You read the books, you listen to friend’s stories, but until your child tells you ‘I am angry and sad about leaving’ you’re never really sure what to say in response.
MissM’s calm nature has been overtaken by anxiety and uncertainty this past week. DH flying to UK yesterday hasn’t helped, tho sleeping with me all night was a treat.
It started last week with a shouting match during a playdate that ended with the friends wanting to go home early, and MissM sobbing in my arms saying ‘its not my fault I don’t have a brother or sister’
Apparently she’s also been very disruptive in class this week. No child is perfect but she’s complimented on her behavior and manners, so ‘disruptive’ is a first!
Her teacher came to the car at pick up and asked me to wind down the window. ‘MissM’s had a really bad day today. She was so disruptive in class there were a few times she stopped me from teaching the other students blah blah blah’
I sat, listened and thanked her for letting me know. I reminded her that DH had left that morning for the UK and that we’re not used to him travelling and she’s already missing him terribly.
I tell MissM ‘it’s ok honey, relax and we’ll talk at home’ We drive home listening to our favourite music, all the while I’m thinking how do I manage this???? What do I say? We share afternoon tea and sit quietly and chat. It’s incredible how articulate she is for 7 years of age.
Turns out she’s feeling sad and angry about leaving Japan cos of all the friends we have here, she’s sad because she feels her friends here are already forgetting her cos they don’t play with her, (we got to the bottom of this too and it’s not as sad as it sounds); she’s going to miss Daichi-san (the chef at the udon tempura place we eat at regularly), she’s sad not to have shu-mai again (pot stickers from our smiling friend in Chinatown).
I asked her if that’s some of the things she likes about Japan, what are some of the things we are frustrated by – Japanese swimming lessons and having to wear a swim cap, too many people, hot sticky weather, lack of English being the main one for both of us.
She’s scared of going to a new school and fitting in, making friends because ‘I did it already at Coogee and I don’t know if I can do it again. I don’t need three schools’ (took me all my time not to laugh at her not needing 3 schools. She’s right! Who needs 3 schools at the one time?)
She’s desperate for us to leave together. It would make her feel ‘more safe’ if we did (hence we changed our plans which makes much more sense and will all leave together in October)
She’s worried about what we’re taking and what we’re leaving behind (silly me thought it was a good idea to get her input into which of her toys/books etc she had grown out of using and offering it to the children in Tohoku who have nothing after the tsunami). I didn’t for one minute think it would make her feel so unsure of the things that our home home.
Yes we’re taking the lounge suite, and dining table, and your desk, and our beds, and bookcases, and books and toys, and DVD’s and CD’s, and laptops.
Yes, clothes, shoes, not the fridge or dishwasher …… 24.8 cubic meters of stuff onto a HUGE container worth of ‘stuff’.
‘But you said there’s lots of things to give to friends when we leave’ AHHH! I meant food and laundry items, and food in the freezer – we can’t pack food.
I FB’d a dear friend MsS who is one of the worlds best preschool teachers ever and share with her what happened and ask for guidance. She says MissM is fabulous for being able to articulate her feelings and that she is being defensive in her actions so as to distance herself now and not be hurt in a few weeks when we leave. She says more too but this is the AH-HA for me!
MissM woke this morning and said she wanted to apologise to her teacher for yesterday, which I said was a really lovely idea, and her teacher was very appreciative.
When MissM went to join her friends I quietly reminded her teacher (as I did on day 1) that we were leaving over summer, so we’ve done our sayonara’s at the end of last term, we’ve cleared out the things we didn’t want to take with us, we talked about new school, new house, new friends, new adventures and for all sorts of reasons we found ourselves here all summer, not going anywhere. MissM’s confusion and anger at the situation is fairly normal one could assume especially finding her way back to school to start grade 2. We were both greeted warmly with smiles and hugs and friends saying ‘we thought you’d left’ and having to explain ourselves.
It was hard enough for me, let alone a 7 year old.
It’s not to make excuses for her being ‘disruptive’ but it goes a long way to explaining the difference in her behaviour
I sat at Starbucks and chatted to a friend who’s a ATCK (Adult Third Culture Kid) having lived in lots and lots of countries and she empathized with me while I cried for MissM and how she’s hurting.
MsJ endorsed MissM’s feelings and reminded me this on top of being evacuated by work in March after the quake (I was in Sydney, DH and MissM went to Osaka, then I flew up and MissM and I were evac’d to Hong Kong then onto Sydney) – no wonder she wants us all to leave Japan together. I cried a bit more, remembering these past 15 months.
So the good news is MissM is a normal, well adjusted 7 year old kid about to start a new adventure who is mourning the loss of the one she’s been enjoying for the past (nearly) 3 years.
It’s more complicated that this I know but if I keep it simple then we’ll all cope these next few weeks.
We all expect our kids to cope – we say it all too often ‘they’ll cope, they are young’ or ‘moving around with little ones is easy’, ‘ah! That age they have short memories’
We have to stop saying that!
It’s no less easy for them than us.
They make friends, connections, call places home and then we move them on expecting them to make friends, connections, home again and again.
While we are not going to stop living this incredible life, we need to remember that moving on is full of all sorts of emotions – for those of us leaving and those we leave behind.