Rock Paper Scissors -or- Helping Kids Thrive in Transition (Part Two: Paper)

First things first – If you haven’t read part one of of “Rock, Paper, Scissors”  you can click here to catch up

 

Jones JThis blog post is built entirely on the foundation of two painful realities.  The first is universally understood and the second should make sense soon.

 

1.  Kids grow up too fast

2.  Transition costs time

 

You rarely hear a parent complaining about how long it took to raise their children.  Unless their kids are 42 and still living at home.  That’s a different demographic.  I’m talking about the parents who are lugging boxes and suitcases into a college dorm room while frantically quizzing their 18 year olds on every last bit of moral, legal and practical advice that they have ever offered from birth to the present moment.  Those are the parents who will be standing in the university parking lot until midnight, stunned and confused because earlier that week they were pulling light bright pegs out of that kids nose and bribing them with chocolate to eat something green.

 

Kids grow up too fast.

 

The plot thickens with kids in transition.  My daughter is 10 and has lived in 7 different cities in the US and China.  Even though we are hoping to settle in for a while we are also currently living in a rented apartment while we look for a house . . . to rent while we look for a house to buy.  Transition has been a huge part of our daughters life.

I would like to pause here to quote myself and then I will also make a confession:

 

“There can be tremendous stability in a home that is in consistent transition when kids know  . . . really know . . . that some things never change.”

 

That was my statement in the first installment of this three parter and I’m sticking to it.  I believe it and my wife and I are committed to living it.

However, I will also confess that each transition knocks the tar out of our normalness (now a word) and we become all but consumed with the pursuit of a new normal.  It begins with the basics like, “where is the grocery store?” but it encompasses every part of a normal life.

  • “How do we get around this city?”
  • “Where is it safe?  Where is it not safe?”
  • “How do we hook up the internet? television? phone?”
  • “How do we pay for our internet? television? phone?”
  • “Where is the good food? the bad food? the cheap food, our favorite food?”
  • “Where will be buy clothes?  shoes? batteries? cold medicine?”
  • “Where will our kids go to school?”
  • “Who will their new friends be?”
  • “Who will our new friends be?”
  • “Where will we worship? Where will we go for fun?  Where will we go on a date?”

Every no brainer from our previous normal state suddenly becomes a brainer all over again.  Decisions take 7 times as long because we either have to Google it or phone a friend before we can form an even slightly educated judgment.  The double whammy is that, while our home is still rock solid, it is anything but normal AND while we are living in this constant state of abnormality we are spending an exaggerated portion of our days trying to discover what our new normal would even look like.

Six months.  A year.  Two.  I think it’s different for everyone but still I believe it is always true . . .

 

Transition costs time.

 

Meanwhile our kids are growing up too fast.

We can’t afford to be spending time finding normal when our kids are going to college next week.  That’s where the paper comes in.

If Rock is stability.

Paper is documentation.

 

We have not yet given up our hopes of a machine (or at least an app) that causes time to stand still however, until that is released we don’t want to miss a thing.  When this amazing adventure of our children’s youth is finished we want to be able to read the story over and over again in a dozen different ways.  Fun ways.  Creative ways.

 

Here’s what I’m discovering about documenting through transition

  • The act of documenting can actually make the adventure more adventurous.
  • Reflecting well can help your kids process transition.
  • Creatively keeping track of your story will give your kids a healthy connection to the pieces that they have let go of.
  • Seeing your whole story helps you stay focused on how great the story is versus how crummy your current transition is.
  • Celebrating where you have been can get your kids (and you) excited about where your going.
  • Really good documentation is a form of stability.
  • I am never letting my kids leave the house . . . you know . . . when we get a house.

 

And here are five suggestions of the practical sort (hint – don’t get hung up on the paper part, it’s a metaphor)

Some we have tried.  Some we want to.

 

1.  Spell your name

You’ve seen this right?  City names spelled out using pictures of architectural landmarks that look like letters.  We had a blast searching for “letters” at an ancient cultural landmark in the city where our daughter was born. We finally found them all —  “JONES” (just in case you can’t make it out).  We came away with a powerful memory from a once in a lifetime trip and a meaningful picture to hang on the wall.  Boom.

 

JONES

 

For more about our adoption roots tour read these

 

2.  Time Lapse Photography

Watching your kids grow right in front of your eyes may be painful but it could also be pretty cool.  For homebodies, choosing a backdrop and snapping a quick pic once a year will leave you with a great line of pictures and an even greater set of memories. If you’re a regular transitioner, however,  it may not really work to have your kids stand in front of the house on the last day of school every year since you may not own that same house next year and may be subject to arrest if the new owners press charges.  Choose something you can carry with you.  We have pictures of my daughter starting when she was three wearing one of my shirts.  I think it will be funnier with my son to have one when he is 16 and wearing one of his own shirts from when he was three.  Lots of options.

Ra Green Shirt

 

3.  World Map Wall

If you’re a world traveler document it on your kids wall with the biggest world map you can find.  Better yet, paint a whole wall with a world map.  If your kids are TCK’s they have the luxury of seeing the world in relationships instead of stereotypes.  It’s also likely that they have lots of people whom they love that don’t live near them.  Print pictures of their friends and family and stick them on the map where they live.  Circle the places you have traveled.  Put a star by the places you want to travel.  Poke pins in the airports they have been to.  Go crazy.  The whole thing will keep them connected to people they care about and let them celebrate the fact that they are global citizens.

 

4.  Flag Brag Bags

Kids who travel have a sense of pride in their adventure.  Why not let them show it off a bit?  Every time your family travels to a new country order an iron on patch of that countries flag and let them put it on a special bag that they can carry with them.  There are billions of such patches online and they are generally dirt cheap. You’ll be amazed at how excited your kids get when they are able to add a new patch.  We went to Niagara Falls this summer and made absolutely sure that we crossed the bridge just so we could get our Canada patch.

Bonus tip:  Two words will make you a hero.  “Airports count”

Ra's Brag Flags-2

 

5.  This Day in History

I love this one especially for world travelers but it works for anyone.  Wherever you are on your kids birthday, buy a newspaper.  People pay money for those little books that tell you the price of fuel and who won the Nobel Peace Prize in the year you were born.  How much better would it be if you had world, national and local news, weather and sports for every one of your birthdays?

My friends brother has such papers and lined up next to each other they make a timeline of his environment based on his birthday.  The most interesting point is that he was born in America on September 11th.  Starting in 2002 the front page showed roughly the same picture and gradually showed our country being able to move ahead.  Somber but very cool.

I love that story because my son shares his birthday.

 

Think of it this way – when you finally leave the university parking lot and return to your empty nest . . . what do you want to look at while you wonder what just happened?

 

I’d love to hear how you are documenting your kids who are growing up too fast -OR – How you did document your kids who already grew up too fast?  

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