Twelve days. That’s all that stands between our family and an overnight plane ride from San Francisco to London, which will be our home from Aug. 21 through Christmas.
For months, the Big Move has seemed like a mirage, something that sounded great but wasn’t actually happening, a family-focused fantasy akin to my daydream of winning the Main Event at the World Series of Poker.
But it’s real, people. And it’s happening SOON.
Powerwoman and I have spent ample energy this month scratching stuff off our respective pre-trip to-do lists.
She has gotten most of the fun stuff, like buying the girls new winter clothes and researching playgrounds in our new neighborhood (it’s Maida Vale, for those of you scoring at home). I have been left with the inglorious tasks: Freezing the gym membership, temporarily suspending our cellular service, and requesting a Capital One credit card (with no foreign transaction fees) in Powerwoman’s name.
Of course we’ve also spun wheels trying to tie up loose ends here at home—thankfully, my parents will be seizing the opportunity to house-sit and lay claim to a “vacation” home in Wine Country for the fall.
Still, if I had to guess, I’d say my wife and I have spent the greatest amount of time focusing on easing the transition for L and R.
On the most basic level, this has translated into reading them books about our new home (the favorite has been “The Tiger Who Came to Tea”; “This is London” ranks as No. 2) and studying maps of the city to give them a sense of what landmarks are where. On a more nuanced level, it has meant making sure we’re bringing enough from home to make the new flat feel familiar.
With this in mind—and after much deliberation—it appears that we’re taking the (ridiculous) kittens calendar from the fridge in the kitchen. It also likely means we’re carrying-on an entire suitcase of stuffed animals. And R’s (new) purple inflatable alien.
We’ve taken other steps toward smoothing the transition. Like teaching my parents how to Skype so the girls can have video check-ins with the cat (and, I guess, their grandparents). And procuring postcards for L to fill out and send to her friends at preschool back here at home. Heck, we’ve even packed Halloween decorations so the girls can feel like they’re not missing out (sadly, the Brits don’t really do the whole costume-and-trick-or-treating thing).
For a two- or three-week trip, I’d say this type of preparation would be a bit much. But for four months on another continent, I think it’s spot-on.
Our rationale behind this obsessive planning is simple: We want the move to be an adventure, not an exercise in missing stuff from home. One could argue that we’re rejecting spontaneity (to a point); instead, we like to think we’re trying to incorporate enough touchstones so the girls are comfortable and willing to explore on a whim.
For better or for worse, these comfort levels are critical to the next few months in our world. They play an important role during every long-term family trip; how you choose to support/indulge/address them is up to you.
To what extent have you bent over backward to make your kids comfortable in a new place? How much is too much?