Friday, January 24, 2014

Transiting Through Change

Explaining why the Cozy Coupe was covered
in bubble wrap was just the beginning.  
As I predicted, this has been a rough week for us.  With our long procession of farewells behind us, we have now left Albania and are in the midst of transitioning into our new life.  With a little over a week before Glenn needs to check in with his new command, we are taking time to travel a bit, relax a lot and most importantly, spend time together as a family.  We've ridden on airplanes and stayed in two different hotels leading Sidney to believe that we are in the middle of another family vacation.  But this isn't vacation, this is our new life and helping my little four year old understand this is proving to be harder than I imagined.

We've been talking to Sidney about the big move for some time with mixed results.  At first he was resistant, proclaiming that he didn't want to move and didn't want to go to school; at one point he even suggested that daddy move for his job and the two of us remain in Albania.  (Sorry son, but that just wasn't going to happen).  Gradually Sidney seemed to move towards acceptance and even showed a bit of excitement at the prospect of a new house, a new car, and new friends.  But I knew we weren't out of the woods just yet.

We tried to keep the house as normal as possible in the weeks leading up to the move by not removing pictures from the walls or stacking boxes in plain sight.  But when the movers arrived with their piles of boxes, bubble wrap, and packing tape, the reality began to sink it.  Simultaneously curious and angry, Sidney followed them from room to room, watching what they were doing and shyly asking a lot of "why" questions.  Being Albanians, they were wonderfully patient and answered each of his questions.  However, their answers didn't please Sidney any more than mine did.  And when it came time to actually pack up Sidney's playroom, it was just too much for my little boy to bear.  There were so many tears and fits of anger, denial that we were moving, and unwillingness to be a part of the process. Ever so patiently Glenn and I would try to redirect him, showing him how much fun the boxes could be to play with, explaining that opening them in our new home would be like opening presents (as someone who has unpacked too many times in my life, I can only dream that this will really be the case), and talking about all of the fun the three of us would have together.   We even talked about the number of plane rides we would take and how we would be able to ride trains all of the time when we reach our new destination.  These distractions would momentarily work but all too soon the tears would return.  For every two steps forward, there was one backwards.  Just when I thought he was OK with his items being packed up, a favorite bag of toy airplanes which were meant to be hand carried, got boxed up.  Fortunately the movers were quick to open the box and rescue them but the whole experience seemed to add to Sidney's anxiety.

A make-shift bed because if "Sidney is in
the suitcase mamma can't pack it."
And then there was the nanny factor.  Having watched Sidney since he was an infant, the nanny has an extremely strong attachment to our son.  That said, she has known from the  moment we arrived that we would be leaving but somehow this knowledge didn't make our impending departure any easier.  She had been crying on and off for the past month yet the tears seemed to become a daily occurrence this past week.  Tuesday morning it all came to a head with her continuously crying in Sidney's presence.  This only added to his distress and my own as well since I was trying to also deal with the movers while consoling my son all while operating on a few hours of sleep.  As a last resort Glenn and I brought her home early and let her know that we wouldn't be needing her services on Wednesday as we had originally planned.  This only added to her flood of tears but we simply couldn't take it any longer.  What we needed to do was focus on taking care of Sidney and helping him to understand what was going on and her tears were only making the situation worse.

He almost seemed relieved once we had dropped the nanny off at her home and we actually had an enjoyable Tuesday afternoon in our empty house.  Sidney explored newly emptied spaces, asked a few questions, and even talked excitedly about the plane ride he was going to take.  I naively thought we were out of the woods.  But Wednesday morning arrived with stories of mummies invading if we left the house, a new found fear of heights (i.e. not being able to ride in airplanes), and an unwillingness to leave the house.  Sidney persistently pulled the overfilled suitcases from the garage back into the house informing me that we couldn't move if we didn't have our suitcases so he was bringing them back inside.  When our driver arrived with the car Sidney all but lost it.  There were more painful tears and denials but eventually, after more coaxing and cajoling, we were able to get Sidney into the vehicle (sans suitcases--which were transported by the second driver after we left) with the promise of lunch.  All was well until after lunch when Sidney wanted to return home.  This time we distracted him with a promise of watching a movie in the hotel room.  It worked temporarily...... until the meltdown at the airport........

And so the pattern has been continuing.  Is there an end in sight?  Yes. Do I know when it is?  Absolutely not, although I hope it is sooner rather than later. It is so hard to watch my baby when he is sad and confused about what is happening around him.  I am assuring him that everything will be fine and talking about the great new adventures that await us.  He's taken to given me a look that makes him look wise behind his years when I tell him these things.  But everything will be fine and what doesn't destroy us will only make us stronger.  Sidney will be able to add a whole new set of memories to his Albanian ones and will hopefully soon forget about his anxiety surrounding this move.  That is until we get to do it all over again in three years.  Other parents have told me that moving is much easier when kids are younger so I can only imagine what I have to look forward to.


  1. My heart goes out to you. I understand - our move here to France 2 plus years ago presented us with very similar set of anxieties, frustrations and denials from our girls. There were 4, 7.5 & 10.5 when we arrived. Yes, our oldest gave us the hardest time...but she was logical. At 7.5 she thought it was an adventure and 4- year old - went with the flow. Until we arrived - then the reality hit for the 7.5 & 4 year old. Lots of "I want to go home", "I miss my friends", when will we see "our cousins & Nana". Nights of crying to would get the other one going....I think all kids not matter the age go through the moving adjustment and every child is different. You are right to understand that for your son - his world is changing - this is the first time (he understands) - so he has no reference point. Sounds like your son loves his home and safety of it and since he's unsure what the next place really's just unknown and obscure. You sound like you are handling it well and reassuring him as he needs it. (It's too bad your nanny acted the way she did...sort of like you had another child to console!) I'm sure it will get better as he feel more secure and comfortable and then in 3 years you will be able to use this move as a reference point. You have a smart sensitve little boy and I believe if he is asking all of this now at 4 - he is just trying to make sense of it all. Hang in there - positive thoughts headed your way for a smoothing exiting transition to your new life!!

  2. Cyber hugs and love to you all. Thinking of you over the next while as you transition :)