Moving sucks at any stage of life. Purging all the excess crap from your place (and wondering how you ended up with so much stuff anyway), sorting and packing and running out of tape and wrapping your breakables in anything you can find, lugging and hauling and shoving and hefting and ending up with aching arms and smashed fingers and broken nails. Cleaning the space you left behind. And then the long process of settling into your new home. It’s exhausting. But moving with kids in tow is a whole new ballgame, especially if they’re school-aged. Along with your knickknacks and tchotchkes, you pack the heaviest thing of all: parental guilt and anxiety.
When my husband was offered his dream job seven hours away, we could hardly refuse. But from the time he accepted the offer, I was torn up inside thinking of all the ways we were probably ruining our kids’ lives. I envisioned them having a terrible time adjusting, not making friends, being inconsolably lonely and depressed, and someday — as screwed-up, unhappy adults — pinpointing our move as the moment their lives started to go downhill. How could it not negatively affect them in some way? I mean…
They didn’t have a say.
Obviously, the decision to move was made solely by my husband and myself, aka “The Adults” (well, most of the time), which means we just told the kids, “Hey kids! We’re leaving your lives here behind, whether you agree with it or not!”
Obviously, I tell my children what to do all the time, but I felt bad about this one. It was a lot more than just “brush your teeth” or “eat your veggies.” Being a kid sucks when your opinion doesn’t really factor into major grown-up decisions, even if it is ultimately in your best interest.
They had to leave their school.
I first walked into Truman Elementary as the nervous parent of a brand-new kindergartener. Six years later, I walked out tearfully after bidding farewell to the teachers and staff who had loved, guided, and nurtured three of my kids — the oldest, all the way through fifth grade. These are people who had seen my children on a daily basis for literally years and knew them intimately, quirks and special needs and all. They were accepted for exactly who they are. What if it was different at their next school, where all anyone knew was that they were the new kids?
They had to leave their friends.
Did I adore all my kids’ friends? Not really. There was the kid who pooped in our backyard and the one who taught my 6-year-old the word “bitch.” But my motherly opinion notwithstanding, these were the comrades my kids had chosen to bond with, and they had shared hours of fun and shenanigans — er, friendship — together. Childhood friends make a lifelong impression, and now I was taking them away from their crew and putting them in a situation where they didn’t know anybody at all.
They had to leave our neighborhood.
We were lucky enough to live in a ‘hood full of good neighbors, people I trusted. My kids knew that if they ever needed anything, they could call on just about anyone on our street. Our neighbors patched them up after bike wrecks, took them on nature walks, gave them extra candy at Halloween, and kept a watchful eye on them. The kids were familiar with every house and every inch of terrain. What if our new neighbors weren’t as nice? What if they hated kids?
They had to leave our home.
My oldest was only 2 when we bought our first home, and my other three kids had never lived in any other house. It was the only home they’d ever known, their safe place, one that they could navigate with their eyes closed. They knew all the escape routes in case of a fire. Now they’d have to wake up in an unfamiliar place (and I’d have to remind everybody 8,000 times which cabinets and closets and drawers everything goes in).
In the end, the move went much more smoothly than I had (over)imagined. All the fears in my head turned out to be wildly exaggerated, and the kids adjusted fine. I just hadn’t given them enough credit for their ability to be resilient.
We met with their new teachers and took them on a tour of their new school. We made it a point to introduce ourselves to our new neighbors, and we used technology to help the kids stay in touch with their old friends. They had fun exploring every nook and cranny in our new house and scouting out our backyard. We took walks and drives, discovering the fun things about our new community, and got involved right away with the local library and its various kids’ programs.
Sure, they miss our old stomping grounds — so do I — but we’ll make just as many memories here if we just give it time.
After all, our old home was new once too.