And our kids are still little and in so many ways, entirely uncivilised. I’m constantly amazed by the dichotomy of children. SG is such a little cutie. Everyone comments on how cute she is, how smart she is and how entertaining her constant monologue is. But they don’t generally see the whining, the refusal to lie down and sleep at bedtime, the deliberate goading of her older brother or the scream she has recently started emitting when things don’t go her way and she’s frustrated. And SB shows to the world a charming, chatty (generally) and confident boy who woos everyone who sees him with his ready smile and thoughtful questions. He rarely shows anyone except us his angry, sullen and stubborn side. This morning he woke up all sunny and happy. Within ten minutes though he was in an incredible rage: he asked me to brush his teeth so he could eat breakfast, but I had the audacity to put the toothpaste on the brush he handed me, rather than asking him to put the paste on himself. He had a strop, I reminded him not to go and wipe off the toothpaste just so he could put fresh stuff on himself. I apologised for doing something he had wanted to do and thought that was it. No. Two minutes later he’s in the bathroom washing off the toothpaste having totally ignored everything I said. I explained that as he was wasting useful things I would remove something of his (maybe not the best policy, but it was pre-coffee). He screamed in my face.
So, yeah, a dichotomy. Amazing how kids can be so delicious most of the time and then total and utter shits. I clearly haven’t fully taken this in despite having spent over four years in close proximity to small kids!
Bedtime: at home bedtime is a breeze. Here, it is not. Our kids are used to sharing a room but they are not used to sharing a bed. You’d think a double bed would be big enough for two teeny kids but it really and truly isn’t. SG loves to wriggle and wind up her brother. She never wants to sleep at bedtime (especially today when Col let her have a nap at 4pm – grrrr), always complaining about something, asking for more water, not wanting her sheet, wanting her sheet, needing a wee, not needing a wee. And SB, who is generally more willing to go to sleep, gets quite frustrated by SG’s actions but then ends up joining in, because, well, he might as well. So then we have two noisy little buggers singing and calling for us. Once or twice they have even got themselves out of bed for no reason at all – absolutely unheard of behaviour in the UK. We do not appreciate bedtime shenanigans. Part of the problem is we can’t separate them as we only have two bedrooms. They are also clearly shattered by bedtime because they’re waking up early (and waking us up by singing theme tunes to favourite shows).
School: we have them in the language school with us. We study Spanish for three hours every morning. SB and SG have a wonderful teacher, Dani, all to themselves. SB adores her. He just thinks she’s wonderful and I suspect she thinks similarly about him as I saw her grab him and give him a massive hug earlier today. He loves going to school and asks every day if it’s a school day. Last weekend he got really annoyed that we weren’t going to school. SG is less than thrilled with the set up. She loves being in the same place as us and certainly doesn’t complain or cling to us when it’s time for the two of them to go to their little (outdoor) area but she isn’t that keen on most of the activities Dani sets up for the two of them. I know Dani is working really hard to try and include SG and to tailor activities to her but all SG really wants to do is play on the slide or wrap up her Laughing Dolly. She also wanders around the compound chatting to herself and anyone else she comes across. She comes to see me at my outdoor table at least four or five times in the three hours and is probably with Col about as much. We always try and send her back to Dani but there isn’t always a positive response to those requests. She’s not yet three so we kind of figure that there isn’t much more that can be done in this set up. We chose not to send the kids to kindergarten here so we have to accept that SG is doing what SG does best – charming people whilst ignoring any requests that don’t fit with her plans.
We haven’t, thus far, done much of what we expected to do with the kids: on a home schooling front. We have unconsciously decided that they’re still so little and are learning so much from just being here that we don’t need to force SB to sit down and learn his phonics. So what? When we get home he’ll not be at the top of his class, he’ll be somewhere in the middle. It’s not the end of the world, right? He can already read lots of words and sound out even more. His writing isn’t great because he refuses to hold his pen properly and I think we need an actual teacher to sort that out (because I can’t be bothered to argue with him).
