Discomfort is exactly what I felt when my wife and I sat our boys around the kitchen table last September and shared the news: we were moving to Charlotte. And it wasn't about whether we felt it was the right decision for our family - it was how they would feel about it. They who had very little say in the decision; they who would leave the only home, school, church, and town they'd ever known. Would they be good with this? I learned something very quickly in that moment around the kitchen table, something I've been reminded of countless times since: 99% of my own adjustment to this change would be how well they would adjust.
It's a bit of a hopeless feeling you have as a parent because, while there are many aspects of the transition you can manage, there's a whole host of things outside your realm of control. Oh sure, you can make good on promises for Facebook accounts and Carowinds family passes (which, for the record, we have). But you can't control how well some say goodbye to your kids and how well others say hello. Add to that the total lack of any shared experience. I never moved as a kid; my parents still live the same house where I grew up. So many things in life I can speak from the perspective of the wise old sage whose been there before (whether that wisdom is received is a different story entirely). But in this instance, my boys would have to face something I never had to, and there was precious little I could offer from my own experience to prepare them for it. We would learn together. We would create art rather than study science.
While the adjustment hasn't always been smooth and certainly had its bumps in the road, the good news is that the journey has moved in a consistently forward direction; a constant and steady clip at or slightly below the speed limit. This, I was told, was the way it had to be. It takes a year, those who led families through similar transitions said. You'll go through the full cycle, all the holidays, all the experiences in twelve months. Then it's familiar, and you've been there before, and then it'll start feeling like home.
Time, I learned, would be our greatest ally in this art endeavor. Giving thanks for each step forward, big and small.
Which leads me to yesterday - my oldest son's 5th Grade Graduation, or "Promotion" as the above program calls it. Back in late May, he informed his mother and me that his essay, "My Time at Olde Providence," had been selected as one of five to be shared during graduation/promotion. He'd read it to us the week before when it was nothing more than a school assignment. It was a well-written snapshot of the past six months But more than that, the opening paragraph was an honest recounting of that September kitchen table conversation (turns out it was just as uncomfortable for him as it was for us), and the hopeful anxiety of walking into his new class for the very first time, and the mosaic of people here who, in his own words, have been "great teachers and the best friends one could possibly imagine."
Listening and watching my 11-year old stand before his peers and hundreds of family, reading this incredibly poignant, astute, and heart-felt journey of the past half-year, was one of those bursting-with-pride parent moments that I never understood as a kid no matter how many times my parents tried to explain it to me. More than parental pride, though, it assured me that another brick had been cemented in the wall separating our present reality from my greatest fear: that the adjustment would be a long time coming. And the reason, I am convinced, is because he has claimed the journey. He has made it his own. It's no longer him reacting to a decision his parents made nearly a year ago. Now, it is him claiming this change as his new norm - feeling his way as he goes, creating his own new art form.
Which brings me back to this whole parenting thing. What is often more important than worrying about whether a parental decision is "right" or "wrong" is simply covenanting to stick together and love each other no matter what life brings your way, whether you're initiating change or responding to it. The Myers-Briggs "J" in me wishes there was a way to graph this out as some mathematical certainty that could be extrapolated and applied to the rest of life. The person of faith and mystery in me, though, is more than happy to simply feel the way forward, knowing that anything good in life is almost always the result of some combination of time, patience, and tons of grace for the journey. A blank canvas, ready for the latest artistic rendering to grace its surface.