This post originally appeared on DC Metro Moms on April 28, 2009
Moving targets — when your kid can’t count on you
“Leave, Mommy,” said my son when I walked over to where he was enjoying a friend’s toys. And upon leaving another playmate’s house, he protested: “No, I want to stay here. I don’t want to go home.” Who wants her three-year-old to dread being with his parents? I probably would too, if I were in his shoes.
Life is chaotic these days. His dad is home all the time and we’re boxing things up for what must seem like no good reason to such a little person. He kind of understands that we are planning to someday move to the neighbor’s house. But it probably challenges a toddler’s sense of logic that first we have to make our home look really nice – to sell it so “someone else can live here someday.”
For the past three weeks, we’ve been taking furniture and boxes to store in our neighbors’ basement; one parent drives the full car while the other pulls the boy in the wagon with some little artifact of life as he knows it. Call us the suburban Joad family.
Little by little, our son sees pieces of his babyhood resurface from closets only to go away and bits of his everyday life disappear.
All the toys that remain have been pushed into the basement as we try to live making it look like we don’t make a mess every 15 minutes. That’s hard.
My husband has been home painting the porch and the ceilings, helping clear the clutter and doing a thousand other small things that make us appreciate the fact that we actually have a pretty nice house! It’s great to get this stuff done ourselves instead of me have to call a bunch of contractors to do it before we listed, but having his dad home all the time is a challenge for our son who has no understanding of why the weekend is lasting so damn long.
Neither parent is paying much attention to the kid. He doesn’t get why we’re uprooting our lives in new ways every hour. Sure, he can tell a stranger that we’re moving to the neighbor girl’s house, but I don’t think he understands that that doesn’t mean we’re going to spend our lives playing on her playset and watching to her Pablo penguin sing and dance to the Backyardigans song. For right now, all he knows is that nothing is predictable and his parents are snapping at each other (and at him) for no good reason. Without any rhythm, the boy is a lost sheep. We all are.
So when I picked him up from my friend’s house the other day, he was pissed. He did not want to come home. Her house had trains, and playmates (his friend and the boy’s little brother) and a mom who was probably a whole lot more tuned in than his own has been of late. He cried almost the whole way home. And, later that day, when we went to take one bulky item over to another friend’s house, giving my son some unexpected playtime with her little boy, I had to bribe him with the offer of overpriced cucumber roll from Whole Foods to get him back in the car without incident.
I really hope I’m right that the extra space of the new place — and the promise of an office for me! – will pan out to make a difference in all of our lives, that we can find comfortable routines instead of tripping over each other all the time the way we do now — or did before we moved so much of our stuff down the street. If we can master the art of living more simply in the space that we have, perhaps that will serve us well for beyond this move.