It was just a matter of time, really. Everything had been ticking along really well, so it was a bit of a shock when the kids fell to pieces within days of each other.
We’ve been talking openly about the move, about leaving Singapore, about how they were coping and everything seemed rosy, but all it takes is a playground incident, a photo, and what they’ve left behind comes flooding right back.
For H, it was the school camp. She was really excited about going to Phillip Island…until the night before.
“Why are you making me go? No-one ever goes on camp after being at school for only one week!” She burst into tears and no amount of reassurance could calm her down. And we understood – it was completely reasonable for her to feel nervous about a trip away with complete strangers so soon after starting a new school in what is mostly for a her, a foreign country.
We chose not to point out it had been her choice to go on the camp but instead tackled the task of finding out what had caused the emotional outburst. Eventually we figured out that she was worried about no-one wanting to sit next to her on the bus. That – and the memory of the camp she’d been on earlier this year with her Singapore buddies – was weighing heavily on her mind.
For T, it was Monday at school. His little mate was away and although he’d played with some of the other kids too, they decided he was ‘too tall’ to play and excluded him from their games. Luckily H saw how upset he was in the playground and looked after him, but his confidence had taken a massive hit.
When he came home that afternoon, he was really sad. “I just want my friends back…” he sobbed. “They don’t care that I’m tall.” OK, swallow that lump, blink rapidly and try not to think of how you’ve emotionally scarred your children by moving – again – while explaining that things will get better in time…
But the one that really threw me was S. When they’re so young, you think that they’ll just roll with the move and it won’t affect them too much, but once again I was proven wrong.
Out of the blue one morning, S became quite distraught and he came over for a hug.
“I miss school,” he cried. “I want Miss M and Miss K.” And then he rattled off the list of kids in his class. “I want to go there now!”
S had rarely mentioned Singapore in the whole time we’ve been back, and quite simply, appeared happy just to have the backyard and a few catchups with his little friend E. But obviously he’s thinking a lot but probably doesn’t have the vocabulary to verbalise what’s he’s feeling. And it was harder to explain to him why we couldn’t just ‘go back’ and see everyone – he clearly has no concept of time and distance!
Anyway, fast-forward a few days – H had a great time at camp and she made a few new friends; T’s mate was back on Tuesday and all was well in his world again; and S had a playdate with E and was happy.
I know there’ll be more rough patches ahead as they try to fit in, but as we keep telling them, each day will get a little easier. And like all our other relocations, it’s just going to take a bit of time.