Moving house means a big change, and big changes are hard to deal with when you’re still struggling with concepts such as time, space and distance. And also the idea of permanence: at nearly 2-and-a-half the Bean is often intensely worried that one of us leaving for a few hours, or sometimes a couple of days, means we will be gone forever. So a big change, then, which I think will throw up all sorts of questions and worries for him.
Then there are the goodbyes. Over the last month or so M has become very attached to his friends. He gets tearful when they or we leave, and he asks about them when he’s not with them. I love this, this budding love and social awareness, but it also makes me concerned for him. We intend to move at the end of the school year to make it as natural a “break” as possible, but there will still come a point where he will ask when he can see his friends again, and I will have to say “I don’t know”.
Once we have moved we will all have to deal with a lack of familiarity: a strange language, foods, no friends, no cafés where the waiter knows what we want before we’ve even sat down. A lack of routine too (I’ve no idea when he will be able to start nursery in Sweden), which is so very important for giving little people a sense of security. I imagine he will feel disoriented, and that he will want to know when we are going “home”.
Helping a child deal with a house move
We’re openly talking to him about the upcoming move. There is a calendar in the living room that shows when we’re leaving so we talked him through that. We explained that a truck will come to pick up our boxes and drive them to Sweden (very exciting, this idea of a big truck full of boxes!). And then, because a serious sit-down conversation is a bit hard when you’re two, we have these (slightly surreal) little chats whenever the opportunity arises.
Me: Do you know where we’re going today, Bean?
Bean: Going in Sweden? Onna airplane!
Me: Mmm no that’s in August. Today we’re going to the park. That’ll be fun too. Can you put your jacket on please?
Bean: Yes it’s VEEERY WINDY in Sweden!
Me: Yes it is! We’re all going to need new jackets or we’ll die of hypothermia*!
Although we’re talking to him about moving, we’re trying to shield him from the practical (soul-destroying, seemingly never-ending) drudgery associated with it. Older kids might be able to help pack up their own toys, but when you’re two the point of a box is to tip it out and hide under it. So we only pack when he’s at nursery, and at the weekends we make sure we just do normal stuff. Go to the park, see friends. It forces us to take a break and step back from it all a little, which I’m sure protects him from all the stresses buzzing around in our heads too.
We’re having a much-needed holiday after we close this chapter in Italy and open a new one in Sweden. Two weeks of R&R with Mr P&P’s parents in the UK. Down-time, grandma & grandpa time. Time for crumpets and sleep and CBeebies. And then we pick ourselves up, and start afresh.
Once we’re there I intend to embrace the unknown and turn it into an adventure. It’ll still be summery and light (right??), which I want to make the most of while Mr P&P is at work. I’ll take Bean to the park or to the beach, we’ll discover new favourite cafés and make our own routines.
That said, I’m sure there will also be tough days and so we’ll need to show sensitivity. Lots of people have commented that “kids are adaptable”, which they may well be, but I’m convinced it wouldn’t do to dismiss any feelings of homesickness for Milan, of missing his friends. We all have bad days, so when he has his I want to make sure he feels listened to, at least. And I fully intend to embrace the duvet+film+chocolate combo, the cure-of-all-expat-ills, when the need arises.
I’m also trying to figure out how to have little care/welcome packs for each of us sent to the new flat by the time we arrive. Just a little parcel each with a few happy-makers, a few treats. For the Bean, a new book, a funky pair of PJs, a fun toy. For Mr P&P it’ll definitely have to be something chocolate or coffee-related, though probably best to play safe and go for both. For me, a pretty mug, tea, a few balls of new yarn. Something lovely and kind, something to distract us from the strangeness around us. A little detail that may seem insignificant but which I hope will put a little extra spring in our steps.
Finally, although this post might suggest otherwise I’m trying not to overthink things. Or at least not to overthink on his behalf. This wonderfully sensitive post by Sara at Mum Turned Mom made me realise that kids are more likely to see adventure where we see challenges, and that I shouldn’t project my worries onto him. I’m scared of being lonely and feeling disoriented, but if we’re to make our new house feel like a home, our new life feel like it was always meant to be just so, I will need to let go of those fears and keep my heart and mind wide-open. After all, isn’t that how I want him to grow up to be always?