Routine, rules and rituals...to a point
Retaining a degree of predictability minimizes anxiety. Since moving into temporary housing we've kept up the Healthy Snack Cafe, Money Matters, standards of acceptable behaviour, and before-bed routines. Homework and chores, however, have fallen through the cracks while bedtimes have drifted well past the usual 8p.m. It's unrealistic to expect life to go as usual, though a little planning can help. For instance, the girls' teachers were informed of our impending move and warned that homework might not get done. Their responses were sympathetic and appreciative. That said, keeping up rules like 'food stays in the kitchen' helps kids see parallels between their old home and the new.
Write it all down
Make a family calendar outlining when big events are going to happen. Our calendar has included the days the house was packed, the day the sea shipment left, the day we moved into our temporary apartment, and the big day--Tuesday, March 24--when we will finally fly west. Emma and Mouse take turns crossing off the days, an important feature. A calendar takes an intangible concept like time and transforms it into something concrete. For quite a while we weren't certain when we were going to leave, so we marked in a tentative departure date with pencil. The girls understood that pencil could be erased and that the date could change. As it happens, it didn't, but tracing the pencil notes with ink had added significance.
Talk it out
"I'm going to miss crêpes, Mommy."
"My bear's going to be lonely without me."
"What if the boat sinks?"
These are just a few things that have been said in our house over the past few weeks. I wouldn't say the girls are fixated on the negative aspects of the move. On the contrary, Mouse can't wait to eat Cheetos. Emma is dying to play in her new backyard. But the sad stuff has come up, too, and has needed acknowledgment.
To Emma's crêpes comment I said something to the effect that I'd miss crêpes, too, and that maybe we'd need to learn how to make them at home. I even went so far as to buy the traditional T-shaped wooden dowel used to spread the batter. All I need now is a recipe and we're in business.
For her giant, heart-sick bear, Mouse and I came up with a couple of good ideas on how to make him less lonely with drawings and pictures, but in the end it was Emma who tied the enormous brown bear to her equally big dolphin ensuring that the two would be packed together. Ten bucks says that Box 25 will be the first one opened on the other side. Any takers?
As for the sinking boat comment, it's possible but highly unlikely. "It would be very sad," I told her, "but we'd be okay. Thank goodness things like that don't happen very often."
Tonight the girls will get a relaxing bath, a proper supper, and, God willing, a good night's sleep. Once their routine is set, maybe I can get one of my own. I miss my writing, my bike, my home. Life isn't normal, not even for me.