Tuesday 22 March 2011

Dealing with change

There have been many changes in our lives recently - we have moved to New Zealand for a few months. We had to pack our lives into boxes (again). We were on three planes within 24 hours. We had to adapt to a huge time difference. Weather difference. New homes. We're fine now though. All three of us, believe it or not.

Antek was set in his ways, and his days looked all similar and he was a happy little boy discovering the world around him when the opportunity knocked on the door. Auckland, New Zealand - amazing option for me, where I would be able to teach and maybe finally finish my dissertation, enough income that my husband would be able to stay home and look after Antek for four months (and I wish every Dad could have that opportunity even for a short time). All well, but on the other hand - end of the world, time difference, 24-hour flight, summer in the middle of winter... a lot to take for a 9-month-old. We thought and thought and thought. Finally we decided the pluses far outweigh the minuses, and decided to go for it. Only, we made sure to take it easy.

We told Antek what would happen. We talked to him about planes, and the world and far away places. About time difference and how it may be summer somewhere else, even thoguh it is winter in Scotland. Some people probably thoguht we were a bit strange - after all what can a baby understand about all this, right? Right? Wrong, we thought, and kept doing what we thought was right.

We had a couple of rough days packing (when friends came over to help and Antek didn't take it too well), but generally it all went smooth. Antek's days looked the same, excpet there were boxes around, and tape, and fewer and fewer things on the shelves. We showed him what the boxes were for - he crawled into one and sat there  for a long, long time looking around. We showed him how things were packed into boxes and you could no longer see them. He was interested for a while, then turned around and went back to playing on the floor, so we continued packing quietly, not to disturb him. His naps, meals and sleep time looked exactly as usual, so with the exception of the boxes we made sure nothing changed.

We were worried about trains and planes, but then decided not to worry ahead, and not to worry about things we could not change. Over and over we explained and told him what would happen. When we got to the station, my husband went to get some water and I showed Antek what a train looked like: 'Here, this is what I told you about. These are the windows, smaller than in our house. These are the doors. Here is where we will get in'. I got the look from a couple of people, but Antek was happy and interested. We got on the train and we made sure to show him what was around - we can see everything and it's so easy to forget that babies' perspective is different. So we made sure that we wandered for a coupls of minutes so he could see the train inside. We did the same with the plane afterwards. And he was fine. He looked around, than smiled and was happy to play on the floor or sleep.

On the plane he got cranky a couple of times and cried. I got a bit tired too, and complained a little. 'That's his way of complaining' smiled my husband. Who wouldn't be tired during a 24-hour flight? We told him we knew he was tired, and that we were tired too. And everyone else. The lady on the next seat looked at us and made sure her daughter's pacifier was in place. Antek complained for a little longer, then looked at us, smiled and started babbling away happily. The lady on the seat next to us smiled at him, but her daughter's pacifier stayed in place.

We did the same thing with all the new places we were in - we explained what was going on. We walked around with Antek to show him what was where. We told him things were different than what he was used to, and that we knew it might take time for him to settle down. For all of us. When we finally got to where we are staying now, Antek smiled and crawled into every room of the house. This time he did it all by himself - checking where what was, and how it was different to all the other places we knew. Together we unpacked the toys. Decided which room to put the cot in.

Ten days later he was back to his routine, days looking similar to one another, toys all over his playing space. Only this time playing space is mostly outside on the deck and so much bigger than before. And all of us sleep through the night again.

Change is difficult to deal with, for anyone. We knew what was going on, and we wanted our son to be a part of it as much as possible. But we also didn't deny the fact that it might be hard. It was so much easier for us to cope with once we admitted it to ourselves. And I really believe it made a difference to the whole experience of travel - it's hard for all of us. We know. But we did it. All three of us. There will be a number of times when Antek will have to deal with different kinds of change. But maybe learning to cope with it slowly, taking it easy and without worrying too much beforehand will make those changes just another part of life for him. Just like it is for us right now.


  1. Ania, I have goosebumps again. This seems to happen whenever I read about the respectful way you are raising your son. I want to be your baby!

    I have actually been thinking all day about how difficult it is for parents to really talk to babies...about the important things, like LIFE -- what's happening right now and what will happen soon. Even the wonderful parents in my classes who know they should tell the baby before picking him up, don't seem to do it. I can only imagine that they feel too embarrassed and awkward...or something! Your story demonstrates the power of talking to babies, keeping them informed and included -- treating them like important members of the family. Thank you so much for the inspiration!

  2. What a lovely post! I especially like the way you showed him around all the new places you were at, taking the time to walk him around the train & such. You were very considerate and careful and took his point of view.

  3. Ania,

    "Some people probably thought we were a bit strange - after all what can a baby understand about all this, right? Right? Wrong, we thought, and kept doing what we thought was right." - I so appreciate how you listen to and follow your instincts, and how much you trust Antek.

    This is just so beautiful. As I was reading,I felt soothed and comforted. I wish all babies could have the opportunity to experience the gentle, respectful care and consideration you show Antek. Thank you so much for sharing with us, and congratulations and lots of joy as you
    continue on this new phase of your lives together!

  4. Thank you so much, I always appreciate the comments... everyone does I guess :)

    Janet, honoured to read 'thank you for inspiration' from you... I hope you know how much we keep being inspired by you in our journey. More to come, hopefully. And I do agree - a lot of people feel strange telling babies what they're doing, what's going on... habit we have to keep reminding ourselves about all the time.

    Christina - Thank you. I really appreciate the comment.

    Lisa - although we have been parents only for the past 10 months (boy, time flies) I think we learnt finally to trust our instincts and not be too concerned about the 'looks'. It takes time though to start believing that you KNOW what you're doing. Both you and Janet have been a great help in getting where we are now.

  5. Hi Ania,

    I was really excited to read that you are living in Auckland! I work in a centre in Auckland and am also doing my Masters of Education at the University of Auckland I travelled to the Pikler Institute to train in 2004 and 2006 and to the USA to do my RIE I training in 2008. It would be great to meet up with you and your family if you are able to.

    Katherine Bussey

    My contact details are: katherine @ thelearningcentre.co.nz

  6. Ania. Lovely post. I second what everyone has already said, it is so wonderful to hear how you communicate with Antek on a regular basis, and during changes. I truly believe that the way in which you handle the changes, and the ways in which you show Antek, will help build within all of you patterns for moving through life with grace and beauty. Enjoy your stay in New Zealand.

    I have spent time there and love the country!


  7. How old was your son? My husband is stationed in Italy for 2 1/2 years without us and we will be going to visit soon for 3 months. BUT first, to be able to afford it, we are moving all of our stuff to my mother in laws and will be staying with her when we get back from Italy until we can formulate a better plan/budget or a miracle happens. I would love some advice on this. By the way, my son Hudson is 18 months.