Today's post is from Ruth who is about to move from Edinburgh to London with her toddler. We moved to our house when I was 7 months pregnant with Blondie Boy which was hard enough so I can't imagine making a big move with a toddler--and his questions!
My son Tom is two and a half, and ours is the only house he has ever known. He was born in springtime. On a beautiful sunny day, when he was three days old, we brought him home from hospital in a taxi. We walked through our garden, which was just starting to bloom, and walked in the front door, where we spent ten minutes carrying him around and showing him each of our rooms.
‘This is your bedroom,’ we said. ‘Sorry it’s so pink.’
‘Here is where we’ll take baths together, and here is the sofa, which is awfully good for snuggling on. Here is a big old table which will be good for hiding under when you’re a bigger boy, and this is the kitchen… where you can bang on saucepans with wooden spoons and spill flour on the floor.’
Tom has, of course, spent the occasional night in other places - at his Granny’s flat by the sea, and in various hotels, apartments and family houses when we've been on holiday.
But this is very much his home. He knows which way to turn out of the gate if we're on our way to nursery, and he knows to go the other way if we're going to the store. He knows which shelf his books are on, which cupboard his plates are in, and not to run too fast into the bathroom in case he slips and cuts his lip again. He knows he can’t go out the front door and down the steps without one of us to hold his hand. No matter which room of the house we're in, if he hears the front gate squeak open, he dashes through to the den, and climbs on the chair by the window, shouting ‘Who is it? Who’s coming to Tom’s house?'
We are moving in a few weeks - leaving Edinburgh for London - and we have tied ourselves up in knots working out how to tell him. We didn’t know when would be the right time – we didn’t want to leave it too late and spring it on him, but nor did we want to tell him too early and have him worrying. How do you tell a two year old that their house won’t belong to them for much longer?
But with that toddler intuition, that crazy sixth sense, he seems have worked most of it out himself. Between hearing snatches of conversations and phone calls, watching the surveyors come and measure our rooms, and having his dinky toy traffic jams tidied up every time we’ve had a viewing, he has figured out that something pretty major is going on.
I got home from shopping the other day and said in my usual cheery way
'Here we are, it’s Tom’s house.’
‘No,’ he said, ‘this isn't Tom’s house anymore. Tom’s getting a new house.’
I was a little blown away, but tried not to let it show. ‘Does that make you happy or sad?’ I asked.
‘I am very sad. I will miss it. Can I take all my trucks with me?’
Since Tom made the first move and broached the subject we have been much more open with him. When I was in London a couple of weeks ago, he knew that I was looking for somewhere new to live. Yesterday he walked me around the house and told me all the things he wanted to take and all the things he wanted to leave.
‘That wardrobe is too big,’ he said. ‘And that table is ugly, we can leave that.’
He is like the interfering mother-in-law I never had.
Tom has always loved books, so we bought This is London – a brilliant picture book by Miroslav Sasek – and are looking at it before bed every night. Tom is now full of chat about tube trains, statues and Big Ben. The book was written in the fifties, so he may be disappointed by the lack of apple carts in Covent Garden.
Tonight he was lying on the floor, reading another book as I cooked his dinner. He looked up at me suddenly and said 'I am going to be very happy in my new house. I like London. It's exciting.’
His dad and I looked at each other and smiled.
‘What are you most excited about?’
‘Riding on the red buses,’ he said, and then got back to his book.
What do you think the best way is to discuss a house move with your toddler? Is there a storybook you can recommend with deals with the subject? How much information is it wise to share, and when? I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts and experiences...