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Packing the Toddler

Packing the Toddler

September 26th, 2006  · stk

At 3 years-old, Alex cannot quite grasp the full meaning of our 1200-km U-Haul move. It's created some funny, touching and endearing moments. Read about them .................

The Oop: On Packing, Boxes & Upcoming U-Haul Move

Two years ago, when we moved to Edmonton, the Oop was not yet a year old. She wasn't walking. In fact, she was just learning to crawl. Moving was easy ... we just put her in a box! Now, Alex is nearly three years old and there isn't a box big enough to hold her.

Packing the house with a toddler has been quite the experience. On the plus side, she wants to help. On the minus side, she want to help. :-/

There have been moments of levity and precious memories, as she grapples with the whole concept of moving, trying to help and with some of the things she says. I try really hard to remember that she'll only be this young, innocent and cute for a short while and that I really should cherish these moments. I don't often succeed, when I'm covered with sweat, two-years worth of dust, tired from hauling too many boxes filled with our endless supply of material possessions (how did we end up with all this CRAP?) and -mostly- just wanting it all to be DONE!!

To learn more about our toddler's perspective on packing and moving, read on ...

The Details

We're moving from Edmonton, Alberta to Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Rachel's new employer, VIHA will reimburse us up to five thousand dollars of actual moving expenses. In trying to decide how to allocate the benefit, we opted to move ourselves (to save money) and get in a paid, house-hunting trip. (In hindsight, because we ended up BUYING a house, instead of RENTING one - not part of the original plan - maybe it would have been cheaper to hire a mover and not have had a house-hunting trip? I'm kidding here, because the house we bought is very nice, but I've enjoyed saving repair and maintenance expenses these past few years of renting).

Anyway, the point is that we're moving ourselves, using U-Haul (the only company we've found in Canada that allows a one-way drop-off truck rental). I suppose, from Alex's perspective, the move would have been less stressful if we'd just hired a company to come in, pack, load and haul. The disruption would have only been a few days, rather than as it has been, a few WEEKS.

Our situation is further complicated by the fact that we need to move out on September 30th, but don't take possession of our new home, until October 17th. We'll be "homeless" for nearly three weeks, though the plan is to take Alex to visit her grandparents (both sets). Rachel is committed to working already and has been on the Island since September 18th. She didn't want to leave all the packing to Scott, so she started boxing stuff up, before she left and will be flying back to help load, drive and unload, before she goes back to work.

In some sort of crazy, you-wonder-if-you-should-have-your-head-examined way, it seemed to make sense. Living it has proved challenging. Boxes since early September, Dad and the Oop on their own since mid-September, homeless for three weeks and a toddler to try and understand it all. (Oh, there's a cat too, but so far, he's in total denial of the move and just tucks his head in his paws and sleeps through it all. His stress will come DURING the move and subsequent, three-week stay with friends in Langley.)

Ask anyone ... moving is stressful. According to experts, only a death in the immediate family, divorce, loss of a job, or purchasing a new home is more stressful. Guess what ... we're doing TWO of those?! :roll:

Events for the move and the home purchase have to be orchestrated and timed as if it were a Queen's coronation (well, with maybe a tad less pomp, but seemingly more circumstances). Services need to be canceled at one end and started at the other. Inspections done, contracts to sign, approvals, bills, mortgages to arrange and oodles of telephone calls. The rented house must be boxed, cleaned and has been in a constant state of disarray. There's a lot of loose ends that need to come together, we're living in a house filled with boxes and there's junk laying on every flat surface. Heaven forbid if we've packed something that's needed. Plus there are real estate considerations for a new home in a completely different Province, worries, head-aches and stresses ... argh!

If moving is stressful, then moving yourself, with a toddler, is neigh to impossible. If it weren't for the fact that Alex is in day-care, I don't think I could do it. To her credit, I think that she's handled the move and her Mom being away, very well.

The Oop: On Moving

The whole concept of moving is difficult for a toddler to comprehend. Alex's world is immediate. She doesn't know what "three weeks" means, let alone "moving". For all practical purposes, this is the only house she's ever known. I tell her that we're moving to a "new house", and she echoes this back (our little mimic), but she's seems more focused on the fact that we're headed to Grandma's first.

Oh, and her birthday is October 3rd, so it'll be celebrated at her maternal grandparent's house in Vancouver. She's very excited about her birthday!

Scott's birthday was September 19th. When cards started arriving in the mail for him, Alex, naturally, thought they were for her.

"Birthday card for Alex?" she asks.

"No," I explain, "It's for Daddy's birthday. Yours isn't for another few weeks yet."

"My birthday next, after Daddy, right?"

Alex likes to finish sentences with "right?", to which we often reply with "Right, Oop" even when we don't understand what she's saying. It's a dangerous game, because we don't understand 40% of what she says and we're never quite sure what we're agreeing to.

Because she cannot yet conceptualize the move, she's not remorseful about leaving her friends at day-care. That's a good thing. Her biggest concern seems to be that we might leave something of hers behind.

Alex walks in and hands me a teddy-bear, "This for Grandma's house?"

"Ummm," I think, trying to decide if it's really needed for three weeks and how Alex would respond if I tell her, "No, it's for the new house." I decide to give it to her straight, lying will only get me into trouble later.

