When we moved to London two years ago, Zachary was twenty-one months old. He had maybe fifty words, half of them animal sounds. Somewhere over the Atlantic he picked up the English language, and in our first week there he acquired several new words a day plus started putting two words together. By his second birthday, there was no limit to his sentence length.
The biggest issue in that move was that he was instantly lonely. He wanted children to play with, structure, and friends. He was too young for school, so we got him into toddler classes right away. In those classes, he showed a social confidence we had never seen before.
Moving, it appeared, shook up Zach’s world enough to cause some serious cognitive growth spurts. Unfortunately, it also precipitated a hunger strike, and it was over a week before he had a day when he ate more than a few bites of anything.
So, this time around, we prepared. We expected our picky three-and-a-half-year-old to starve himself for a week. Instead, his brother, the one who eats anything, stopped eating. Well, not completely, but he certainly cut back in his outrageous caloric intake. Zachary, on the other hand, is suddenly eating more. And trying new foods. Once again, it appears that moving is spurring some serious cognitive growth, and hopefully some other types of growth, as well.
But, yet again, he was instantly lonely. Being in a whole new place, with new vegetation and new road signs and new foods was fine, but he needed friends and he needed structure. Fortunately, this time we knew what we were getting into, and we had a school all lined up to start five days after we got here.
I stayed with him the first day, as it was a “visit.” Ten minutes in, a little boy in his class came running over on the playground. “Zach,” he said, “do you want to come on the pirate ship with me?” And off they went, hand in hand. A big change from little Timmy, the frienemy he had contended with in London. And, although Zach was still a little shy throughout the day, he joined in every activity, with the children including him every step of the way.
The next day, I was with Benjamin in his toddler class down the hall. I peeked my head over the wall in Zach’s class, and his teacher looked at me, pointing to the little blond head bent over his painting. “I am amazed,” she said. “It’s like he’s been here all year.”
Zach, however, had a different story to tell. Over and over again, he just kept saying, “The teachers let us go outside to play twice,” in a voice struck that such wonders could ever exist. In London, of course, he only got to play outside once each day, during the twenty minutes it stopped raining. Here in Los Angeles, however, the teachers are working with what they’ve got, and what they’ve got is sunshine. So, out they go, twice in the three hours they are in preschool.
I think all that outside play time is making him hungry.