Maybe not desperately. At least, I hope not. But she’s getting into a little more trouble at school. The teachers report she has been more defiant lately, refusing to listen to directions and saying “no” at a lot of times when she should be saying “yes, ma’am.” This isn’t quite the same as, say, smearing her own waste on the walls during naptime. But still, it’s different than her usual sweet behavior.
Why on earth would she be acting out at all? Hmm. Well, she’s been staying at her grandparents’ house since the house she has lived in since she was born was sold a few weeks ago. Oh, and her father isn’t living with her right now because he’s starting his new job in Charlotte. So there’s that. All of her toys and things are here in Charlotte with me in our apartment. She hasn’t seen these things for weeks. Other than her clothes and two VIP lovey objects, she’s been on extended vacation with Grandmommy and Granddaddy. Maybe she’s ready to go home now.
Did you read my last post? Yeah, it turns out there’s been a lot of change in our family lately. Like, a lot. New job? Check. Living in several different places at once? Got it. Splitting the family up while we work in completely different cities? You betcha. Stress of forcing one spouse to look for a new job? Plenty. Anything else? Oh, right: she’ll be saying goodbye to all of her friends and teachers. So… what could she possibly be acting out about?
Truth is, I’ve been acting out, too. I’m probably a little more defiant than usual as of late. I’ve been saying “yes” way more than usual over the last few days, and that probably adds to my sense of fatigue and overall crankiness. You should hear what I’ve been saying to other commuters while in the car (although I attribute at least 45% of that to Charlotte traffic). Last week I ate an entire bag of potato chips in one sitting then stayed up past midnight playing Xbox. Real mature behavior.
Transition is hard. I’m thrilled about my new career opportunity and coworkers and I’m excited about the many things that a big new city has to offer. But damn, this is tough! Stress and grief accompany pretty much every single change you can name, even the good ones. They’re like moths that hover around your porchlight just so they can fly into your house as soon as you open a door. They flutter about rooms for days and days after you’ve long since closed everything back up. Acting out, I suppose, is how we tear the house up trying to smash those little bugs so they’ll stop bothering us.
I completely realize that all of the “acting out” I’ve described in this post so far is pretty mild on the spectrum of possibilities. Now, in addition to my own stress in transition, I’m dealing with the guilt I feel for being a parent whose life changes are putting pressure on his child. Attendant to the guilt, of course, is the increasing anxiety that if I don’t do something soon to stanch the change, she really will start acting out in increasingly troubling ways. But what can I do? This is good for us and we’re handling the best way we know how.
I keep telling myself that a year or two from now, we’ll be back to normal. Or, more accurately, we’ll be at our new normal. The newness of this job and city will have worn off, and she’ll be at a school she knows and she’ll have friends and a church and her parents will both have jobs and all of us will be living in a comfortable routine. In the meantime, however, we’ve got to survive the transition. And the one thing that gives me hope in this – the one thing that helps remind me that my child can survive this transition – is acknowledging that every part of my child’s life so far has been some kind of transition.
Think about it. She was born – I mean, that’s a pretty significant transition right there. You come out of the warm, dark, nurturing womb into this world of harsh light and noise? The first thing she did was act out by screaming her displeasure. (Or just using her lungs, whatever.) Then she started growing. She had to learn to eat instead of having nutrients pumped into her bellybutton; that was a transition. She had to learn to use her arms and legs, to manipulate her fingers for grabbing things; there’s another transition. Then she started forming words and, perhaps even more difficult, start listening to the words she heard all around her; more transition. She cut teeth, started walking, then talking, then potty-training. And every few months, we had to completely replace her wardrobe as she outgrew her clothes. And she’s now been in seven different classrooms at her daycare. She’s only three! She’s never not been in transition. In fact, come to think of it, she’s never not acted out. She’s screamed, wailed, kicked, thrown, spit, bit, hit, cried and railed in every way she knows how against the crazy change that is her life. In fact, I should really stop complaining about how hard all this change is on me, because I had the luxury of a good number of years of a reasonably routine life.
Of course we’ll all survive the transition. That’s all Curly Fries has ever known, and she’s done pretty well so far. Maybe she’s done well because she has amazing and loving parents who have held her through everything. Or maybe she’s done well because it’s all she knows. Either way, I do need to remember that she’s a pro when it comes to transition – and acting out. She knows what she’s doing; it’s her job.
Now, all that’s left is for me to figure out how to do my job.