This post may be incomprehensible because my nephew Thrasher is staying with me for the day. You'd think with the herd of children I have that I'd remember how impossible it is to complete anything - even a thought - with a toddler around. Apparently I have the long term memory of a gnat, because I keep looking at the clock wondering how another hour has passed when I've still only managed to write half of an email! For a little guy who spent his entire day yesterday flying from Paris to Boston to Philadelphia to here - Thrasher's remarkably well behaved. Very snuggly. I may not have gotten caught up on my email but I'm making progress on getting caught up on hugs and kisses!
So...Monday night...The Talk
Have you ever tried to wedge a family talk into a schedule of karate and cub scouts and chorus concerts and math contests? There was no "good" night for it. Once we decided that sooner was better for the kids than later, we realized that the only relatively free night in the next two weeks was Monday. Maybe it's good we didn't have more than a few hours to stress about it. I had a hurried, but helpful and encouraging phone conversation with VBGF and then took a walk around the block with Sweet Hubby. Mr. Tapioca Head and I had talked twice already and he said he'd be available for the kids to call him after we finished talking. All set.
We took the kids out for ice cream after the concert to celebrate the Princessa's solo and Mayhem's making the math team. We got home and instead of chasing them off to bed, sat them around the table. We said we had big news we needed to talk to them about.
"You're pregnant?!" asked the Princessa.
Er, no. We explained we were moving. Chaos immediately asked, "Will I still get to go to HHS?"
"No, we're moving to North Carolina."
"Oh man!" he said and put his head down on his arms. The Princessa burst into tears. She sobbed. She was almost hysterical for a while. It was not going particularly well. We reminded them about the job situation here and told them about the job opportunities there. We told them we had weighed many factors once we knew that we needed to move. We told them there were other opportunities in other places, but we'd decided on North Carolina because we already had some family and friends there and that all the kids had liked it when we'd visited. We told them that we were making the best choice for our family that we could. Of course they wanted to know where else. I said, "There are some great opportunities in places like San Francisco and Dallas and Atlanta." Chaos cracked me up when he said, "Dallas? Dallas, Texas? Gee, what else is in Texas? Cowboys, prickly cactuses, and, oh the Bush family. No thank you!" I assured him there was a lot more in Texas but that I agreed with him, it would NOT be a good place for us.
We told them about the schools and some of the activities that were available. We assured the boys they wouldn't miss time with their dad because he was going to move close by. We told the Princessa that it wouldn't affect her time with her mom. The only change would be that she'd fly from RDU instead of from BNA. Havoc tried first to find the bright side and started listing the people we knew there. But then it hit him that he'd be leaving his Grandmothers and friends and he got a little tearful. His response was pretty amazing for an 8 year old. He said, "I feel worried and stressed and a little bit angry and excited, too. Would it be alright if I got a piece of paper and a bright red crayon and scribbled while you keep talking?" I praised him for being able to name all of his feelings and told him of course he could scribble if that made him feel better. Mayhem was completely cool with it all. He wanted to call his best friend - but since they see each other more on Runescape than they do in real life, I don't think he sees it as impacting his friendships too much. Mayhem is also easily the most outgoing of the kids. He makes new friends everywhere.
Mayhem, never one to be still for very long - and being more upset by the Princessa's sadness than the actual news, I think - had to get up and move around. He started practicing his karate moves. Chaos was quiet. He also got up but he started wandering around the table and pacing. Havoc snuggled and the Princessa leaned against me as she continued to sniffle. Havoc wanted to know if he could go talk to the guidance counselor at school. Isn't that great?! I love that he thought of other resources to help him deal. We let the kids ask all of their questions and then let them up to go figure things out the way they wanted to. The Ninja Princessa immediately texted all of her friends and Havoc called his dad. Chaos wanted to go sit in the driveway and look at the moon and think. Mayhem and Wasabi went around checking on everyone. Once the big talk broke up, we got to have smaller conversations with the kids in shifting groups. I went to talk to Chaos in the driveway and Mayhem joined us. SH and the NP cuddled on our bed and talked and pretty soon Havoc and Mayhem and Wasabi joined them. Later I had all the boys in the studio. Chaos said he was "fine" with it. I asked him what he felt. "Nothing." I told them that everyone would have a different pattern for processing and a different time schedule. The boys were worried about the Princessa. The Princessa was worried about the boys - especially because she couldn't understand how Chaos could feel nothing. I told her that it was hard for some people to know what they were feeling immediately. I told all of them that there would be more and different feelings everyday for a while. We emphasized that everyone's reactions were valid. There isn't just one way to do big transitions. We tried to make them understand that there were many, many healthy patterns for dealing with things like this. We did talk about some of the unhealthy ways that we wanted to avoid - but mostly we talked about the positives.
It was hard but such a good process! The kids all had to go away to cope for a bit - but they all came back! Each of them came back and added more to the discussion. They each came back to ask more and to talk more about how they felt. Even Chaos, in his own way. He came in and wanted to snuggle and have me scratch his back. I told him I could only scratch his back for a minute and he said, "After what you just did, you better scratch my back for TEN minutes." He also let me know that part of the price for his cooperation with the move is to get his ear pierced the minute school is out. It was sweet bargaining. It was, "This sucks and I'm trying to be a good sport." I know that Monday was only the first stage but it was a great first step. The kids were all honest and present and turned in towards the family. I had been sure Chaos' first reaction would be a huge surge of anger. I hadn't anticipated the Ninja Princessa's intense sadness. I think it likely that there will be more anger from Chaos and less sadness and more resignation from the Princessa as the days move on. I know that everyone is going to cycle up and down through all kinds of feelings. It is a grieving process. It just felt so good to be doing all of that together. It's been hard to try to be juggling details and worry about slipping up and having the kids find out in a backwards way. I like the directness and clarity and I want to keep moving in that direction.
We've already started packing up our books. Remember our beautiful library? Now it looks like this!
There is so much to do in such a short time but now I'm enjoying the process more.
Naptime is over! Thrasher and I are going to have some lunch and pack some more boxes.