How My 4 Year Old Changed While Traveling the World
It’s my favorite when Darian’s face lights up and his eyes get really big.
It reassures my soul, brings me joy, and transforms his coloring.
This week while singing, “Ich bin ein dicker Teddy Bär,” with Darian, Hector, Nolan, and I all acting it out, his face lit up. Pure joy. It also happened while chasing him down when we were playing soccer in the yard.
I also broke his heart while playing soccer. I went for the ball and didn’t realize he wasn’t on my left but on my right. I accidentally bumped him, and he fell over. He thought I did it on purpose. “Mom, you’re so mean!” I explained the risk involved in sports, and he decided to keep playing.
As you know, there’s a risk involved in everything that we do, and if it’s worth it, it makes sense to take the risk. However, sometimes we don’t know if it’ll be worth it. I didn’t know if leaving our comfortable and happy life in Texas to live in Brazil, Portugal, and Germany would be worth it. It turned out not to be easy or comfortable. And for that very reason, it has been a million times worth it.
- He Isn’t Scared to Speak a New Language
This trip has really pushed and changed Darian. He isn’t afraid to learn a language. He doesn’t tell me to “stop talking like that” or “talk like THIS” as he points to his own mouth. Now he says that he wants to stay in Germany to learn more English. (He means German, and it’s cute.)
He isn’t scared to learn or try to say things different than how he’s said it before. He talks to me in English, German, Portuguese, and ASL. The last one surprised me because I’ve only used ASL for baby sign, but he quietly took it to the next level when he told me to go to bed NOW and continued to argue with me in ASL for the next 5 minutes. He isn’t afraid to try to put words or even signs together. This fearful person is gone.
2. He is Less Selfish and More Giving.
Another meaningful difference to me is Darian’s regard for himself in relation to other people. When he finds that he is better off than someone else, he wants to do something–right now–to help the other person. I’ve seen a couple kids this week, who are proud of themselves when they are better off than someone else. “Look at me! My [blah blah blah] is better.” “I’m more [blah] than you!” I hope the blah makes this seem as dumb as it is.
Darian has stepped out of his perfect apartment to catch glimpses of families sleeping on mattresses down back allies. He’s sung songs with these children and played games. He knows they are just like him. They like to play, dance, and sing just like him. And it’s sad to see the card they were dealt and that a lot of them won’t ever have a bike like he does.
But who knows? Maybe he’ll shatter my heart and decide he is better than someone else based on something he owns or his hair, which can both be lost like his two different Woody dolls. One is lost in Brazil and the other in Germany.
3. Things Aren’t as Important
The first time he lost Woody, it was devastating for him. He cried a lot and asked for a new one constantly. He started putting the Woody hat on a soccer ball and pretend it was Woody. When I realized what he was doing, it made me so sad. But the price of a $20 Woody doll in Brazil was over $100. My mom brought him a new doll, and he was so happy.
This time he lost Woody, he cried, and then he was okay. He hasn’t even asked for him. He also doesn’t say that he misses his boxes and boxes of toys that are in storage. Things are now things; and they come and go; and definitely come again with grandparents like his. He charms them. They can’t say, “No.” Or does he just ask a thousand times until they break down? Oh, no. He does the second to us.
4. Our Relationship is Stronger
A German friend who I used to watch her kids told me to “never give in” when she overhead her daughter ask me again if she could do something. The look of regret on her face told it all, and I stood strong. Now I face a constant battle of wanting sleep and standing strong. I missed too much sleep this week and didn’t get enough work done to make it worth it.
My days on the other hand have been beautiful. Exploring the cities in the morning and talking and playing with my kids in German in the afternoon at home has been a dram. Traveling while working remotely in German has pushed our working hours to the evening. The quantity of time we do things with our kids has increased. As you might know, rich conversations come from quantity of time because with kids you can only reach quality through quantity.
Because of this time, Darian knows me better, and I know him better. He comes to me when I’m feeling sad and will sit next to me and want to listen. He comes to me when he hears plastic crinkling and will sit next to me and demand chocolate. He asks me more questions. Shares more of his ideas. Confides in me more.
5. He Has Learned More than I Imagined He Would
He has been very concerned about skeletons being able to break out of the glass when they are resurrected. Will they be trapped?
At first, I was a little startled when I saw this. Then it seemed so fitting to have this at church. Church is as much about our daily life as it is about death. As Darian has seen many skeletons at church, he asks me how they will break out of their glass cases when they are resurected. How will they break through their tombs? Will the angel also roll away the stone for us?
Darian has learned more about the world, its history, its philosophies, its infrastructure, its politics, its languages, its geography, its food, its architecture, its music, and its love. More than I could have taught him from home. He also learned his numbers from elevator buttons.
Today, Darian learned about many different musical instruments at a friends house when we visited with them in their gorgeous Bavarian home. They are Americans working for the army, and their daughter showed him all of the instruments she plays while we had nice conversations and cookies with her parents.
We’ve met incredible people like this family on our trip that have taught Darian amazing things and how to treat others.
They are a part of his life forever.
And I am forever grateful to them and this nomadic life. It has changed our life for the better.
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