In the early days of this blog I wrote about Lou’s tantrums with a degree of truthfulness that he likely wouldn’t appreciate. So now I feel bound to provide an equally truthful, though more flattering, update.
Lou is an introvert, which means he prefers one-on-one interaction or small groups to large groups. He is also an only child who has spent a lot of time with adults, and in new situations he almost always gravitates toward a teacher or other adult first. When we arrived in Argentina, we described Lou as very shy. He had friends at preschool with whom he played easily, but at birthday parties with those same kids it could take him an hour to get comfortable. At the park he would avoid the swings or slide if there were other kids around. Since he’s bright, talkative, silly and well-adjusted with us, we started to wonder if he might have social anxiety.
Then we threw him into the mosh pit at Primeros Pasos with his untested Spanish. He latched onto his teacher who indulged him with extra attention, but he didn’t really make any friends. Then one Friday Lou’s teacher mentioned that she was leaving to spend the summer with her daughters on the coast. We were worried, but the next Monday was the start of “colonia,” which meant there was a week of fun, distracting activities. Then things changed and the kids began a daily diet of Madagascar 3, Brave and Pinocchio.
We complained to ourselves every day and couldn’t bear to have Lou spend more than a few hours at Primeros Pasos, which meant he got only a few hours a day in the presence of kids his age and only a few hours of Spanish. This past Monday Pete dropped Lou off and got a noncommittal answer to his question about whether there would be recess outside, so he walked straight to a preschool we’d visited in November. They had been closed over the holidays and were starting their colonia that day. A child had just dropped out (maybe the son of some Americans we met recently?), creating a space for Lou in their all-day program. They do not have a TV. It is closer to our casita. It was meant to be.
When we told Lou about the new school, Girasoles, he said, “Aw, why do I have to change?” We mumbled some answers and that was it. He started on Tuesday and immediately made friends with a five year old girl named Martu.
Yesterday Pete and I agreed that we couldn’t remember the last time Lou had a real tantrum. He occasionally whines and adds the zinger “You’re not my friend anymore,” but we’ve seen nothing like the loud, tearful, physical outbursts of November and early December. His newfound self-control is stunning.
In these last two months Lou has become more confident in new social situations. He bounds onto the playground, unbothered by the presence of other kids. The other night he introduced himself (with prompting) to a girl his age eating at the same restaurant and they ran up and down the sidewalk shrieking and playing a terribly unstrategic game of hide and seek until way past Lou’s bedtime (fortunately Bariloche is *very* kid friendly). The same kind of spontaneous friendship sprung up at the beach last weekend and at a playground.
Being uprooted and plunked down in a completely new environment seems to have accelerated Lou’s development in a way that was at first uncomfortable (tantrums to work out stuff that couldn’t be understood or articulated) but ultimately satisfying. We are enormously proud of all the changes Lou has worked through in a relatively short period of time, and really excited about the pleasure he takes in using two languages.
This weekend I’ll submit Lou’s application for Adams Spanish Immersion School. Two months ago I was nervous about him making it in a class of 25 kids. Now I know he can tough it out.