At this stage of my life, firsts are starting to become a rare thing. I’ve already checked off a lot of the boxes that equate to new experiences and breaking new ground. But the beauty of the cycle of life is that I do still get to experience plenty of firsts, only this time through the eyes of my son. And with the extra perspective of years lived, the wonder of firsts may be even richer than the first time around.
One of our motivators to live in another country was so Liam could not only experience his many firsts, but do so in a place much different from what he has known so far. It’s all about expanding his horizons and knowledge. He’s been given a goal of bringing home a new Spanish word each day from school. And I, in turn, give him a new word to think about. It’s a game, but also a treat to see the realization come across his face that he has learned something new. The wide-eyed wonder of youth is something I’ll never get tired of seeing.
Liam is a “talk big” kind of kid. Mention deep-sea diving to him and the immediate response is, “I can do that.” This is the same kid who came home from a swimming lesson with dry hair. There’s clearly work to be done in getting the yin to meet the yang. This week the goal was to move from the claim of being a great bike rider to actually generating more than minimal motion. All on the streets of Barcelona.
He’s been insisting that the training wheels can come off and he can handle a two-wheel bike. For some strange reason, he also equates his move to a two-wheel bike to my moving to a one-wheel bike. I have no idea how a unicycle entered the conversation, but then I’m not sure anyone can explain the inner workings of a five-year-old mind. I do know that circus performer isn’t on my resume. Riding a unicycle is one first that will remain off my list of accomplishments. Barcelona may be an adventure, but let’s keep grounded here.
As all parents do, we employed the carrot and stick approach to motivating successful cycling. Liam had to master independent propulsion to earn a trip to his favorite local bakery (okay, every bakery is his favorite, but you get the intent). Maybe’s that all carrot and no stick, but whatever works.
So, with the assistance of a dead-end street and tiny Euro cars all parked off to one side, he quickly attained the goal of making it up and down a small hill without assistance. His first real bike ride of significant distance was in the books. In Barcelona, no less. Now that’s a pretty good little memory that I hope he will cherish via an iPhone video for years to come.
Building on that first, yesterday was highlighted by his first encounter with a live crayfish. At least, I think it was a crayfish – that’s another Spanish word that hasn’t made it into my vocabulary yet. It was a tiny but rather fierce little critter determined to hang on to life, despite the fact that he and his brethren were piled up on a fresh fish display and likely destined for a Spanish pot. I guess that is a first for me, too. Can’t say I remember picking up a crustacean still full of wiggle in a fish store. I gotta give it to these guys for determination, but my money is still on the cook.
There will be countless more firsts to come in Spain and beyond for Liam. And many to be shared with us as proud parents. I’m not sure kids keep you young as some suggest, but I know they keep you entertained. And maybe a little confused. But that’s not a first.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Building on the circus theme, one of the most amusing regular occurrences at our local park is to see these cute mini trucks used by the city pull up. Things like vehicles are smaller here, but these trucks are hard to take serious. I honestly expect the doors to fly open and a dozen Shriners spill out. Instead, a couple of city workers will meander out to spend the next hour sweeping the sand of the park. Yes, sweeping the sand. Looks like pretty good work if you can get it… Only a 5-year-old is perfectly content wandering the streets with a giant plastic ball crammed in the pocket of loose-fitting shorts, creating the effect of an unusual growth springing up between his legs every time he sits down. I believe he amused a number of locals and tourists alike with this fashion statement.