When the time came for our family to move from one city to another, we thought about how to prepare our kids for the transition. My husband and I talked about if for many weeks in the presence of our three-year-old and one-year-old and we took them with us to look at a couple of houses. We read them children’s books about moving. When we decided on a house and proceeded with our plans to move, we felt like everything was falling into place and our kids were as prepared as we could get them.
At family dinner one night, close to the date of our move, my husband and I talked about logistics: when were the movers coming, did we need a bigger truck, did he call the landlord to switch utilities, I needed more boxes for toys, I needed to dismantle all of the beds and crib, etc. In the midst of our conversation, our oldest stopped eating, stared hard at his hands in his lap, and his chin started to quiver. As I realized that he was beginning to cry he crawled out of his chair and into my lap and dissolved into tears. I asked him what was wrong, fully prepared to answer questions about leaving his friends and neighborhood, all of the things that were of comfort to my young boy.
He said very quietly and sadly, his voice starting to break, “But, who will take care of me after you and Daddy move?”
I almost laughed (or maybe I did?). Of course he was going with us! How absurd to think otherwise! How could he not know that when we said “We are moving,” that “we” included him?
There I was, driving my Life Tour Bus, guiding my two little passengers down the road, pointing out the landmarks of moving and life transition and -WHAM! Right there in between talking about moving boxes and how we needed a house with a yard was a Mack Truck. The Mack Truck barreled into our dining room and smashed my little boy to emotional pieces. I was smashed to pieces, too. The thought of my little boy spending one minute thinking and, more importantly, feeling that we were going to leave him – no, abandon him – was heartbreaking.
(More money out of the “College Fund Jar” and into the “Therapy Jar.”)
How was my tiny three-year-old, so new to the world and the language that rules it, supposed to know all the permutations of “we” in our family? There were so many variations: “We are moving,” and “We are going out to dinner and the babysitter will be here at 5:30,” and “We are getting ice cream while Daddy goes for a bike ride.” Sure, he could count and sing his ABC’s and knew more about cars and rockets than I will ever know. Yet, he didn’t know the meaning of “we” in this context.
Countless times since then I have discovered other things hiding in my tour bus’s blind-spot and I’m sure there are plenty more waiting to be discovered. I try to check my rear view mirror often but inevitably something’s there; sometimes it’s a bicycle but sometimes it’s another Mack Truck. The same thing that makes parenting so wonderful for me – helping my children experience the world for the first time – is also the greatest challenge. I must slow down, think in small steps and talk explicitly in the midst of a life that races along at highway speeds, indifferent to the hard work of small, young humans navigating life’s varied topography.
I guess I should buckle up and get some bigger mirrors.
photo credit: takeasmartstep.com