What I wish I knew before moving with kids
Most families we know that live the transient lifestyle head into it blind. There’s no instruction book (except maybe this blog!) and only a handful of people in your life can even relate to what you’re going through.
When my kids were born, I did my best to anticipate the things they would need as tiny gypsies, held against their will. Afterall, they didn’t choose a dad whose job moves them around every year or two so why should they feel punished? I made scrapbooks, filed dual citizenship paperwork and did my best to ensure continuity of care for their doctor visits in 2 countries and 4 states.
Still, in spite of my best efforts and intentions, I’ve recently realized that there are other things I wish I did along the way. My kids are 4 and 6 now and they’re old enough to articulate their thoughts and feelings about the moving process a little (or sometimes a lot) now.
Here’s what I wish I would have done:
- Take photos of everyone. No, really – everyone. As much as we like to believe that our memories are fantastic and we’ll recall all the little details after we leave a city, the truth is that it fades over time. My kids constantly talk about former babysitters, daycare workers and neighbors. I didn’t think to take photos of most of those people early on and now when my youngest gets confused about who is who. If we had that visual reminder, it could help her keep it all straight in her head and also remind her of the fun times she had with those people. (Bonus points if you remember to write down first and last names of each adult and little friend along the way.)
- Record a video tour of each house or apartment you live in. That rental property may be the source of all your cursing today but years from now, when you live in a fabulous house or cushy townhome, you’ll laugh when you look back at where you started. Your kids will also love to see where your family lived when they were born or the hallway where they learned to walk. I would also recommend taking photos of each room, as well as the outside of your place.
- Stay connected. Before you move out, get the name and address of that neighbor you’ve been referring to as the “hat lady” or the “guy with the Chihuahua.” If they’ve made an impact on you at all, add them to your Christmas card list and they’ll likely do the same. You’ll be surprised just how fun it is for the whole family to watch another family grow and change over the years when you no longer see them regularly.
- Make a list of the places you have lived. This seems crazy when you’re on your first or second move but after a few years, those street names and addresses all start to blur together. And you just never know when you’re going to fill out that dreaded form that asks every address you’ve lived at in the past 10 years (may I have a few extra pages, please?). We use an Excel file to keep all of ours straight.
- Let people know what they’ve meant to you before you leave. I think that I do ok on this one but there’s always room for improvement. Our Canadian babysitter recently sent me a text photo of the thank you card I gave her when we moved away 3 years ago. I was completely touched that she kept it and also reminded just how much she helped me during a really difficult time in my life. But don’t save those special notes for your closest friends. Pass them out everywhere! I gave my Zumba instructor in New Jersey a thank you note when we moved away because she was fantastic, energetic and inspiring so I thought she should know it. There’s something so cathartic about handing someone a message expressing your feelings and then disappearing so they don’t have to feel the need to reciprocate.
- Make a book to commemorate each place you live. I haven’t actually done this but in retrospect, it would be the perfect way for you and your kiddos to remember the details of each place you call home. Include the dates that you moved in and out, those photos of your place, the important people we mentioned and all the adventures you had while you were there! Years later you’ll end up with quite the collection of personal travel books. And with sites like Shutterfly.com, you don’t even have to get our your scissors!