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Not just a house move, in our case, but a country move: in a few weeks we’re leaving Italy to start all over again in Sweden. That distinction is important to us - hello manic packing! hello unfathomable bureaucracy! - but I’m not sure it matters all that much when you’re two.
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.
There being a few more boxes around the flat than normal doesn’t seem to be bothering him that much (what does that say about my usual fabric/yarn/stuff hoarding habits…) and because our flat is rented furnished, he won’t have to deal with the sight of it being stripped bare. Still, before long his toys will have to be boxed up and sent, and the rest of the flat will need to be turned upside down and sorted before looking not very much like our home at all. I imagine that understanding the hows and whys of this will be hard 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
To give me a few ideas for helping the Bean (and ourselves!) deal with all this, I had a nose around the site Your Expat Child. This post in particular had some good tips, which I’ve adapted to suit the Bean’s age and have started putting into practice:
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*!
*Okay I didn’t really say this, but after 5 Mediterranean winters I’m sure as hell thinking it.
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.
Although packing up is dull as dishwater, not long after we arrive there will be no less than 15 boxes to tip out! So I intend to involve him in the fun stuff and let him help me decide where to put each item. We’ll also get a new bed for him, which he’s excited about already. New bikes, new super-duper ultra-windproof jackets. It’ll be grand.
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?
Have you moved house with a young child? Whether it was abroad or down the road, I'd love to hear about your experience and any tips you might have for helping our toddler deal with this change!
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I have to start this post on a very sad note, as last Friday the crochet community lost one of its best designers. And with it, the world lost a beautiful soul. Marinke Slump, also known as Wink of the blog A Creative Being, succumbed to depression. She wrote about her struggle a few weeks ago and I left a comment to the effect that I hoped the light would return soon. I never thought it wouldn't - how unimaginable that such a talented and creative person would disappear, just like that! But she did, because depression is a disease like any other that takes lives indiscriminately. I feel desperately sad for her and for her family.
In order to celebrate Marinke's life and also to raise awareness of depression, Crochet Concupiscence has started the #MandalasForMarinke project. You can read the full details here, but it basically involves anyone who feels like it making one of the beautiful mandalas designed by Marinke, sharing pictures of it on social media using the above hashtag, and possibly sending it in for an art show.
I've personally decided to take part only in the making, not the sending. The four little mandalas pictured are based on Marinke's Spoke Mandala pattern, and I'm going to incorporate them into my "Crochet meets Patchwork" blanket.
As you can see, the colours have changed a bit since my last update! I had a colour crisis a few weeks ago (oh the woe, I know I know). Something about the blanket had been bothering me for a while but, unable to put my finger on what exactly, I went ahead and started joining the sections I'd made. And then it hit me: light, pastel colours plus bold colours doesn't work! The copious amount of light grey was washing things out! Never mind that I'd already spent almost a year on this thing - out it all came because if you're going to put that much time and effort into something, you might as well make sure you love it.
And now I do. I've taken out the light pink altogether and replaced the light yellow with a much stronger shade that DMC (who make this yarn) call "brique". I've also reduced the amount of light grey by redoing the final row of each individual square, and the borders to each of the sections are now more colourful as well. I'm much, much happier with it like this.
So at the moment I've got the green, blue and fuchsia sections done and I'm slowly acquiring a stack of yellow/orange squares. Then there will be joining, a border of some sort, possibly stripy. Depending on just how cold Swedish winters turn out to be I might back it with a lightweight fleece and make it even more quilt-like, but as it's currently 35° C in Italy I don't want to think about that too much yet!
So... what do you think? I've almost finished a new granny square pattern and tutorial, so look out for that in the coming weeks! In the meantime, give you loved ones an extra squeeze, and consider joining in with the #MandalasForMarinke project or leaving a message on the memorial site set up by Marinke's family.
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Hello! I'm Eline, and I've recently moved to a new corner of the internet:
Do come and say hello!