By Martha Iachetta
The end of summer brings many college students back to Rhode Island, but it can be a time of moves and transitions for families as well. Shuffling to a new community for a school system that feels like a better match, taking advantage of dropping real estate prices, saying “see you” to a less than ideal living situation when your lease runs out…whatever the reasons, droves of people are on the go once summer winds down and shifts into fall. Packing up and moving were certainly the primary themes of my past few months. In fact, my husband, Bob, and I put our house on the market, sold it, packed it up, bought a new one, moved in, and made it livable all within eight weeks. If that doesn’t make me sound insane, perhaps the experience lends me credibility for sharing some tips I learned for making a move easier when children are involved.
Invest in A-rated movers, even if it costs a little more. Get referrals from friends, your realtor, or Angie’s list. If you have the money, hire packers, too. Trust me, I learned this one the hard way. And, yes, you’re too old to do-it-yourself.
Involve your children in packing a few boxes, particularly loading up some of the less used items from their room.
Have fun labeling and/or decorating some of their boxes with paints, markers, or stickers. For pre-writers, give them a thick marker to trace over your lightly penciled words.
Make sure your children are otherwise occupied outside the home on major packing and moving days–preferably with a familiar, kind, and fun friend/relative/child care provider.
Make a family outing to a paint store so your children can have input on the color of their new bedroom(s).
Visit your new house together while it is still empty to help children visualize where their toys will be kept and what rooms will be for playing, sleeping, watching television, etc.
Have friends over for a visit as soon as possible, both yours and your child’s. Being the new kid on the block is hard for everyone.
Budget lots of extra money for days and days of restaurants and take out. Even if your kitchen gets set up quickly, you will not feel like cooking.
During heavy packing days, this tip includes gentle nudges to your friends to feed your family (or, at least your child) at regular intervals.
Arrange for some private time with your partner to christen your new house ASAP. While total privacy may not be feasible, even some quality time together makes everything seem much more bearable afterward.
Keep your perspective and sense of humor. Murphy’s Law may reign supreme.
Say things to your children like: “Isn’t this sad, today was your last time playing with your friends in the playroom.”
Expect that your last night in your old place will be easy.
Expect that your first night in the new place will be easy.
Tell your movers it is okay that they arrived two hours early. They may work around you, and in their haste pack the overnight bag you’d set aside that contained your children’s favorite everyday toys and your sneakers.
Wear sandals while doing the hard and mundane labor that inevitably arises with a move. Adding bleeding feet to an already challenging situation should be avoided. Especially if you already packed the bandaids.
Count on your move going smoothly because you may be sorely disappointed.
Hold it against your friends if they accidentally almost kill your plants that they kindly allowed to invade their house when you had nowhere else to store them temporarily.
Take advantage of your old neighbor’s good nature by taking more than a month to pick up your canoe from their backyard. Though they will still love and miss you, it is just plain inconsiderate.
Blatantly give the skunk eye to anyone who tells you to keep your cool and not “sweat the small stuff” when you go ballistic over the inevitable mishaps that come up during real estate transactions and moves. In retrospect, you will see they are right: everything may seem completely overwhelming, but when it comes right down to it, moving is just little bits upon little bits of small and manageable stuff. Yes, it goes on far too long. But it ends, eventually.
Though not a painless journey, we are now living in our great new house, already feeling settled and ready to tackle our short and long lists of projects. My husband’s are house related, and mine are more personal. They remind me of when I was a Brownie growing up, singing with my troop: “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.”
There are no short cuts or ways to create instant new friendships, for you or for your children, but here are the tips I’ve come up with so far: Do expect to be lonely sometimes, do collect phone numbers at the new school and park, do take a deep breath and actually call people, do get to know what your new town has to offer (farmer’s market, library, PTA, etc.). Don’t get discouraged when the people you bravely called don’t call you back right away, don’t expect your children (or you) to skip into every new situation with joy and self-confidence, don’t hesitate to import old friends whenever you can, and don’t judge yourself for visiting your old ‘hood (if possible) whenever you feel the need. Because moving is hard, and the best advice I have is actually what I find the most annoying: Try not to sweat the small stuff.