"We'll pack that teddy bear for the new house," I say, noticing a concerned look on her face, "We can't take every stuffed animal to Grandma's, but we will take your favorites, Rabbit and Monkey. This one we'll pack for the NEW HOUSE."

"For the new house?" she echoes.

"Yes, for the new house," I say, hopefully.

"Okaaaay," she says, seemingly satisfied, and runs off upstairs to continue playing.

A bullet dodged.

The other day we packed her clothes and we sorted them into two piles, those for Grandma's and those for the "new house". She didn't seem to mind and she helped pick things out. I did have to re-direct many of the clothes that were in the "Grandma" pile to the "new house" pile, because she seemed to think that ALL the clothes should go to Grandma's.

Every day, I field questions about which object of hers is going to Grandma's, which I gather is first and foremost in her mind. The idea of a "new house" appears beyond her, although I've tried to reassure her that everything going to the new house will still be hers, when we get there.

The Oop: On Packing

The other day, Alex was going potty on her little, plastic, portable potty. I was in the kitchen, preparing dinner. She asked a question, which I couldn't hear, so I had to go into the bathroom.

She asked, "My potty go to Grandma's?"

"Yes, Alex, we'll take you're potty with us to Grandma's," I replied. She's potty trained, but she's used to going in her little plastic potty and it's a traveling necessity.

Then she pointed to the toilet and asked, "Daddy take him's potty to Grandma's?"

I almost laughed. It was such a cute question and to a toddler, made perfect sense. I explained that most houses come with potties and not to worry, Daddy would have himself a new potty at Grandma's house.

Packing with the Oop around has proved to be quite difficult.

For one thing, she asks a zillion questions:

"Why are you doing that?"

"What's this for," she asks, grabbing [some object] and holding it up.

"This my shirt?"

"Alex put this in here?"

"This belong for him's kitty cat?"

"This for Grandma's house?

Bless her heart, she wants to help, but it's often anything but. She's standing in the doorway I'm trying to walk through, while carrying a too-large and too-heavy cardboard box. If I put something in a box, she'll want to put other things, things which I don't want in that box, in the box. Or ... she'll pull stuff out of a box that I've already put in the box. If I'm upstairs, she's downstairs. If I'm in the basement, she's upstairs, getting into something she shouldn't. It's funny, but frustrating at the same time. It slows the moving process and adds another layer of stress.

I learned to do the packing while she's at day-care and then show her all the new boxes when she returns. Yesterday, I finished packing the last of the garage (as a handyman, I have a shop full of tools, nuts, paint, bolts, extension cords, etc. ... not a piddling amount of stuff.

After I picked her up from day-care and wheeled her home in her stroller, I said, "Dad's finished packing the garage, wanna see?"

"Yes," she said.

I opened the side door and she walked inside. All the stuff has been stacked against one wall, down the length of the garage.

"What do you think?" I asked.

"It looks nice," she said.

The Oop: On Boxes

I've often thought that boxes make better toys for kids than most toys and this move has only reinforced my theories. Alex has been playing with moving boxes, ever since Rachel hopped in the car and made the drive out to Vancouver Island, ahead of us.

I was packing a box in the living room and the Oop came in and said, "I need a box, Daddy."

"What for, Oop?"

"I need it for my kids, my toys. For Grandma's house." she said. (Her "kids" are the stuffed animals that she takes care of. She feeds them, diapers them, puts them down for a nap. It's funny to walk into a room of sleeping "kids", because they're all face down, covered with some bit of cloth, as a "blanket". She has about a dozen "kids".)

"I'll get you one, Oop," I say, looking for some small-ish box. I find one and give it to her.

Fifteen minutes later, she comes downstairs with a box full of toys.

"Here you go, Daddy," she says, "Need tape for Grandma's house."

I finally clue in. She's boxing her stuff to take with us.

"It'll be a while before we leave Oop, so you might as well keep the toys out, so you can play with them. Don't worry, we won't leave behind any of your toys," I try to reassure her.

"OKAY," she says. (At times, the Oop can be very agreeable.)

During the whole packing period, she's made use of 5 or 6 different boxes, some big, some small, to load and unload with toys and stuffed animals. It's a nightly ritual.

Of course, boxes are for more than just packing. The other evening, I made Alex a "fort", placing several boxes in a semi-circle, next to the wall, and draped a blanket over the top. The Oop calls it her "house" and has had several days of fun with it.

Our precious Oop. She can't quite talk, but she understands more than we give her credit for, I think. It's got to be a stressful and uncertain time for her, though she seems to handle it with great aplomb. Her biggest worry, is whether certain of her possessions are destined for Grandma's. (The only other option is either the garbage (which she understands) or the "new house", which, to her, must be somewhere in the "great beyond").

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1.flag Glenn Comment
I see you feel into the U-Haul trap, sorry about that :) I would as soon take a stick in the eye before I do another do it yourself, Tina and I wish you and the Fam. a safe trip.
2.flag Yabba Comment
Typical bloody yank :| Give 'em a 3 week holdiay in Cali, throw in a 5 acre (idylic) spot on Vancouver Island and all they can do is whinge about the hardship! :|


Ohhh, btw Scott, I found an excellent plot beside the beaver pond, see you when you arrive ;)
3.flag Lidia Comment
I love your stories. They are very special and go straight to the heart.

I work for the "Make a Wish Foundation" and hope that your readers can help.

Best regards.