Language: SB seems to understand most of what’s going on around him. He picks out words from announcements, conversation and songs he hears and can respond to commands but he won’t really respond to questions in Spanish unless they come from Col or me. We keep telling him that Spanish is an incredibly friendly language and that he doesn’t need to be worried about making mistakes because people will still understand and will be super impressed that he’s trying at all. His personality though is such that he doesn’t tend to do things until he’s sure he can do them perfectly so it may be a while before he moves to the next stages. One place he’s happy to chat seems to be in taxis. He loves to hail taxis by yelling ‘espera’ at them – even when we don’t need one, which is simultaneously annoying and sweet. Once in the cab he’ll happily tell the driver that we live near the red, yellow and orange trees. It’s amusing because the drivers tend to assume he’s just saying words, not really meaning anything, and then we get around our corner and they see that we truly do live by trees painted silly colours and then they’re impressed! SG knows lots of words but certainly doesn’t do much more than yell colours and foods at people and sometimes proffer a beautiful ‘buenos dias’ to complete strangers. She also loves to ask for the bill and to order herself expensive fruit drinks if we’re not paying attention when the waiters arrive at the table.
Tulum: Tulum is a strange place. There’s not much to do here for the kids. We spend most of our time in our pool. SB has gone from barely swimming to being able to swim at least a length (doggy paddle) and doing all sorts of crazy jumps. SG refuses to wear a swimming costume and is as fearless as ever as long as she has a ring. She says she’s waiting for her beloved granddad to come to Mexico to help her learn to swim. We go to the beach quite a lot too. The kids are getting braver about being in the sea. SG will spend ages in our arms or being held so she can ‘ride the waves’ (I love hearing her shout ‘I’m riding the waves!’). SB isn’t quite so keen on the wave but spends hours running in and out of the water. They both also love writing and drawing in the sand, which is great fun.
And the kids just adore the ruins we visit. They run around them actually vocalising their pleasure at what we’re doing. They seem to really grasp that they’re seeing and touching important places and that they’re really lucky to be doing so. I’ve rarely seen SB more enthusiastic about anything than he is about Mexican ruins.
Wildlife: SB wants to see a jaguar because we know they live in the jungle around Tulum. I think I’m good with not seeing one up close! The butterflies are incredible. Today we saw one that looked just like a green leaf. And the ants, oh, the ants! We came home one evening to find dozens of the biggest ants you have ever seen marching across the kitchen (Col has just informed me they might actually be baby cockroaches but I’m trying to pretend I haven’t heard that). They were horrendously big and even I, who has lived in a room on an ant path [yeah, Rwanda] was pretty disgusted. We see pelicans over the coast all the time and the other day SG and I saw one flying low over the water just a couple of metres in front of us. We were both amazed. And today we saw a mangled snake skin on the road so tonight we checked out videos of snakes shedding skins on youtube. Education at its finest, right?
I remain frustrated at times. We are spending a lot of time with the kids and I’m not going to pretend that sometimes I just want them to leave me alone. Today I got in the pool first and I was just relaxing on our dolphin (it’s an inflatable, we aren’t keeping an actual marine mammal in our pool). When SB joined me he, of course, needed to splash me and try and get me off said dolphin. I managed not to express quite how fed up I was but I did ask him to leave me alone. The feeling of cold water on my feet while the rest of me basked in the sun was too precious to give up. Luckily we have some wonderful neighbours and their kids(eight and six) came to entertain SB at this point. They’ve done an extended version of what we’re doing but are about to go home. All the kids get along really well, as do the adults. The other night they had our kids for a few hours and tonight they went out while we looked after their kids. It’s nice to have a break and to knowingly give others a break. It’s also the first time our kids have ever been able to potter about and just wander in to someone else’s house to play with a friend. Doesn’t happen so much in central London!