In ten years of parenting, I have moved seven times with kids. Even just writing that sentence makes me tired. I thought for a long time we were just nomads, but I realized it was really a kind of family strategy. No one place or space defined family for us. We are a family wherever we go; every move called and reminded us to stay close to each other and not our surroundings or things. It felt like we were on a new adventure together whenever things started to get stale.
Luckily, our kids are pretty laid back and never seemed too bothered by the change. It helped that we managed to stay in the same city for all the moves except one. This last move, however, was pretty brutal. I kept a running list in my head of all the tips that would have made things easier.
So here you are, from the moving mother:
1. Spread out the move out over a couple days. Moving an entire house in one day makes for very exhausted and grumpy parents. It is more work than anyone should do. If you are moving locally, see if you can get into your new house just a few days early, it is worth every penny. Moving room by room is one thousand times better than trying to sort out a sea of boxes. It makes for an easier transition for the littlest members of your family, too.
2. Hire multiple babysitters or enlist family and friends to help. Hype up a play date extravaganza week for the kids. Pick their most favorite people and friends to watch them for short or long stretches depending on their ages. Trying to do anything on a timed schedule with kids around is near impossible and having kids gone will let you go at lightning speed. Also enlist helpers for after the move, which will be a life saver when you really need to get settled and make your space finally feel like home.
3. Honor your old home and welcome the new house. We left a pile of boxes one day to take a break and go pick berries for our old and new neighbors. We made a list of all the things we will miss in the old and all the things we want to do in the new. We wrote thank you notes to our old neighbor who was always so kind to our kids.
If you are moving far away you may want to self address envelopes and hand out to your kids' most important people and friends to send them a letter during the first few weeks when everyone may start to feel homesick.
4. Make a check list and give everyone a job. Most small children worry about if all the things they care about will make it during a move. Make a check list with your kids listing the things most important to them. Pack the "special box" together and take it in your car if at all possible. Pretend like you are going on vacation; pack a bag of snacks and loot to pull out in difficult moments or to buy some needed busy time.
Give kids simple jobs to keep them feeling connected and part of the decision to move. Call family meetings to check-in with each member about how things are going and what everyone might need throughout the move.
5. Don't wait to make connections. Find local list serves, co-ops and other neighborhood connections that might make your transition and introduction to your new place smoother. Introduce yourself on the block or floor as soon as you can, knowing your neighbors is the best way to get the lay of the land.
6. Invite some art into the process. Big brown boxes might be the most popular toy of all time. Buy a pack of markers and let the kids go to town coloring and making their own playhouse out of discarded boxes, or even create a box city in the back yard. Hours of fun, I promise!
Are you a mover, too? Tell us your best moving tips in the comments.
"I need to talk to you about this tweenage thing," my friend said to me a few weeks ago. Her voice was heavy with the need for confession. I didn't know if she was about to confess hatred for her impossible tween or some other more unspeakable act of parental frustration.
"Okay," I answered, all ears. "What's up?"
"It's just, you know...the Justin Bieber, the vampires, the glitter toenail polish..." She could barely get the words out. "I just LOVE all of it. Every single second. She's doing so well, and she's so happy about her life. Is there something wrong with me? I just can't get enough. I think it's great. Do you think that's bad?" She looked at me with the kind of worry a parent might feel after letting their teenager have a sip of champagne at her parent's 50th wedding anniversary.
I laughed. "Not at all," I reassured her. "I'm right there with you. As long as we're talking to them and staying connected and making sure we're honestly pursuing our own dreams for happiness--instead of living vicariously through our girls--I think it's fine. You're living your dreams. You're being honest with her about the hard parts. She can see all of that. I think it's great."
She sighed a deep sigh of relief and we sunk down into the couch for a long conversation, without the threat of censorship or the worry of "Good Mother" hanging over our heads. While some may be appalled and warn of worse pop culture influences to come (and believe me, I've got my eye on that horizon), there's something completely pure and innocent about being excited about the next chapter in a young girl's life. Some of these recent media crazes have taken on cult-level popularity for exactly this reason. They reflect the tension between being innocent and becoming wise. They mirror the euphoria of sometimes getting it right and the adventure involved in learning the difference.
