This week, you met my friend Missy and heard that she’s moved 11 times over 19 years, with her husband, who is a military officer. They have three kids. Moving with three young people is challenging. So today, I’m sharing Missy’s mom advice on moving. In her own words.
As our third assignment ended, I got pregnant with our first child. I had wanted to be a stay at home mom and didn’t struggle leaving my job as a teacher. I feel blessed my husband supported this decision. Nevertheless, after a move back stateside, I found myself in a new city struggling to meet people without my usual outlet of work to create those opportunities. I had to figure out how someone who doesn’t work meets other people who don’t work. It’s actually not that easy. During those early years of motherhood, we moved 3 times in 3 years. My job quickly became finding playgroups to join while working to unpack boxes at home.
Today, I strive to re-create my kids’ lives with each move. As they’ve gotten older, their needs have grown, as have the number of kids whose needs must be met. We’ve quickly gone from one tiny baby to three school-age kids. Thankfully, I’ve learned a few things along the way.
One thing I do right away is help arrange for my children to meet kids in the new location. I work to open up my calendar for any and all playdates, sleepovers, and hang out requests. I encourage my children to invite new friends over as well. I am actually shy and not very spontaneous or flexible so this is difficult for me and takes a concerted effort. Being pushed outside your comfort zone is a way of life for a military spouse.
Also, over the years, I’ve found that there is huge “bang for your buck” in getting the kids’ bedrooms settled quickly. Most places we’ve lived have not allowed us to personalize their rooms with wall color, but as much as possible we make their space their own. Once the kids can find their toys and have enough clean underwear and socks… life is good better.
Because our moves are always summer moves, one situation that always presents itself is planning a fall birthday party right after a move. It can be tricky. My kids always feel plenty of angst over who to invite, since they have had little time to make friends. Our efforts to make this easier have included: delaying parties, throwing big bashes where “everyone’s invited” as a means to throw a wide net, spending obscene amounts of money on venues with jumpy houses or indoor trampolines as a way to entice new friends to attend. My youngest had a party earlier this fall. I sent out seven invitations. Two kids came. I wish, for my child’s sake, I could’ve ensured they all came, but that simply isn’t possible. Being a military kid is character building.
Another strategy I’ve used over the years is to find friends of friends where we are headed next. Then, I ask lots of questions. Things like:
- What sort of clothes/shoes/backpacks are kids wearing at school?
- What schools are good? What neighborhoods feed them?
- Where are the shopping centers/movie theaters/good restaurants?
- What doctor/dentist/eye doctor/orthodontist/hair stylist/babysitter do you use?
- What have you heard about the teachers/coaches/churches?
With these questions, I try to collect information, find reputable businesses and target possible kid activities. Relying on others and asking for help is essential.
Additionally, I notice if there is something my child might “need” to fit in. I admit the word need can be ironic. This year, we decided our daughter would get a phone because she was entering middle school and that seems to be the threshold for cell phone ownership. We decided against an iPhone. We even discussed how not having one would be character building. (As if a child who has attended 7 schools in 9 years needs any more character building.) I am not exaggerating when I say all the kids her age in our new location had iPhones. Although technically we had a choice…I did not see one. It was important to her fitting in with this new group of kids. In the end we bought the iPhone, locked down the online features and drafted a contract for her to sign. Compromise may be in order to ease the transition.
Finally, I spend a lot of time in my car. I recognize many parents do. However, I don’t often have carpool buddies with which to split the driving. The kids various activities mean I spend an inordinate amount of time driving around town and even completing chores while sitting in carpool. Arranging the family’s activities is a little game I like to call “Schedule Tetris.” I really do have a color-coded spreadsheet to help me make sure it all fits together. Organization is essential…an open mind sees the carpool line as an opportunity to complete chores and finds funny in the madness.
Right now, after multiple chances to hone my craft, I find I am I pretty good at helping our kids readjust and make friends after each relocation. However, just because I’m good at it doesn’t mean it’s fun. Sometimes I have pity parties and feel frustrated that I’m once again looking for a dentist, failing at learning a whole new set of names or having to unpack the kitchen. Sometimes, I find myself wondering, “If I’m so good at setting others, why do I feel so unsettled?”
But I know that God can settle my spirit, even if it is going to be a long process.
For those of you who have had frequent moves with children, what worked for you? What didn’t? What have you done to help settle yourself after a move?