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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Moving House with CVI - by Heidi Zec

This is part one in a two part series of moving house and the lessons learned to ease the transition. Luka has always loved being outdoors; his happiest days are spent on long walks. During the Melbourne Covid restrictions in 2020, we spent hours outdoors, exploring local parks, beaches and filling up our small yard with an increasing array of trikes, scooters, art supplies and toys. We had always dreamed of more space, and as restrictions lifted in late 2020 it seemed like the right time to move. This would coincide with our eldest starting primary school, and also give enough time for Luka to settle into his new surrounds before starting kindergarten in 2022.

Preparation – Round One Deciding on the Mornington Peninsula was easy, due to the fantastic schools and access to beaches and natural surrounds for both kids to enjoy. We quickly secured a fully-furnished rental with the aim of staying just a few months until we found our forever home. My main focus as we prepared for the move, was our daughter Lilly, explaining what we would take with us (yes to pets and Barbie dream house) and what would be left behind (a sad goodbye to her favourite tree and cubby house). I arranged play dates with new friends and took her on outings to new local playgrounds. By the time we moved in, a week before school started, she was so excited to begin her school life, and has flourished ever since.

We moved to the Mornington Peninsula so both kids could enjoy more quiet open spaces

I’ll admit I didn’t spend as much time talking to Luka about the move, and while we spent weekends checking out local parks, we had no time to see the house before we moved in. In the first days, I was surprised by how easily Luka navigated around our rental, easily figuring out where to find everything. We had taken our toy shelves and set them up with familiar toys, and he enjoyed feeling the ivy up and down the long driveway. We had planned to do a very soft introduction to new activities (mini maestros and eco explorers), but he loved them and got involved right from the start.

Luka enjoyed music classes and outdoor playgroups despite being unsettled from our move

The Aftermath It was only a few weeks later that Luka’s meltdowns began. Screaming, throwing, and hitting his head - behaviour I hadn’t seen in months and thought we had grown out of – returned with a vengeance. Things Luka had recently started to enjoy, like drawing, were out of the question. I had so greatly underestimated just how much Luka had to deal with. He had no familiar corners to relax in at home, and had to learn a whole new set of shops, find his way around unfamiliar playgrounds, and even try to decode so many new noises (kookaburras are not a familiar sound closer to the city!) In the first few weeks, the very steep walk down to Lilly’s school was too challenging for Luka’s depth perception, the constant slips and trips (holding tight to my hand) ending in fits of giggles or tears, depending on his mood, until we gave up and I carried him the rest of the way. Even the classroom, filling up fast with noisy little people, was a huge challenge. I can only imagine the stress that came from everything being so new and inaccessible, and not having enough language to explain or understand. Grocery shopping became stressful. Our local farm shop was quieter and held the promise of watching tractors. One morning, while picking up the milk, one of the owners took Luka by the hand, and surprisingly, he went with her to watch a truck. I hastily shoved an array of vegetables in my bag, ready to make our escape. But a meltdown never came, and I couldn’t stop the tears of relief as I watched Luka bounce with happiness, watching a truck.

Luka enjoyed our local farm shop, which had more outdoor space and an added bonus of tractors, but struggled at the unfamiliar indoor supermarket

Over the months, other heroes have appeared in my life - the young girls at the post office who kept Luka from escaping the dark, busy shop and then carried big boxes of online purchases back to the car while I calmed him down. The mums I had only just met, who acted like it was perfectly normal to cry on the oval during an overwhelming school pickup, and had flowers delivered to my door the next morning. Our beautiful Mini Maestros and Eco-Explorers leaders who have been so intuitive with Luka, helping him integrate into the groups so well. And Luka’s mighty heroes in Lilly’s class at school, who play so well with him, help him feel safe, and rescue him when he tries to go off on misadventures while I say a quick hello to the teacher and other parents. Slowly, Luka is making sense of his surrounds. The meltdowns are lessening, and he has re-started drawing, this time with real purpose and actually managing to draw a circle on paper. He points out circles everywhere we go, and his language is growing exponentially.

Lessons from Round One I’ve learnt from our first move, just how many things I should have considered to make life easier for Luka. I underestimated just how hard his brain was working to adjust to so many changes. Nicola McDowell explains this so beautifully here, with further discussion by Gordon Dutton here. I’m hoping to make the next move better for Luka. Now that we have bought our "forever" house nearby, I’ve begun walking him around the new streets to help him become familiar. We talk about it often, in simple language. Still only being 3 and with language delays, I’m not sure exactly how much he understands, although I believe he understands much more than I give him credit for at times. He now asks me to go to the “new house” and to see the “horsie” - a very old horse in a nearby paddock. Last night he sang himself to sleep with the words “new house new house horsie new house”.

Luka enjoys walking to see the horse near our new house

I will update you in a few months with how we manage our next move, to our “forever” home, and would love to hear any of your experiences in moving, too.

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