Three months ago, I moved with my family into a new home six blocks and a few avenues from our former home. This was my first move with young children and I was deeply concerned about how it would affect them.
I wondered how uprooting them from the only home they had known in their few years of life might upset and confuse them. I stressed about the boxes that slowly overtook our old apartment, eating into my children’s play space, and nearly swallowing us all. I thought often about whether they would miss our neighbors, our doormen, our block, and the routine that had made up their lives. And, I worried about how my two daughters would adjust to sharing a room for the first time (we always had one of them in our bedroom previously).
But, as with many other things in parenting, I learned that these fears were mostly about me, not my children.
I still believe it was important that we involved them in packing, allowing them to place their little items in boxes here and there. It was also significant that we brought them to see the new apartment a number of times in advance and discussed which bedroom would belong to them. And, the help of family and friends to give them attention and distract them as my wife and I did the heavy packing and planning and shopping was critical. Move-in presents for them helped too.
This is not to say that my children did not experience any transitional issues. There were many. We all had to dig ourselves out of boxes and live without things until they could be found. We had to survive the brutal winter cold until we could discover and close the drafts in our new place. We had to learn to overcome the many quirks one finds in a new home. We had to figure out the slightly new commute to my older daughter’s preschool. And, we had to suffer through my daughters’ interaction as they learned to share a room.
There was the time my now 4-year-old told the little one “be quiet” in response to her screaming in her crib. There were the numerous scream-offs without a declared winner. There were the duets. There were unannounced story times and speak outs. There were nightmares and little feet running in to sleep with mommy until she put a stop to it. Then, there were nightmares and little feet running to sleep with daddy who failed to stop it. And, there were weeks of the “drop the blankie and scream until my older sister gets it” game.
My wife and I learned to live with sleep deprivation again as we never had enough time to complete our tasks and had trouble adjusting to our new home. It seemed our children were more resilient than we were, and I should have realized how much the move would affect us, the parents. There was so much more that we were consciously leaving behind. Our old home was where I first became a parent, and it holds so many special memories.
There is the spot where we stood, my wife, belly round, pregnant with our first child, wondering whether the apartment would work.
There is where we created a room for my daughter, preparing for her arrival.
And there is where my wife sat, shifting endlessly, ignorant that she was in labor for the first time.
And there is where I slept peacefully until she finally gave in to the pain and woke me to rush to the hospital.
And there is where her screams echoed down the elevator shaft and made the building tremble.
Over there is where our cat lay waiting to greet us each time we returned home, and there is where we cried knowing his time had come.
There is where I first had a tiny human head resting on my chest.
And there is where we learned the beauty of being together for Netflix binges.
And there is where we fought and argued over sicknesses and behavior and how to balance our lives.
There is where she told me that we decided to have another child.
And there is where my daughters slept, watched over by our big-brother video monitors.
There, tiny legs swept dust across the floor, sliding and crawling for the first time.
And nearby, first steps were taken, upright, unsure, but eventually getting them there.
There is where food was tasted for the first time.
There is where I learned that bathroom privacy is no more.
And, there is where I heard that gorgeous word “daddy” coming from my daughters’ lips.
Ah, mirror, mirror, on the wall, there is where my daughters smiled and laughed and learned to recognize themselves, and we all danced and sang as a family.
And, there is where we began to know each other and travel through this existence together.
I never had a chance to utter these words on moving day so: Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye apartment 10D and thanks.