Tuesday 22 March 2011
Dealing with change
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.