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Thursday, June 13, 2013

How to Move with Children Underfoot

Change is stressful, and you can't get much bigger of a change than moving, now can you? Add a few little kids into the mix and you could be looking disaster right in its face. But before you freak out (or allow them to) there are some things you can do to quell the panic right from the start.

1) Put them into the process from the get-go.

When we were looking for places, out of necessity, I had to take my twins with me for some of the tours. It's actually because of my children that we found the house we're living in.

Sure, after five tours with four-year-old twins, you're ready to claw your own eyes out, but then when you find that perfect place, they feel like they chose it, too. Because they were there. And getting a child to do something she thinks she has chosen is a lot easier than having to surprise her, like, "hey, so, you know this place we've been living your whole life? Say goodbye and let's go to a new place you've never seen!" It's like this new house was an old buddy of theirs since they saw it first. Instead of being more like a weird guy mumbling to himself who said hi to them at the grocery store and creeped them out.

2) Let them help you pack.

Okay, so I know you're staring at your computer screen in horror right now, thinking that what I've suggested is akin to shooting yourself in the foot in five places, but hear me out. They're only going to be up your butt anyway, whether you "let them help" or not, so may as well be organized about it. Let them help with the small things in the beginning, so that they feel like part of a group. For instance, I let them smooth the tape down as I made the packing boxes. Then give them the some of the boxes that they helped make and have them throw all their crap into it. Sure, it will look like this:

But, honestly, are you even doing that much better of a job? And once you unpack all that stuff you carefully molded to fit just right into the box, they're just going to throw it all over the floor anyway. Plus, this way the boxes aren't too heavy, and if something breaks, well, you have an excuse to throw out one of their beloved-but-rarely-used toys, right? Most importantly, though, they're busy. They're busy packing up their lives as you pack up yours. It involves them in the process and keeps them out of your hair at the same time. Winning.

3) Get rid of stuff. Listen, you just don't need it, okay? I can't tell you how much stuff I'm getting rid of now as I unpack. I just didn't need that bent plastic french fry, or the painted popsicle stick. Turns out I actually don't need the 70 pairs of undies I have somehow acquired throughout my life. I only learned that after having survived for two weeks on just ten pairs (I mean, I do laundry every week anyway, so this should have been logical). The others are still in a box somewhere, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but I just haven't needed them. Knock me over with a feather. I also have no use for the mismatched dishes and mugs I was so sure I couldn't do without. Get rid of stuff.

Now, to our credit, our house is smaller than our apartment, so we did downsize in some ways. We got rid of a ton of books, for instance, bringing only about two-thirds of our library with us, and leaving this to a used bookstore owner who basically did a back-bend in glee as we cried our literary tears.

I also parted with my impressive collection of pantsuits from the 1990s which I had used to get jobs in my early 20s and also whenever I had to go on camera (in my former life as a television reporter...days long gone now. Time to give up the ghost. And the Godawful suits.)

4) Have friends take your kids for a day while you clean. (If you don't have friends, make them right now for this specific purpose.) The only reason I even did this (I'd have just barreled through, making them suffer in boredom in an empty house while I cleaned) is because our landlady decided she needed to replace our downstairs carpet due to "excessive" wear and tear. And that I needed to have it professionally cleaned with receipt in order for her to consider not doing that.

Yeah. Right.

This is the carpet in question:

Replace it on my dime? I don't think so. But I couldn't have cleaned it like this, or gotten the fridge and cabinets like this:

without someone taking my kids from me for a few good hours straight. Thanks, Laura and Jackie!

5) Make the differences into cool things your kids will want to be on board with. For us, this was easy. The house has an ice-maker for crying out loud. That's like a child's dream. And the girls are back to taking baths without complaint because we totally have a jacuzzi tub.

Now, not everyone is as lucky as us / can move into a house with a ton of cool toys already set up, so you may have to get a little creative. Does the new place have sidewalks? Emphasize rollerskating or bike riding.

This is the first time they've been able to use their bikes for real since we bought them two years ago.

Do you have a yard? Does it have sprinklers? Instant fun.

How about wildlife? Anything different about it that you could make interesting?

We've lived in Florida for a while, so it's not the first time they've seen geckos. But it is the first time they've seen one on their toy house.

This is also a great time for transitions. For example, our children have a fear of a "witch" that comes at night, apparently. I told them she stayed at our old house, and they believed me. Miracles of miracles.

And there you have it. Five ways to make moving with kids slightly less painful. Good luck!


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