We’re moving house today, and I am trying to pack with a toddler.
He’s past the toddling stage now, though. He’s a runner. “Come back here with my underwear!” I yell fruitlessly as he hurtles off, giggling, to strew my underwear drawer contents down the stairs. I console myself that underwear is small and can fit into the crevaces that are left in any boxes if I don’t manage to find it all.
He’s also a jumper. Packing up a box of toys, kneeling down by the foot of his bed, I brace myself for the leap – blindly facing the other way, I can still feel the moment he is in midair, and he comes down in a piggyback/bearhug with his arms around my neck, laughing like a maniac as his feet land on my kidneys and his 13kgs bellyflops straight on my spine. Then he is off, again, for round three hundred, to do it all again.
Moving sucks. Moving with a toddler especially sucks.
I haven’t even made it to the far end with the screaming and displacement, the I miss my old room that I know will be coming. Just the present moment when I find he’s stopped leaping to go tip out my entire collection of buttons is headache enough for me right now. Particularly combined with the discovery my partner has boxed all the coffee cups, and indeed the coffee.
I make myself a plastic cup of hot water and sit down to feel sorry for myself.
The suggestions I have to offer from a week of boxing things can be listed in descending order of usefulness.
It concerns me a little that I can’t think of a fourth thing, but I am going through my mental list of things we have tried together this week, my little man and I, and I can’t say a single one of them has gone well.
Getting him to help me? Underwear drawer catastrophe. The original button hurling incident; the one above was just round two when he got bored of jumping on me and remembered how much fun the buttons were the first time. He’s not a great helper.
Or actually he is, until he very abruptly really isn’t. He’ll help you pack, but then he wants to unpack, either when you’re finished or more likely mid-drawer.
I can’t send him outside to play – there is no outside. Just the road. That’s why we’re moving.
I haven’t managed to make him any activities that he can play by himself to keep him entertained while I work – the ones I can think of all end up with mess, paint or shaving cream or a very high risk of something being embedded in the carpet at the end of it, and when we’re moving out in six days now is not the time to dye the carpet bright blue. Not when we are so close.
And the non-messy activities don’t seem to hold his attention. They’re not as interesting as the banging and crashing Mummy is doing. Besides, he doesn’t have to drive his car over around the tracks in the kitchen. He can drive them through the tunnels made by the carefully sorted piles of clothes; winter and summer and too small and too big and over Mummy herself, of course, because she just bent over and really that is asking for it.
Now that all the piles are blurred back into one big mess, I give up and put the TV on. And it works.
Also visitors. Don’t invite them over to help pack, or to help entertain your kid. Just invite them over. Some of them will offer to help all on their own, peer pressured by seeing you work, which never ceases to amuse me because I’ve done it myself when visiting other packing houses. But just as good are the exhausted friends who will sit on the chair in the kitchen and keep you sane. Having someone there to witness the insanity you are going through, often that is enough.
So even though I’m sweating buckets on this 39-degree day and just realised that the decision to use the towels to help pad my glassware means that I can’t have a shower, I am feeling quite Zen about the whole thing.
Sure, when he gets home tonight my partner will probably say, “You do know we’re moving tomorrow and the house still looks like we live in it?”
Sure, I can’t have a coffee for a couple of days, nor recall which box the supplies went in to be able to offer one to gracious friends who are helping us move once we arrive at the new house.
Sure, I hope to never have to do it again.
But my little boy and I, we are making memories.
Once I finish sweeping up the glass from a carelessly placed wine glass and tell my barefooted son that yes, he can get down off the table now, I will look back on this and laugh.
And with the new house comes a yard, and a pet, and a new beginning. It will all be worth it in the end.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem