Balancing Act

Even a good move can trigger surprising regrets

Embracing the new doesn't mean letting go of the old, especially for kids

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Moving day issues

Moving day issues (Blend Images/via Getty Images / August 29, 2011)

I just moved. In hindsight, I underprepared.

There was the forgot-to-reserve-my-building's-freight-elevator thing. Which resulted in the reschedule-the-movers-at-the-last-minute thing.

And I didn't really pack with what you'd call a strategy. We're still missing most of my daughter's shoes. My son performed his camp recital in pajamas.

I kept telling myself the details would fall into place. Or not. I didn't really care, to be honest. My kids were so unequivocally delighted to leave our cramped high-rise for a house with a patch of grass and their own bedrooms that I let a singular goal — inhabiting this new home — take up all my head space.

Shortly after we bought the house, my daughter mounted a campaign to move in before the previous owners vacated. My son told me all he wanted for his August birthday was to live in our new house.

Details? Whatever.

So here's what I really underprepared for: the sobbing.

The first night we all slept in the new house — after gleeful squeals at their new rooms, backyard gymnastics, sidewalk roller skating and laughter-filled porch swinging — they both went to bed in tears.

Sobbing for their old life. In the condo they couldn't wait to leave.

I could relate, of course. Loving a new place doesn't mean you don't long for the old place. That's true whether the old place is an actual, physical dwelling or a place in time, shaped by memories and nostalgia.

I know this.

The tears still caught me off guard. I forget that my kids' feelings are complicated. They love stuff (Legos, pillow fights). They hate stuff (mosquitoes, bedtime).

They don't really do ambivalent.

The house would fall into the love category. And that would be that.

Except that it's not.

As I lay in my daughter's bed that teary night, I recalled a piece of advice from Adele Faber, the famed child psychologist and co-author of "Siblings Without Rivalry" (W.W. Norton).

I interviewed Faber once for a story about kids adjusting to a new baby. She told me about a dad and his toddler son. The boy wanted his dad to send the baby back. Too loud, too needy, too small to play. The dad listened patiently.

"So you wish he were old enough to play with you?" he finally asked.

"Yeah," the son answered. "But sometimes he holds my finger."

The dad answered, "It seems like maybe you have two feelings. Sometimes you wish he'd just go away and never come back. And sometimes you kind of like having him around. I'm glad you told me."

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