Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Home plate

My ideal house in 1976, when I was six years old. I made this plate on my grandmother's kitchen counter.

We are moving into our home! We just signed the papers and it's ours.

(This is, by the way, a different home from one I mentioned in a previous post. That one didn't work out, which was deeply disappointing at the time. But now we adore this one. Things have a way of working out, you know?)

We have moved a lot, and I've collected some anecdotal evidence about how moves, whether from one house to another or from one state to another, are HUGE events in a young child's life. They require a lot of conversation to help a child understand. If a child in your class or family is moving this summer, it's worth checking his or her understanding of what's going on.

For example: Before a previous move, my then-5-year-old daughter and I were perusing an online real estate site. In one group of house photos, we paused on a little girl's pink bedroom. "I like that bed," Leah said, "so let's get this house." She had made the perfectly logical assumption that moving house meant leaving all our things, too, her toys and dolls and bed, and assuming all of their things. How stressful that must have been for her, to think that. It was a good lesson for me in thinking about a young child's perspective and frame of reference, and making sure I provided all the important details.

When my son was five, we lived in Alabama, and we knew when we moved there in June that we'd move away the following June. A few weeks before my son's birthday in December, I asked him who he'd like to invite to his party. "Well," he said, "maybe we won't be here for my birthday." So, when my husband and I said, "Just one year," we knew what we meant, but my little boy couldn't yet envision what a year was. He only knew that some day soon, bags would be packed. I almost cried when I realized how much uncertainty he was living in. Another great lesson on a young child's need for context and examples and lots of detail to understand a big idea.
One more: We lived in our current neighborhood for two years, then moved to Ohio for one year, then moved back here to this current rental house last summer. So my children's friends have seen us take off before. This came very clear a few days ago when we told my son's best friend that we bought our house. He grew pale, gulped, and said in a very small voice, "Is it in Virginia?" Never mind that he knew we were looking for a house in the neighborhood. He knew that we'd left before, so as far as he was concerned, we were perfectly capable of moving again to Ohio or Timbuktu. I decided we needed an object lesson, so I loaded my kids and the three friends they had over to play in the car, and I drove them to the new place, just up the street from their elementary school. "This is our house," I announced in my best radio announcer voice, "and we're staying right here."
Everybody cheered.


  1. What a wonderful post, Launa. I moved a lot growing up. My mom tended to try to get us all focused on and excited about the next place, but there was still a lot anxiety.

    We used to order clothing from the Sears catalog (I know, I'm old) and I had a hard time understanding that I wouldn't actually look like the kid modeling the clothing in the picture. In fact, I would refuse anything that was on one of the models for years. I don't think my mom ever got that and it never occurred to me to articulate it. It's important to make sure we understand how our children see things.

  2. Oh, yes, I too remember the Sears catalog. We lived in Germany for a while when I was a kid, and my mother ordered my brother and I our wardrobes from Sears. There would be an enormous delay--months!--between ordering and receiving. Long enough that I was surprised by what came out of that box...

  3. I think a lot about home, and it is one of the threads I use in my personal art. In dream symbology, a house is your head or self. Thanks for such a lovely post. It provokes memories and a deep sensitivity.

  4. Thanks for this comment, Marla. When I studied creative writing, we often discussed what house and home symbolized, especially in a short story, where this imagery frequently appears. Just as you point out in dream symbology, it is often a metaphor for Self, or the inner life. Rich material!

  5. I am always amazed at the misconceptions I miss for ages in my own daughters and my students. Once I get it the misconceptions seem so obvious. Until then I'll have been clueless for weeks, months, sometimes years. Sigh.