From The Record, September 8th, 2017
September is upon us, a time of new beginnings, great transitions and major life changes. Many members of our community have just returned to school: the children and teens and CEGEP-goers have already been back for over a week, and the University students have just arrived. Moving away from home for the first time is one of life’s greatest transitions. Suddenly far away (or not as close) to parental support, laundry services and home cooked meals, a first-year student might feel lonely or ill prepared. Let us all take a moment in our varied communities to send positive thoughts to the new students as they embark on this great journey.
Moving in general is hard. My young family is in the thick of packing boxes, sorting our belongings and building IKEA furniture. I know that if I was given the opportunity I could lament until the cows come home about how challenging and stressful moving is. I am a naturally tidy and organized person, and this experience is forcing so much chaos into my habitat. Moving forces us to open old wounds, examine sacred memories, and shed unnecessary items which you have been keeping (sometimes for no discernible reason). All of this is stressful enough for an average adult—trying to pack and move and go to appointments related to moving while maintaining some semblance of normal life—but take a moment to ponder how this can effect a child. I have two kids, ages 4 and 1. Both of them seem to be trucking along fine despite the major upheavals which are going on around them. Baby Merry is too young to understand what we are doing, but gets to enjoy playing with boxes and running around the (so-far) empty rooms of our new house. Bea is older and has a pretty good understanding of what it happening. It isn’t going to be too different for her once we actually move. We are only going 1km down the road. Her life will continue on as it has, but at the same time, I can see that she is affected by this ordeal. Several times she has asked me if “Marcus,” her favourite dolly, will make the move with us. She sometimes asks if the new house will have our furniture in it. She is excited about all the new, but I wonder how she will feel when we say goodbye to the only home she has ever lived in. She has lived here long enough to form long-term memories, and I hope that someday when we look at baby pictures, and when we walk in the neighbourhood she will remember.
I think most kids are pretty good at adapting to new experiences. They quickly adjust to starting a new school year, moving to a new neighborhood or a new city, making new friends, and creating new connections and new memories. I try to not spend too much time worrying about whether or not this experience will be traumatic or difficult for my kids, because I am not taking them to a new community or a new school. Even so, as with any parenting issue I am faced with, I turn to children’s books as a source of wisdom. Children’s books take hard stuff of life and boil it down into stories and pictures that little ones can understand and relate to. If there is turmoil, we can work through it by exploring those feelings through a book.
The two stories I have chosen which are about moving are both generally favourites of mine. They are also both available at the Lennoxville Library.
The first, “Augustine” by Melanie Watt, tells a lovely story of a young penguin moving from the South Pole, all the way to the North Pole. Watt, who hails from Montreal, is the author and illustrator of several wonderful children’s books, including the “Chester” cat books. Augustine is an artistic and pun-filled tale. The story is simple enough: Augustine moves, and feels sad, and misses his home and his friends. He manages to find his voice and his place though drawing pictures in his new school. Each page is a magical collection of art history references and hidden “easter eggs” of illustration. The little penguin feels some big feelings, but is able to adapt and make new friends.
The second story, which can be found in Judith Viorst’s “Absolutely Positively Alexander : The Complete Stories” is called “Alexander, Who’s Not (Do you hear me? I mean it!) Going to move”
The character Alexander is a somewhat whiny boy, whose life is generally filled with young boy misfortunes which he laments. The prose is written in hilarious-to-read run-on sentences and it captures the raw emotions of a younger brother determined not to leave his home and refusing to pack, because he isn’t going to move. I really like the Alexander books because they aren’t really happy. They are amusing, because they ring so true. Life is hard when you are a kid, which I sometimes forget, because life is hard when you are an adult.
Sometimes when standing still is impossible, we have to move—even when moving is hard.