They say nothing is more stressful than moving house. From the outset you’re worried whether house offers will be accepted, that buyer’s of your own house won’t pull out, that surveys come back with no nasty surprises and that solicitors do their jobs properly. My fiancée and I managed to overcome these hurdles with relative ease, finally finding out that we had exchanged contracts waiting for our suitcases to arrive in the luggage lounge of Zakynthos airport earlier this summer. Although I would have preferred not to have been calling around removal companies during my blended family holiday, the knowledge of moving house nevertheless stopped the holiday blues kicking in on our return to the UK, knowing we had only days to get packed and moved.
It was a significantly symbolic move for my fiancée. From day one of being in mine and my kids world she has accepted my past. This hasn’t always been easy. Early in our relationship I argued that I never had great desires to leave my old house as I didn’t want to create more upheaval for my children on top of their mother leaving. Initially it was the right thing to do. But as our love grew it was becoming apparent that both of us needed a new start in a house which I didn’t share for years with my ex-wife. It took me more time than my fiancée to arrive at this point but when I finally did I totally got it. We had to move. And in doing so we would need to reassure my kids and make them a part of the adventure.
Finding the house of our dreams was a coincidence however. At the time that my fiancée found it, I was making noises about doing an extension at my old property. One day, whilst walking to the pub, Soon-To-Be Mrs Blended Dad noticed that a house with an extension was up for sale and wanted to take a nosey at how they had completed it. In doing so she also stumbled across the house that I’m sitting in now. Everything about it was ideal: the size; the location; the potential. It seemed too good to be true but here we are now, sitting in it, happy and content.
Although it’s a house of our dreams I was naturally concerned with how my kids would take to it. I need not have wasted such energy however. They love it. My boy is delighted at the huge garden and the fact he has plenty of space to practice free-kicks without the threat of losing a ball over the fence or breaking a window. My girl also loves the garden as the old owners left a huge trampoline. She’s spent hours on the thing, knackering me out just watching her.
Indoors the kids are also content. They are currently in temporary bedrooms but we have sold them the dream of what their rooms will look like when builders complete some structural work upstairs. Even their temporary rooms are a good size and comfortable in truth. To be frank, all of us couldn’t have settled in any better. Even my electrician mate suggesting we need a re-wire didn’t dampen our spirits. These little surprises happen when you purchase a house. All we know is we’re happy.
This evening though I learnt something new about my youngest. I learnt that actually, despite only being three at the time, she was far more emotionally in tune with what was going on when her mother left. I have always gained comfort thinking she was ‘too young’ to remember much but that just wasn’t the case.
Soon-To-Be, myself and my girl had just finished eating our evening meal and were chatting around the dinner table when the subject of the house came round. It went something like this:
My girl: Dad, how did it feel when you moved to your last house?
Me: It wasn’t as fun as I didn’t have two little people with me, only one.
My girl: But you did have two, mummy and my brother.
Me: Mummy isn’t a little person, I was talking about you.
My girl: I’ve moved two times now.
Me: How do you feel about moving?
My girl: Sometimes it is happy and sometimes it’s sad. It’s hard to explain. Do you know what I mean?
Soon-To-Be: What do you mean? Can you explain it?
My girl: Well, moving with you three is happy but when mum moved she did it to be on her own, which I think is sad. I don’t know how to explain it…But life is hard… But life is like that at times.
*Exchange of curious looks between myself and Soon-To-Be*
Me: Why, what’s been the hardest part of your life?
My girl: Probably when I went back to mums because I’d miss you. Because do you remember, I used to cry all the time, didn’t I?
Both Soon-To-Be and I were left stunned at the philosophical mumblings of a five year old. There is something heartbreaking about hearing your young daughter suggesting that life can be ‘hard’ and I wonder where she has heard such a phrase. Of course, she’s absolutely right and as her dad I wouldn’t have been able to protect her from that reality forever. But certainly I’d have preferred it if she had found that out a little later than in her first five years.
Chewing over what we heard later in the evening when the kids were in bed, Soon-To-Be not unreasonably suggested that the fact my daughter recalled these events proves that at that time my little girl found the whole situation traumatic. The thought that she’s actually faced trauma in her little world already, is upsetting to hear as her dad. Looking back, I wish that I was more aware of her feelings. I kind of gained solace in thinking that she was too young to understand and that my son (seven at the time) was the one who needed more emotional support at a difficult time. Clearly I was wrong. Never underestimate what a three year old is thinking and feeling in such scenarios. They may not understand it all but they know how they are being made to feel.
Life is happier for all concerned now. A new house literally opens a door to a new chapter. I hope that both my children experience years of happiness in their new home. There is much to look forward to but clearly I need to be sensitive about the past with both my children, not only the one which I initially thought.