Winding down — and speeding up — to moving day

These long, lovely days are changing pace now, picking up in a panicky rush toward the day we actually board the plane and move to the other side of the country. It’s a reminder to me that this is all very real. That we’re in the middle of a Significant Event in our lives: this isn’t any old week, coming up; it’s a touchstone in our family’s evolving history.

I have the luxury of a few decades of experience to understand this, words to remind myself of what needs to be done, strategies to calm myself down when needed. This may, in fact, be the most significant move of my adult life, but I can also choose to take it one day at a time, to tackle my list each morning and quit when it’s quittin’ time each night.

Anna has no buffers. As she watches me dismantle the only life she’s known, as more and more of the familiar disappears into boxes, she grows frantic, reeling from a growing anxiety she can’t understand. Even as I’m glad she can’t fully grasp that this is the last playdate with Olivia or that Elliot won’t always live two doors down I know this knowledge lives in her someplace, driving her to frequent tears and afternoon meltdowns, and it’s a little bit heartwrenching.

Change, even good change, is hard. This isn’t the first time in her short life that she’s been wrenched from one world, bound for another. We are no more or less a family than we were when we left her orphanage, but this time our histories align, this time we’re travelling together, past and present and future.

When she’s up against a wall she fights like Bartleby the Scrivener, who one day began to reply to all requests with a simple, “I would prefer not to.” It’s amazing how infuriating that can be. For Anna, of course, it’s a more direct, “No!” And after I’ve exhausted my lab-school-trained choice-of-last-resort  — “Can you move your body or should I help you move your body?” — and actually do help her move her body, I find my hands full of 41 pounds of writhing, screaming girl.

It’s exhausting us both.

I really wanted to spank her yesterday, a feeling I don’t have very often. I have spanked her before, exactly twice, and I’m not knee-jerk opposed to it but I do know that now is not the time for that. I reserve spankings for when she works herself up into a perfect storm of hysteria and social rioting, like the time she sat down in the middle of the crosswalk, mad that I’d denied her something or other, and refused to budge while cars bore down on us and the light turned green.

Yesterday didn’t present nearly so dramatic a scene, just a million refusals and negotiations, a thousand pushed buttons, and more than a few fits.  But I knew as I held on to the end of my rope with both hands that in her head? In her body? She was, indeed, every bit as frightened as I felt that day in the middle of the busy road.

It would be easy for me to think that by letting her win the argument I am helping her find comfort, and I know I’d be rewarded — at least momentarily — by her gleeful squeal. Perhaps I would be helping her to assert some agency over her environment, at least a little bit, now while it feels like she has no control over anything. But my instincts tell me that’s not the case.

She doesn’t really want to feel that she has control, quite the opposite. She needs to know that I do.

What she needs of me now, really, is to stop the madness — to put some sort of order back into the structure disintegrating around her. She’s not practicing negotiation skills, she’s begging for me to show her where the firm ground is in the shifting landscape. Nothing is making sense to her these days, but Mom saying “No” is something she fully understands. If Mom says “No, that’s not okay” then it follows that Mom must have some idea of what is going on, some sense of what is okay.

So even as I’m tempted to relent more — what’s one more DVD? I could get that much more packing done — in truth I have to relent less. I have to make extra special sure that we eat on time, go to bed on time, follow our routine to. the. letter. I create an agenda each morning, ticking off activities as we complete them, and I have to stick to it. I can’t work for one minute more than I tell her I will, even though I’m the only one around here who can read the clock.

Change, even good change, is so hard.

Published in: on August 6, 2011 at 12:43 PM  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Kendra–I thought you’d already moved!! Any chance we can squeeze in a goodbye LSSD-ish breakfast, lunch or dinner before The End? Of course I understand if it’s too hectic, but I’m sure Bill, Heather, and others would love to say a formal goodbye. xo

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