Chloe and I are living with my mom. We moved into her two bedroom apartment last august. Chloe sleeps with my mom; I’ve got my own room. We do really well all together. Chloe and I help my mom, and she helps us. A lot. We all need each other and it feels good to be so close. It’s not always perfect, but I’m continually surprised at how relatively smooth us living together is. We are moving this week. Mom found a different apartment in our same complex that is a three bedroom. Chloe gets her own room now. It’s on a ground floor so we can stomp and jump as much as we want. We have a small yard area to run and play in and plenty of nearby parking. There is less traffic going by and mom gets her own big patio.
Chloe is a bit nervous about moving. Every time I talked to her about moving she said she didn’t want to. I asked her why and we talked about things that would be different. We figured out she didn’t want to because she doesn’t want to sleep on her own in her own room. She is scared and still wants to sleep with grandma.
She’s had her own room for quite a while at Mikes’ house, and she had her own room when we lived in the “big house”…. But she’s always slept with my mom since we’ve lived here.
This is one of the things about me as Chloe’s mom. I always try to validate her as a person. I recognize that her home and her schedule and habits are her entire existence. Changes like moving are literally life altering changes. If she says she’s scared, she’s scared. It’s my job to comfort her and make the process as easy as possible. I’ve thought for hours and hours on how I can make this transition smooth for her. She is very protective of her toys and where they are kept and if I touch or move them. So I figured it would be better to move all her things while she’s with Mikey. I still didn’t make that decision without her. I had a talk with her about the fact that we are going to move. She’s been to the new apartment with me a few times, moving some of my things. I explained to her how moving works, that we need to pack everything up and then unpack it and how unpacking means everything is going to be put away in different places. I asked her if she wanted to help me move her things, or if she just wanted me to do it while she was gone. I explained what might happen or how it might be in each scenario. I gave her as many choices as I could. I tried to make everything seem as in control and taken care of as I could. It really helped her engage.
As far as the sleeping arrangement, I’ve assured her that she does not have to sleep on her own when we move. She will have her own bed in her own room with her own things, but she will not have to be alone. Ever. She knows and understands that the eventual goal is for her to sleep there, but she is supported and reassured. She knows she won’t have to face that fear until she’s ready.
I won’t, or I try hard, not to spring anything on her. That has never worked well for her at all. She thrives when she knows what’s coming up. Changing gears in the middle is a real challenge. Today is Friday. She is with her daddy and she knows when she comes back on Sunday we will be moved into our new apartment and she will have a new room. It has always worked best for everyone when I can give her many details and many choices. Before she went to Mikeys this week, I asked her if she wanted to bring her first thing to her new room. She chose the painting I did for her (the one she designed). So we took it over there and she chose where she wanted it hung up. She is not scared. She is excited and she was running around the yard and in and out of the apartment like we already lived there and it was all hers. She knows that her fears are acknowledged and she doesn’t have to worry about them. Yes, she still reminds me about our “deal” with the sleeping thing as the one caveat to our moving. And I reassure her.
If I didn’t respect her or regard her as a person, I could have heard her say she was scared about moving, and minimized it. I could have said ‘there is nothing to be afraid of’ and tried to push her forward. I could have heard her say she didn’t want to move and said ‘well, we have to.’ That would have cut her off and given her a clear message that her feelings are not important. I could have not considered how small her world really is and how monumental of a change moving is. I would have never found out what her fears boiled down to and she would have felt alone and worried about the move as a whole. She would have been scared and worried while I was trying to move things and she would not have been able to have fun or look forward to any part of our new place. Not only that but her behavior would have been more difficult for me to handle and we might have had some really difficult days last week.
I always, always feel good about acknowledging her feelings. I feel good asking about them and helping her through them. If I had stopped our conversation about moving right when she said she didn’t want to… I can’t imagine how much conversation, growth, opportunity we would have missed out on. She may not have completely known why she didn’t want to move. I initiated that conversation. She wasn’t saying that to be difficult. She doesn’t want to be difficult. She was just saying the only feeling that she recognized at the time. Through our conversations, she realized there are really good things about moving and things to look forward to. She also was able to identify and clarify her fear and nervousness of sleeping alone. Her fear of sleeping in a bed alone is such a small, manageable part of our move. (from my perspective, not hers initially) And I got to help her experience the move in a positive way and feel good about it. And we can talk about the sleeping arrangement later.
I know that she’ll sleep in her own bed in our new apartment eventually. I just don’t insist that she does it on my time, when I want her to. It’s my job as her mother to keep her safe. Part of keeping her safe is keeping her feeling safe. If she doesn’t feel safe… in her world - she isn’t safe. Period. That’s her reality. If she doesn’t feel safe… she thinks I’m not keeping her safe. That’s my job. That’s what she comes to me for. How can I expect her to trust me if I don’t do that job? When she can’t trust me our relationship begins to crumble. Its part of my job as her mom to prove to her daily that I’ll be (to the best of my ability) what she needs me to be.