As a mother of two children who have been moved around a lot in the past few years, I know first-hand how challenging it can be for them, and for us. (Believe me, Tim has come home from work to a semi drunk, angry, warthog wife on many occasions.) What seems like a huge adventure to us adults, can be daunting when you’re small. Monty had only just turned three when we left the UK. He wasn’t fully aware of what we were doing; he was more interested in getting on the plane, his headphones on, the movie started and gorging on a cheese board, than where we were going. Poppy was 6. She had no front teeth, a sweet little bob haircut, a beautiful English accent, and was as pure as the driven snow. She was the one who understood she had to say goodbye to her first friends. She waved farewell to the only school she had known, the teachers, her grandparents, her home. This is colossal when you’re six, not only saying goodbye to everyone and everything but also comprehending that. It’s a big deal. We all think the kids just adapt, and yes they do to a certain extent, but who knows what they’re really thinking? We tried our hardest to prepare them, showed them maps and pictures; told them what we would be seeing, talked in comedy Aussie accents, researched the schools. We watched countless YouTube clips of boxing kangaroos, and even bought vegemite for a pre Australia feast! Monty was an enormous Marmite monster and was horrified by the whole Vegemite catastrophe. Oh how the tables have turned!
You can try to prepare your children until the cows come home, but sometimes it’s the feeling in their hearts that you don’t anticipate and just can’t coach them for.
Poppy has always been our ‘home bird’. She knows what she likes and she likes what she knows. Moving to Australia was pushing it for Poppy, but we knew it would be the best thing for her in the long run. We knew we had to go with the flow, weather the storm and pray! Thankfully, she took to it like a duck to water, and two years in, a serious tan, an awkward obsession with boys, and a handful of meltdowns, it’s as if she’s been here forever. I thought it may be a good opportunity now we’re ‘settled’ in Melbourne, to ask Poppy her opinion on moving, being the new girl, and the challenges she has faced on the other side of the world. I’m doing this interview for my sake really, but also to show other parents who may be about to move their kids away from the lives they know and love, just what an adventure it’ll turn out to be. (Fingers crossed for an upbeat positive interview!) Hold on I’ll just cut the power to the tv and rip her iPod from her claws so I have her full attention!
An interview with Poppy
How did you feel when we told you we were moving to Australia?
I felt really shocked and sad, because I’d never moved before and I didn’t know what it was going to be like. Actually it was really fun. We never did go to that waterpark you told us about mum!! (oops)
What did you imagine it would be like?
I didn’t really know. I thought I wasn’t going to make any friends, and I was scared, but actually it’s been really good.
What has been the best thing about living in Australia?
Everybody is so nice and friendly, and we have a really big house. The weather is nicer, and we can go to the beach. I go outside to play all the time, and I like all the sporty things here. Also, we go on better holidays now, and mum likes camping. (Ey? Did she say I like camping?)
Is there anything you wish we had done differently?
I wish I had gone to a smaller school in Sydney. It was too big, that was scary. I like small schools because it’s easier to make friends and you know everybody.
What do you miss from home, if anything?
I miss my friends and family the most. I miss everything about them. I don’t miss anything else. Oh no… hold on… What’s that coffee shop called…. Café Nero! I miss the hot chocolate.
What advice would you give to a child who’s been told they’re moving abroad?
Don’t be afraid, because you’ll have a great time, you’ll make lots of new friends. Also, you always have someone to talk to, your mum and dad, or even your friends back home. Sometimes you get treats from the teachers when you’re new.
How do you keep in touch with your friends? Is it easy?
I keep in touch with my friends on Skype and Messenger. I got an iPod for Christmas so now I can text and email whenever I like. It’s so easy and it makes me feel like I’m still at home sometimes. I don’t like writing letters though. I sometimes play games with my friends whilst we’re on skype, even though its morning there and night time here. That’s weird!
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
I would go back to England to see everyone. After that I’d come back here of course.
Phew, there wasn’t a dramatic revelation about how darn unhappy she is. I think it’s a breakthrough for the Wilson’s. Just giving myself a pat on the back (fat).
It is a huge adventure, being away from home, travelling to new places, meeting new people and drinking lots of beer (it’s very hot you know, you get thirsty!). Your children may hate you for making them move, they may act like little bastards just to spite you, but don’t worry, you’re doing the right thing, just breathe, and try not to strangle them too often. It gets easier…. they tell me.
As we all move around more than we probably should, we need to be aware that initially the journey might seem a little overwhelming to a small one. Hell, it’s overwhelming to us, the exhausted plate spinners, trying to keep everyone and everything together, as our husbands go off to their new jobs and we finally realise the horror of not having a babysitter on hand!! My advice to all parents looking to up sticks and move with their little nippers would be:
- Go to the library and seek out picture books about adventures, travel and anything even remotely related, enjoy them as a family, not just alone, with a glass of wine once the kids are tucked up.
- Buy an atlas, show them the maps, buy a globe, really teach them about the destination. The good bits only, they don’t need to know crime rates, murder statistics or the rising problem of homelessness in your chosen city.
- If your children are old enough, get them an address book and ask their friends to fill in their details in pencil. You can rub out the ones you aren’t keen for them to ‘keep in touch with’. High five for that little tip!
- Ask relatives to chat to your children about how they are feeling. Sometimes they don’t like to worry us parents, and let’s face it, moving is hard enough without constantly having to sit down and go through it all AGAIN!
- Arrange a party for your children to say farewell to their buddies. Hopefully your clever friends will bring handy gifts for them to play with en route, and it’s a good chance to let your hair down with people you really know. It won’t be long before you’re the ‘new mum’ getting smashed for a bit of confidence and totally over doing it, as everyone looks on horrified. Making ‘mum friends’ is tough; if the kids don’t let you down, your manic “I don’t get out much” drinking and foul language soon will. I know; your friends at home think its hysterical when you nickname them “ball sack” and “saggy knockers”. Trust me, strangers don’t find it funny… at all!
- Throw away all gifts of lollies, sweeties, noisy or glowing toys and DO NOT under any circumstances take them on board a long haul flight! (Trust me!)
- Plan some day trips to look forward to when you arrive. Believe me, you’ll need to get out; let the children kick the living daylights out of each other in the fresh air, and find the local dog poo to trudge through…in flip flops/thongs. If all else fails, at least you might find your local pub!
- Join some social media groups to meet people, ask questions and chat to a few weeks prior to departure. I know, it seems corny, but it’s easily the best way to get an insight into your new life, or how you’re not going to live it. Either way it can be a great way to make emergency friends for you and your children; believe me you’ll need them, and beggars can’t be choosers.
I guess the best advice from one mother to another is: Do anything you can to make the ride as smooth as possible for you, for the kids, and also for the people you are leaving behind. And when you’re sat on your new veranda, sipping chardonnay, the kids bickering in the background, at least you’ll know you tried your flippin’ best! What more can anyone ask for?
Someday, everything will make perfect sense. So for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason!