than he lived in the US (2 years and 8 months). It feels weird to say that, especially because before we moved to Barcelona, I had never envisioned us living anywhere but the US, at least during the time that the kids’ were school aged.
All of Liam’s academic career has been in Barcelona. He was in daycare part time in the States but had been too young for nursery school. He spent the first 9 months of our time in Barcelona with me full time – it was great to get that extra time with just him that I normally wouldn’t have had. He started nursery in the fall of 2010 here in Barcelona.
Eventually we will move back to the States and at that point, Liam will have lived here almost 3 years longer than he lived in the US. At that time he’ll be entering 3rd grade – a long way from that nursery school kid from years before. What will that mean to him when it comes time to move back? Will he feel that his ties are more to Barcelona or will he feel the pull to move back to his “homeland”?
The majority of Liam’s memories are here in Barcelona. Yes, when you ask him where he is from, he knows the answer is Boston, but if you ask him where home is, the answer more often than not is Barcelona. He looks forward to getting back to Barcelona when we go on trips. And while Liam is an incredibly flexible, easy going kid, I have to wonder how he will really feel when we move back? He’ll be older than Aidan was when we moved here (Liam will be 8 when we move home) and I remember how hard it was for Aidan to leave all his friends and to move to a new place.
But unlike Aidan, Liam does have a base at home so it won’t be completely new. When we go home for vacation, up til this year, his memories were all photo based but he knew who people were and was never lonely for friends or family. Last year he didn’t remember our house asking me where Papa was because don’t we live with him and Nana? That was such a strange feeling for me that he didn’t recognize the place we’d called home long before he was even a thought in our minds – a place that Josh and I had lived for 10 years before we moved to Barcelona.
Liam has friends in the US but the relationships are different than the ones he has forged here and they are different than the ones that Aidan has in the US. Aidan was past the parallel play stage when we moved and had formed genuine relationships with his friends – friends that he had to leave to come here. So when we go home on vacations, for Aidan it’s a huge reunion with his closest buddies. But to Liam it’s just going on another vacation and bonus, we get to see people we know!
If you told Aidan tomorrow that it was time to move home, I think he’d be slightly sad but at the same time he’d have his bags packed and waiting by the door to move back and get back to those friends. Liam, however, having been only 2 1/2 wasn’t really at an age where he was emotionally capable of having “best friends” in the sense of the relationship – yes, he played with the same kids all the time, but I don’t think he understood the concept of what a friend even was at 2 1/2. But at 5 he’s able to forge those relationships and he has done that here. However, he has also started to do that at home when we make our annual trips. He’s now remembering his friends from year to year, something that will be important when the time comes to go back.
I think that living a “dual country life” where he has managed and maintained relationships in two countries is going to only be a benefit to him in the long run. Because he was younger than Aidan when we moved here, he just accepted this way of life. He knows we live here but that we also live in the States and will go back eventually. To him, that’s normal. Trips every 6 weeks to a new country, normal as well. He thinks going on a plane isn’t a big deal and just hopes that it’s a puke free voyage – he knows the difference between a long haul flight and a quick flight. To Liam, meeting people from all over the world is no big deal – will it be weird for him to go back home where pretty much everyone is from the same town? Or will he just adjust back to our old life like he transitioned here?
I have a friend that’s from here that spent a few years in the US as a child. And yet, while he is Spanish, he thinks of the US as more of his home than Spain. And I have to wonder, will it be like that for Liam? Will the grass always be greener here when we get back home? Will he crave life in Spain and as an adult do his best to try to move back here? Will Aidan come around and decide that he, too, likes it here better or will he be the opposite of Liam? One American child and one Spanish child… and what will that do for their perspectives in life since both countries offer completely different lifestyles?
He is a sponge when it comes to the language, he’s not resistant to it all whereas Aidan only decided that he would be willing to learn in the last academic year, a year and a half after we had moved here. While he rarely says words in front of me, his teachers have said he speaks Spanish on the playground often with his friends and I can see him processing things people say to him in Spanish even though he’ll shy away from responding.
He’s also adjusted well to being a city kid… I know that has nothing to do with Barcelona in particular, that it could be any city in the world, but it’s not where we live at home so to me, this is a part of his “Spanish” side. Aside from being pretty street saavy, he’s used to living in a concrete jungle. Yes, there are trees here, yes there are parks (mostly made of dirt) but overall, we are in a city. We have no grass in our yard, it’s a tiled patio. That’s just the norm for him. When we went home last year, Liam approached me one morning and asked me what that sound was outside… my response? “Birds”. Yes, he has adjusted to city life.
My favorite part of “Spanish” Liam? His adorable Spanish kisses on two cheeks. Though he likes to tell me beforehand that he’s going to do it so I’m forewarned 😉
Overall, my hope for Liam is multifold… I want him to embrace this life where he is introduced to many cultures, different ways of life and multiple languages. To find balance between his life here and in the US. I hope he embraces language and learns as many as he can, it can only benefit him in life and being introduced to new things at such an early age will make it easier for him to learn. I want him to see that the world is bigger than life in just Massachusetts and yet by taking chances and choosing adventure, the world can also be a very small place. That people come from all walks of life and to keep an open mind and not judge just because they aren’t “like you”. And most of all, that he won’t forget the experiences we’ve had here and continue to live a life full of adventures and taking chances to do new things!