I/we have had plenty of adventures over the years, but nothing as drastic as a “quit-your-job-and-move-the-family-to-another-country” adventure. Sure, having kids changed things, but in our case it was more like things veered off track for a while. We had immeasurable support that kept us grounded and made the tough times manageable.
Three weeks into the big move and with my husband still not here, things have been interesting to say the least. The first week I flew solo, pretending I was on vacation and had very few responsibilities. After that, the kids arrived. It was at this point that I learned that we all have our own stages of transition. Mine look something like this:
- Excitement → curiosity → fear → doubt → self-sufficiency
I am inching toward the last one, but it feels cyclical and I anticipate that I will work through the others again many times. My oldest seems to follow a similar pattern, but the youngest has a pattern that is more like:
- Excitement → curiosity → anger → abandonment → more anger
Rather than being cyclical, his stages seem more like a boomerang, quickly getting to the end and then backing up through the last few in the hopes of getting back to the initial excitement.
The first week with the kids seemed like one constant meltdown. As many parents can relate, kids who are freaked out and tired and scared will manifest all of those emotions at once in a dramatic fit. They don’t want to stay, but don’t want to leave. They’re hungry but don’t want to eat. Nothing is right. Nothing is fun. Nothing is enough.
We missed out on family activities during that time as I attempted to find the tender balance between empathy and accountability. I worked on routines and (I think hope) stuck to my guns. Since then the drama has decreased, but one small meltdown a day is still pretty predictable.
In these weeks I’ve navigated the new town, done some Craigslist shopping, started the new job, zapped what seems like hundreds of mosquitoes (truth be told, this might be helping deal with frustration), candlelit our way through a couple of blackouts, tested 4 different mosquito repellents on my kids and at least as many bug bite creams, checked out four beaches, had two visits from the Tooth Fairy, and learned to paddle board. Surprisingly, it feels like we haven’t really left the house.
I’ve had those moments where everything seems like it’s crashing down and I’d love to walk away and leave, but I’m the only one on duty. Now they know that when they see me lie down on the bed it means, “Give me a minute.”
Those are the moments when we can lose ourselves. Pushed to the limit, we become so fragile we feel we can break. In my own experience, it’s also about the same time that small moments can change our course.
The kid who should have been asleep an hour ago – who refused a song but now is requesting one – who has pushed every button known to mom – is making up his own sign language to You Are My Sunshine. His brother, known for short fuses, is asking me to butt out and let them work out their differences on their own. The moments are small, but they are powerful.
Just when I am pretty sure we can’t handle one more ounce of drama, I am reminded that these kids of mine, no doubt imperfect, are creative and healthy and nothing short of delightful. We asked them to leave everything they know and venture into the unknown. The least I can do for them is give them a minute to decide how they want to explore it.