So, we’re moving. If you’d have told me a year ago I’d be saying such a thing, I would have looked at you like your head was on backwards. But a lot can happen in a year (e.g. reversals, epiphanies, startling answers to prayer, not to mention a good long stare into the eyes of middle age coupled with the realization that you’re precariously perched halfway up the creaky, swaying staircase that is the national economy) . . . and before you know it, you’re doing what you’d said you’d never do again.
We moved to Minnesota in 1998 so my husband could go to grad school, and after my husband graduated he got a good job with a local company. We had a nice life in Minnesota for almost eight years—lots of positive experiences—but it was hard to be so far away from family. And Utah was home to me. Utah had Slurpees and good alt rock radio stations and mountains and gynecologists who didn’t 1. look at me incredulously upon discovering I was 30 years old and pregnant with my fourth child and 2. ask me what’s up with my underwear.
So when my husband’s company offered him a position that would allow us to move back to Utah, we snapped it right up. Four and a half years ago we moved into the house I assumed we’d live in for a good long time. Four and a half years ago my oldest child was in the fourth grade, which meant it was high time I get my family settled. Myself, I’d lived in the same house since kindergarten, and I remember feeling a little sorry for the “new kids” who’d inevitably show up at the beginning of the school year looking cautious and bewildered.
I didn’t want my kids to have to go through that. Especially not as teenagers. I wanted my children to be comfortably tucked inside a neighborhood, a ward, a community. I figured adolescence was hard enough without the added complications of newness and insecurity. I wanted to do the best I could to ensure my kids would feel like they were on the inside, looking out.
And now, after four and a half years of putting down roots, I’m yanking them up.
We’ve spent the past couple of weeks frantically trying to ready our house to put up for sale so we can be back in Minnesota by the end of August. My oldest son is going to be in the 9th grade, which is high school over there, and my daughter will be a 7th grader in a 6th-8th middle school. If we’d stayed in Utah, she’d be a 7th grade junior high newbie, just like all of her friends . . . but now she’ll be brand new AND expected to navigate her middle school schedule (and those swarming halls!) as if she knows what she’s doing.
It makes my heart hurt.
But here’s what I know: the promptings my husband and I have received about the rightness of accepting this new job and making this move are pretty unmistakable. Every time I silence my fears long enough to really listen, there’s a stillness and confidence inside me that I’ve learned to recognize as the spirit. I have faith that, ultimately, this decision will benefit my family. And my kids are doing surprisingly well with all the changes. My oldest son has told me he’s “looking forward to reinventing himself,” and my daughter, who was teary and anxious during the first few days as we made this decision, now seems relatively calm and settled. (My two younger kids just want us to “buy new movies” to watch in the car during our 24-hour trek across the Midwest.)
But I also know that my kids seeming okay right now isn’t the best measure of how they’ll react when the reality of all these changes actually descends. I also know that a spiritual confirmation over the rightness of a decision doesn’t exclude the possibility that the path will be hard. In fact, sometimes decisions are right because they’re hard. God’s funny that way.
I’m trying to remain hopeful, though, that my prayers over my kids’ happiness will be answered, and that God will help me smooth the way for each of them. I’m going to do my best to be proactive and observant and positive, to help them in any way I can. But here’s the truth: each of my children will walk through the doors of his or her new school without me, facing the complicated maze of hallways and sea of unfamiliar faces. When the lunch bell rings, my child will have to stand there, alone, holding his tray and figuring out where to sit, and there’s not much I can do to change that or make it easier.
My kids are good kids. Funny, smart, kind. I know they’ll eventually make friends and settle into their new realities. I also understand that staying in Utah doesn’t offer any kind of reassurance that they’ll breeze through adolescence unscathed (heavens, no!). Here’s the difference, though: if my daughter had a tough 7th grade year here in Utah, she could blame it on life. If my daughter has a tough 7th grade year in Minnesota? She can (and probably will!) blame it on me.
But I can take it. Right?
All these things shall give us experience, and shall be for our good.
Did you move as a teenager? Have you moved with teenagers? Stories with happy endings are encouraged. Horror stories are permitted in the service of truth, provided that you end the story with the sentence “but of course this will never happen to you.”