Sparkling grape juice.
These are incendiary devices. When you put these three items in combination, you burn down what has existed, the life you have known, the friendships you’ve curated, the patterns and rhythms of life that you have loved.
You didn’t know this?
When I was growing, we had to move several times for my dad’s career in rocketry. I moved from Alabama to Pennsylvania right before I started kindergarten, then on to California between first and second grade. And then we made another move between my freshman and sophomore years of high school.
And then we moved again in the middle of my junior year of high school.
Which, if you keeping count, which I sure did, means that I attended three different high schools. One in California, one in the Washington, D.C. area. And finished up in, wait for it, Utah.
An eclectic high school experience is far too an anemic phrase to try to capture all that crazy.
Which brings me to those metaphorically highly flammable food items I listed above.
It became something of a weird family tradition, that, in an effort to make the latest move announcement ‘celebratory’, my parents would gather us a the table and would serve us 1. sparkling grape juice (in the crystal that was usually reserved for Thanksgiving), 2. fancy crackers (that were always reserved for dinner parties and to which we usually had restricted access), and 3. smoked Gouda (because, when you’re going to burn down someone’s world, cheese is the universal peace offering).
Sidebar: these move announcements, regardless of the party food greasing of the emotional gears, were still met with tears and wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Having found moving miserable as a kid and teenager, I was determined to not do it to my own progeny. Which was super noble and all.
Until we did have to put our kids through a relocation. And then another one. As my husband’s career took some turns and hairpins and climbs we hadn’t foreseen.
Whether you love relocation to a new locale or if you loathe it, navigating our kids through such a season can be a far more emotional ride than we anticipate. Consider these five tips when moving to a new place:
- Different kids will react differently. Which on its surface, duh. But it really can be a wild mix. For our oldest child, our move to Austin a decade ago was met with enthusiastic rejoicing, while it was wrenching for our second oldest. While having a relocation met with enthusiasm is far more convenient, it was important to validate both girls’ reactions.
- Some of the small stuff will be the biggest stuff. Whether you like it or hate it, moving is crazy sauce when you’re the one who’s supposed to be adulting. Getting a house put on the market, negotiating move packages, interfacing with title companies and school districts and all the rest, it’s the big stuff in moving that makes it feel like a full time job. Which makes the patience run a bit more thin when one of your kiddos has a meltdown on how much they’re going to miss the wallpaper in the upstairs bathroom. But it’s very real for that kid. The swing that they always claimed as theirs in the backyard that’s going to get left behind. The spot in the flowerbed where they interred their pet hamster at the end of its short hamster life. Those little moments captured by place and familiarity. So let the little stuff be the big stuff. Don’t compare the big stuff you’re having to deal with to the small details they’re grieving. It all counts.
- Wrap it in adventure. My folks did a good job of this and I’ve tried to apply the lesson. In your new locale, celebrate what’s new and fun. Make the drive to the nearby lake. Go to the fun, splashy movie theater. Go be a tourist in your new town. And if you’ve got a kid or two who are still pouting through the experience, that’s okay. You’re not trying to force a ‘happy’ response here. You’re simply letting some of the cool features of the new place audition.
- Don’t take it personally. When the reason for a relocation is because of the meeting of a big career goal for one family member, it can seem like the rest of the family is raining on the parade when that joyous career news is met with despair and tears. It’s critical to keep in mind that the new horizon provided by a career promotion for you is an unknown wilderness for the rest of your crew. It’s not that they’re not proud of you; it’s that they don’t have the same ‘reward’ for the challenge and the sacrifice of a relocation. Often in a career relocation, you already be acquainted with your new coworkers, and you may have already spent time in the new locale, things your family may not have experienced. It’s fine for you to be excited and thrilled, but honor that the very things that are making the move a plus for you don’t exist for the rest of your family yet. Avoid telling your child that you are disappointed or frustrated by their reaction to a move~you’ll only create more distance between the experience you’re having and the one your child is having.
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep. It can be tempting, in an attempt to soothe flustered move emotions, to promise a bigger house, a new pool, that you’ll never move again. But the moving experience can have unexpected twists and turns. Cost of living may prove higher than you thought. That new house you’ve bought may sit on a chunk of bedrock that would take the budget of a small country to drill through in order to install that new pool. The new job might be met with a new opportunity in just a couple of years’ time. While all the best intentions can be there in making relocation promises, your kids trusting you and you being able to stay to your word are the most important things to consider.
- Moving schools is huge. Like…huge. So don’t try to minimize it. Use it as a teaching tool. Hone up on interaction and friend skills. Get a map of the new school before the first day. Validate that starting over is scary and exciting and terrifying and is filled with possibility. Moving is considered one of the top five stressors in life. And that doesn’t just apply to the adults.
Moving has its pluses and minuses. I certainly felt that I was dismantling my children’s lives and carried so much guilt when Michael and I were making those decisions. But then I also recalled that the moves I made as a kid made my brothers and I so much closer, that they were the friends I was able to take with me. And as I’ve watched my kids navigate relocations, I’ve realized that relocation can hold great treasure for sibling relationships. For some of us, moving is a chance to start over, to realize a dream or an ambition. For some of us, moving is an unwelcome and difficult reset in life. But in it, families can bond, kids can learn to begin again, new friends are added to the tapestries of our lives, and in moving away, we can move closer.
And don’t forget the sparking grape juice. The fancy crackers. And the smoked Gouda.