When it became evident that yes, we really were going to move into this home from our rental, almost all activities stopped except packing. The music of the tape gun and the rhythm of stacking boxes became our song and dance for the week we had between knowing we were moving and the actual event.
I've never been good with transition. I cling to the old like it's a life raft and act like the new is sure to be a deadly waterfall looming around the corner. Nothing good can come of it, I'm always sure inside. For the most part, I've felt a solidarity on this account with the toddlers we've moved around the country so ungently. They don't seem to do so well with change either. When we pulled up to a new home after a trip to a new library years ago, and the child in the carseat behind me burst out with an angry, "No, not this house! I want to go home!" I completely understood and agreed. It doesn't matter so much what or where home is, just don't change it on me all the time.
So I expected to have this same kind of difficulty and sorrow with our 4-year-old. I expected tears and struggle and somebody to pout with.
I'll have to look for somebody else.
For a couple of days she watched us pack. She remembered packing before, in California, and knew that we were moving again. I expected any moment for her to understand and object, because that's what small children do. Instead, among our things, she found a little box. It had snowed that week, and friends down the street had given her a pair of hand-me-down mittens to wear. We had no mittens on hand, not having needed them for the last five years, and by the time it began snowing, the stores were clean empty of them. She was so proud of them, they were pink, and tiny, and she wore them nonstop, even when the snow stopped and melted away.
Now, having observed and considered what we were doing, she took her precious pair of mittens, put them in this little cardboard box, taped them up, and mothered them around. When she went up to bed she had to make sure the box was with her. In the morning she had to find the box and make sure she knew where it was. In the shuffle of moving, the box was misplaced a time or two, and she was upset until it was found and sitting next to her again.
The first night we slept here, the first night the house was ours, we had cleaned our rental house until late, and she was asleep when we arrived. Her daddy carried her inside, and she woke up, looked around, and asked for her box. It was found, sitting on the floor in front of her carseat. She took it, marched into the house, tore off the tape, unpacked the mittens and put them on, heaved a great, satisfied sigh, and went up to bed. She had moved.
I had heard, before I had children, that they would astonish me. I knew this and know this in an academic sense. And yet they continue to do it. How do some of us come with this built-in resiliency and understanding? Where did she get the calm that so many of the rest of us lacked? And, most of all, how do I learn? There was no life raft for her, no waterfall. Moving wasn't a big scary thing. It was just a pair of mittens and one little box.