Chez nous means ‘our house’, or more technically, ‘near us’. It’s such a common phrase in speaking French, and I love the familiarity and intimacy it suggests. Near us, in our hearts, in our home. Chez nous, moving to a new place is a constant and familiar process. One that we have done oh-so-many times, and yet it becomes difficult in new ways each time. It is hard.
A few days ago, while my children were zoned out eating breakfast, I asked them, “What advice would you give to someone who is moving to a new country, state, city, or new school?” Their heads popped up and they were quick to answer this one. They actually stopped what they were doing and were ready with thoughtful answers! This shouldn’t surprise me. They are experts at being the new kid, and while they probably long to stay in one place, there are things they know and are becoming that could only be learned in this state of constant change.
I experience some guilt as a mother yanking them from familiarity with schools, friends and church. I, myself, moved around a lot as a young child, but really spent my growing up years in one place, one home, one school, one set of friends. Sometimes I actually longed to have a chance to move, to be the new girl, have a reset and meet new people. My adult life has given me plenty of this ‘newness’ which is wonderful, challenging, heart wrenching, and beautiful all at once.
My oldest is fourteen now and his answers to my question about advice were smart and thoughtful. My nearly eleven-year-old was practical and full of self-care tips. My six-year old loves the vacation-like feel of the early parts of moving, and my three-year-old is just happy to be with us all.
These are their tips and words of wisdom for other kids, even adults, who move or have change happening in their lives:
- Find a good book series, great music, podcasts, and movies that you are excited about and save them! Don’t read/listen/watch them until you are driving away from your old house and friends. This gives you something to look forward to in the weeks of relative loneliness and chaos that follows until you are settled in and are making new friends.
- Make sure to get all your friends’ contact information before you leave school and church so that you know you can stay in touch. Reach out and say thank you to teachers and friends who have meant a lot to you and have been nice to you.
- When you get to your new house, get settled in your room or space. Imagine where you will put things like your bed, your books, your toys. Walk through the whole house and guess where mom and dad will put the couches and where the pictures will go on the walls.
- Play hide-and-seek when all the boxes arrive. Use the boxes for forts and castles and slide down the stairs. Hide in all the closets and find all the secret places.
- Be open at school and with new people. Start conversations, but don’t talk too much because you will be weird. Ask questions and give compliments and say thank you. If you never talk, you won’t make friends. Pretend to have confidence even if you are nervous or scared, and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.
- Roll with changes and the unexpected. When your schedule at school gets changed seven times, try to look at the positives–maybe you get to meet that many more people and learn the whole school layout way better than you would have otherwise. Maybe you discover you love choir when you never would have chosen it before.
Matt, my husband, capped off our tips and advice session at breakfast with this, “you have to maintain relationships in the family because that is who we are with through all of this. When we focus on Christ, everything is better for all of us.” I love his insight. We move for his career and he carries so much as he begins a new job with new colleagues each time. It is fascinating to me just how many people do what we do, and do it so well. We are just one family, navigating the life that we have chosen and finding the beauty in it.
This window into my children’s hearts and what they are experiencing right now is sacred space. I know I am inspired to hear of their courage, their sense of adventure and making something difficult more fun. All of these tips are so applicable to adults, as well. I’ll share my own advice in Chez Nous, part 2, later this week.