*Written June 2018
“So, I close my eyes to old ends
And open my heart to new beginnings.”
It is roughly 7am and my daughters awakes as she does everyday at the same time asking for something to eat. I instruct her to use the bathroom and wash her face while barely opening my eyes and turning away from my middle child. After about 20 minutes, I finally get up to see her on our steps digging into a bowl of Frosted Flakes with both her hands and a spoon. I roll my eyes as I walk back into the bathroom to get ready for the day.
This has been our routine every day for the last week and a half after the school year ended. That Wednesday was a crazy day in and of itself because we had movers who were intruding every crevice of our home. If it was evident that change was coming, it certainly was then. I decided to pick the kids up from school that day (they usually walk home). Upon entering the building, I saw crying faces, seemingly every where I went. My daughter’s teacher greeted me at the front office and walked me down to her classroom. I asked how Layla’s day had been so far, and she said that she’d been sad for most of it. I wasn’t surprised. Layla had not been looking forward to the last day of school as it signified for her the last time she’d probably see most of her friends.
When I arrived at the classroom, I saw her sitting next to the substitute, her head on her lap and her face stamped with the residue of old tears. She’d been crying too. She looked up and upon seeing me, she ran to my side, asking if I could take pictures of her with her friends. After spending some time in her classroom, I went to my son’s class confident I’d see a happier, more excited Noah. He wasn’t so gung-ho about school… in fact he doesn’t like it at all. So I just knew he’d be itching to jump out of his chair and run for the hills. This is what I walked into instead:
What was this that the last day of school was so sad for everyone? I get it that maybe the teachers who were saying goodbye to colleagues retiring might be sad… but the kids? I didn’t get it. I still don’t. Back in my day, the last day of school was the best day of the year, aside from Christmas and your birthday. You were free. No more tests… no more homework… no more book reports… absolute freedom! But it didn’t seem like it here. I saw more kiddos crying than I could shake a stick at,including my own. My heart melted for them. I felt helpless, like somehow their pain was because of me and I couldn’t do anything about it. And part of me was right… their pain was in a way our fault, my husband’s and mine. We were moving away. Moving away from the life they just started to be comfortable in, moving away from a house that finally felt like home. Moving away from real first friends. And the unknown is scary, especially for a child of 6 or 7. They did not want to move; they didn’t want to leave their friends. And for that, Norman and I (and big Army) are to blame.
So how do you handle this kind of transition? How can you get two children who resist change normally to accept a new reality?
Talk about it. You have to be willing to talk about it, at length when possible. Encourage your kids to be open with their feelings and expectations, even if those expectations might be negative. Encourage the open dialogue whenever something comes up having to do with the move or change. When we first found out we were moving to DC, we asked the kids how they felt about moving and what they thought would happen once we moved. We have continued this dialogue since getting our orders and now the time is almost upon us, we have been able to change that conversation towards specific goals and plans such as planning bedroom décor, creating a backyard garden, and planning for things to do for each child’s upcoming birthday.
Be open with true feelings. This ties into number one. Of course I am excited for DC as is my husband. But the children have expressed nervousness about moving so far away and possibly not seeing their friends again-Layla more so than Noah. As much as I would love for everyone to be on happy train for this move, I acknowledge Layla’s feelings and have encouraged to be honest about them. I allow her to talk to me about the things that she is scared about, even so far as saying that she doesn’t want to move. She has said this quite a bit, sometimes even shouting it in frustration to something totally unrelated. It bothered me at first, but I have learned to just let her vent; let her express herself however she feels most effective. And then after that, I ask her why she is scared and sad and counter her answers with suggestions about the fun things that our move will bring about (ie: being closer to the beach, going to Busch Gardens for her birthday, getting her own room). It helps for a while but I know those feelings will still be there until we are good and settled, and she has made some friends. It’s important that she knows that her feelings are valued and they are okay, even if they are not happy ones.
Highlight the positives. Moving in and of itself is hard. It sucks, really. But the end result is getting to live in a cool place and have new experiences. Since the children are so hung up on having to leave school and the things they hold dear, we have made it a priority to highlight all the positive things about moving to a city, like DC. We have made plans to visit all the monuments and museums since Noah loves science and history, and we are planning a few trips to the beach, since Layla loves to swim. We also have told them that they can continue to do the things they love to do here at our new home. Layla will still get to do Girl Scouts and will be able to join a sports team, and Noah can continue his art classes at a new school. Just because we will be in a different place, doesn’t mean that they can’t still enjoy the things they love to do.
Get them involved. Packing up wasn’t fun as the kiddos did not enjoy seeing all their most precious belongings put into boxes and taken away. However, we have made it a point to get them involved in the moving process, more specifically the settling process, than they were last time we moved. Layla will have her own room, so right before the movers came, we took her to Target and let her pick out decorations and bedding for her new space,which will be a Mermaid theme. Maya also got to pick out a new bed, and Noah will look forward to a new space to do his art. Upon getting our address, we were able to acquire some photos of our future home thanks to a friend on Facebook and I asked the children what we should do about spicing out the yard. They have decided to create a fun garden complete with pretty flowers and yummy veggies. I do not know how that will turn out with my brown thumb, but I was excited to see the kids so eager about planning something for us all to do in our new place. It is so crucial to get the kids involved in every stage of the process so that they feel some sort of control in it. For Noah and Layla, having this control allows them to better grasp and get comfortable with the idea of change and possibly look forward to it.