Prepping With Fun
As I mentioned in my last post, in preparation for our departure from Beijing, we’ve asked our three children to each think of three things they want to do before we leave. Their thoughts have ranged from one final feast at Xiang Man Lou, a sleepover with twenty or so of their best friends, to a last visit to the baozi place on the corner we have grown to love. Not surprisingly, their wants have a common theme, good friends and good food.
I’m not a parenting expert by any means, but I have mothering for over a decade and know my own kids pretty well. Consequently, I know this move is going to be hard on them. They have each grown so much here and really begun to forge their unique identities. They have made great friends and are starting to view the world through their respective lenses. They will each approach this move in a slightly different way.
Right now, it is all excitement and anticipation. Our conversations are dominated with talk of end of school year events, of which there is an endless stream, summer holiday plans, and parties, lots and lots of parties. I’ve been thinking about the overall plans, the minutiae, and the logistics involved with a major relocation for months, but the children haven’t really been involved in those discussions, not yet. However, reality is going to hit soon, and I expect it will be a bit of a bumpy landing.
Prepping for Each Individual Reaction
My oldest is a perfectionist. He likes to be in control. He likes to have information. He is not sentimental by nature, but his nature will be tested when it comes time to cull his possessions and say his goodbyes. We have already begun discussing with him what comes next and what it will take to get from here to there. He probably isn’t aware of it, but his subconscious is absorbing all these details, putting him in a better position to cope with the imminent changes, at least I hope so.
Our middle child is much more tender and prone to sentimentality. He doesn’t love change, not in the way I do, so I am trying to be particularly sensitive to that aspect of his personality. This move will be hardest for him. Although he is the most easy-going of all of us, he is also a creature of habit.
His world is about to be turned upside-down, and though we will try to ease him into it, there is only so much mitigating we can do. He’ll be sad, but we’re ready with pep talks and hugs and a long list of things to look forward to. Once we arrive at our new destination, he’ll immediately begin the process of carving out a space where he can exist comfortably, at least until the next time.
My daughter is going to be the most dramatic and vocal. The final goodbyes with our beloved Ayi will be torturous, for all of us, but particularly for her. But, like most little children, with time and distance, the acuteness of the event will wane. She’ll find new distractions and people upon whom she can shower her devotion and affection.
She’ll forget about the princess kitchen that didn’t make the cut or the endless art supplies we’re leaving behind. She won’t remember the hundreds of drawings she insisted we keep forever, as long as we keep a few. She’ll hold our hands a little tighter and put up a pretense of timidity, but eventually, she’ll find her way through and will begin smiling and skipping through life, just like always.
Big change is a fact of our lives.
My husband and I are good at change. We’ve had years of practice and we have the benefit of pragmatism and hindsight. The kids, however, are still figuring it all out. A friend moving away feels very final. It isn’t, and often we have and will see those friends again, but their realities are much shorter than ours and far less nuanced. They are more inclined to live in the moment, so we try to make these big changes more about a series of little moments; therefore, hopefully less momentous.
We take things one step at a time and try to give them as much ownership and control as possible. Hence, the list of three things they made. We keep them busy and distracted, but also make time to really listen to them, to their fears, concerns, and hopes. This is their life, too, and they need to feel like their opinions matter, because, of course, more than anything else, they do.
Photo: Courtesy of Linsey Crisler