So many of my peers were raised to be afraid of the teen years--the predatory boys, the potential pregnancies, the STDs. But what if in all of our caution and fears about what could happen, we're missing out on one of the biggest gateways to tween/mom connection--an ongoing conversation about what's good right now? What if in an effort to shield our girls from the negative messages their getting from the media, we're missing our chance to be a part of an ongoing dialogue about the things they don't want to miss--healthy friendships, really positive interactions with boys and the magic of discovering they are strong, beautiful and capable of learning the wisdom of their own intuition? Justin Bieber may not be a poster child for any of the above, but he taps into the hope of someone loving you passionately. And why shouldn't our girls expect that?
There's an old saying that youth is wasted on the young. At my house, right now, with the music blaring, the constant toe-nail polishing and the long conversations about the bright and exciting future, I beg to differ. Mistakes will be made, difficulties will be encountered, but all in all, there's something incredibly valuable about being excited about the ride. That's where I see my tween right now; that's what my friend sees, too.
We can't bring ourselves to not be excited for their high hopes--not because we haven't achieved our own, but because in so many ways we have and are doing so right now. And maybe a little late, because we lacked the courage to dive in headfirst. May our girls retain their courage and excitement for love, adventure and true happiness. May we not let our fears of the inevitable disappointments keep them from giving their all to the joys and delights that are theirs to be had.
I know this isn't the party line on raising girls these days, and I know there are dangers to uncensored media exposure. I'm not arguing that. But if you're connected and involved with your tween girl whose heart is open to you, why not be in that process of discovery together? What say you, internets? How are you handling your tween girls and the silly excesses of tween culture? On the continuum between keeping them young and letting them go, where do you fall?
And maybe more importantly, what do you think about the idea that we hold them back because we don't want them to be hurt or disappointed, the way we were (and are) ourselves?
The look on Ethan's face was priceless. When faced with the prospect of going to all-day kindergarten in a month, he zoned right in on his daily lunch dilemma. I'm more concerned that he still wants to write his name in all caps, which naturally leads us to his outside voice being his inside voice as well. Neither makes a teacher very happy.
I had a flashback to the time the preschool teacher asked Derek to stay after pickup so she could talk to him. I had just had Mason.
"Ethan insisted that we heat up his food today. I told him that we had no microwave to heat up the food and he insisted that he had seen one in the teacher's lounge. We did it today but we won't be able to do it again."
My child insisted they heat up his food. I had sent him with very, very hot macaroni in the morning and I was guessing it would be warm enough when lunch time rolled around. I'm pretty sure it was warm enough.
K: What did you say to her?
D: I said okay.
K: Did you say, "oh, my gosh. I'm horrified my son asked you to heat up his meal in the teacher's lounge?"
D: Why would I do that?
K: Why didn't they just tell him no? Why can't anyone tell that child no? TELL HIM NO.
D: Pretty good that he called them out on the teacher's lounge micro though.
K: I don't even want to know how he knew there was one in there. He's 4.
I had blocked all this out until the conversation the other day. Luckily it appeared that he had already forgotten the teacher's lounge possibility but was still left without a solution.
We ran through a list of possible foods he could eat that required no heating. Cereal. That leaves us with a whole different set of problems.
I went online to find one of those insulated food containers. I let him pick it out along with the lunch box. The matching set had dinosaurs pictures and names. I had a brief moment where I second-guessed whether or not I should be buying one of those character lunch boxes so he wouldn't get beat up at recess but clearer heads prevailed.
Not two days later the lunch box arrived. One lunch box. I had only ordered one because I only have one child going to kindergarten in a few weeks. Nathan promptly opened up the lunch box, put his sandwich in it and proudly proclaimed how much he loved "our" lunch box. He completely lost it (which is a whole other post) and I gently explained why Ethan needed the lunch box. I reminded him about Ethan going to kindergarten. I finally talked him off his little ledge and dove into my "how steel conducts heat" lecture with Ethan that would have made the scientist in my husband proud.
I just hope it works.