Every corner has been cut; every quarter has been squeezed. Diligently, doggedly, sometimes drearily, you and your spouse (if you have one) have toiled for what seems your entire lifetime to attain one shining spectacular end—the Family Homestead.
Giddily and even a little tearily, you call your beloved brood of loin-fruit to the tender circle of your parental embrace and announce, “Kids, pack your stuff. We’re moving to the country!”
There are cheers. There is palpable excitement. There is one child not jumping up and down and with a distinct cloud over her head. “What ever is the matter, my dear?!” you exclaim in dismay.
The child in question does not move and seems for all the world to be carved in granite. Only her eyes turn their full attention to you, burning a hole in yours for a full minute before she utters three words slowly, clearly and unblinkingly: “I’m not going.”
Now, this child may be 16, or she may be 6, but the one thing you absolutely positively must NOT do at this point is laugh. OK, two things—you must also not get angry.
Whatever the age of the offspring in question, their feelings about such a huge change in their life must be considered.
Now you could, at this point, dissolve into a puddle of shame, pull your child close and weep, “I’m sorry, honey. What were we THINKING? Of course we will stay right here in the Mountain View Apartments, overlooking the spectacular Fast Food and Chain Store Range across the street! Now here’s twenty dollars… toddle off to the mall and make it all better.”
You could take immediate offense and holler, “We have pert near kilt ourselves getting to this point and you are NOT an adult—you are our CHILD for pity’s sake. You will do as we say and live where we go and when we say ‘jump’ you will ask ‘how high?’ DO we make ourselves abundantly CLEAR? If you don’t like it—grow up, get a job, and move your sorry behind back to the city.”
Now, the first reaction will make you miserable till your child grows up and moves out, at which point you will realize that she has spent all your money at the mall and you no longer have the financial ability to move to the country. The second reaction will make your child miserable till she moves out which, in turn, guarantees that YOUR life will be miserable, at least for the next (fill in the blank) years.
May I suggest as your third alternative, the Rules of Ate.
These are not really rules; they’re more like steps.
And they have nothing to do with food.
And there are not eight of them.
But we are not talking about ME and my lack of cohesiveness. We are talking about a very serious problem with your child, and I’m just trying to help. You may thank me later. Or not.
Moving Kids to the Country Rule One: Validate
The idea of leaving everything familiar behind and moving to a new place, even if it’s only a few blocks away is stressful for the most hardened adult. Now, think about the little person who’s maybe never known another house or neighborhood in their life. If the child in question is old enough to go to school and have friends, the problem is insurmountable in their minds. Talk about and really listen to her fears and issues regarding the move and reassure her that you will do everything possible to make the transition a smooth one and promise (and mean it) that she will NOT lose touch with her old friends and will have a richer life for the making of new ones.
Moving Kids to the Country Rule Two: Recreate
If you as a family have not spent much time without walls around you and ceilings above you, now is the time to take up camping. Work into it slowly. Start by taking Sunday drives out in the country with a picnic lunch. Move up to a day trip to somewhere outdoors encompassing several meals al fresco and finish your outdoors initiation with a cookout—marshmallows, campfire, S’mores, the whole nine yards. While very few of us will actually be camping on our properties, getting to be relaxed in the out of doors is a key ingredient to being content in a rural setting. If you can find homesteading workshops or reenactments to attend and participate in, all the better.
Moving Kids to the Country Rule Three: Acclimate
Spend time in your new neighborhood. Go to the grocery store, the feed store, and the playground. Visit the school and meet the teachers. If you are too far away to do this in person, take advantage of the Worldwide Web and travel via the ‘net. Collect souvenirs from your new home in the form of newspapers, mom-and-pop restaurant menus, current school newspapers, park information, and community fliers about local events. Every little town has something that they are proud of – be it the yearly Marsh Marigold Festival or possession of the World’s Longest Tapeworm. Find this and learn about it. Acclimation should also include finding comfort items, if only for reference. Where is the closest mall? The nearest Chuck E. Cheese? Knowing that these things are only X miles away will take the sting out of being thrust into unknown territories.
Moving Kids to the Country Rule Four: Meditate
Brainstorm about what will be good about moving to the country. Think about what all of you will be doing in the way of chores once you are moved and mentally move through the days on the ‘stead even while living in the ‘hood. With your youngster’s friends, figure out a plan to keep them in touch, and start now—thanks to the internet, they can share via social media, blogs, email, and even websites. There’s always the telephone—buy a certain amount of minutes just for your child to call friends with every month. If you are not moving too far away, plan and carry out a slumber party at your new place, so your child’s friends have a concrete place in their thoughts to envision your child instead of just “to the country” or “that stupid farm”.
Moving Kids to the Country Rule Five: Instigate
Make sure you save some of the fun stuff for your children to do. If you are building a house, take their ideas seriously and if they are reasonably safe, do not break too many rules of physics, and are within your budget, let ‘em do it. Ditto for renovating an existing house. In the grand scheme of things, will there be a negative shift in the universe if your child’s room is painted purple? And if you are honest, aren’t the ideas of a treehouse bed, a slide into the indoor tub, or a skylight for stargazing before drifting off to sleep all pure genius? From planning, to budgeting, to shopping, to building and finishing, letting your child participate in this aspect of the homestead will cause her to set roots in it. Try to find out what outside aspect she finds appealing as well. Is she interested in gardening, animal husbandry, food preservation, record keeping, soap making, yak herding? Tell her to go for it and help her make it a successful venture—not so much financially as soul satisfyingly, but if it surprises you and brings in some cash, even better.
Moving Kids to the Country Rule Six: Create
If you and your family have worked through Rules One through Five, you are ready. Ready for the adventure of all of your collective lives. Ready for the tests, trials, successes, and failures, and constant everyday learning that is referred to by those who flat don’t know any better as the Simple Life.