Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Breaking news

When something exciting happens, it’s natural to want to tell people. But it’s also natural to want to manage the flow of information in some way, thinking about the order in which people are told, whether you drip feed information, perhaps with a hint a month or two in advance of the announcement, or whether it all comes out in one go. Not everyone likes surprises.

Pregnancy is a bit like that. You have an amount of time when just you and your partner know, when you get to hug your delicious secret close to yourself and daydream away about how things are going to be. My first pregnancy was a bit like that, but as it happened so soon after we were married, there was an amount of speculations around how long it would take. A (male) friend of my mum’s even asked her if I was pregnant yet, only weeks after the wedding and, I think, before they knew. The cheek!

My third pregnancy, announced when Mr Kinkatink was at death’s door in hospital came as a bit more of a surprise announcement, and accordingly was met with a variety of (slightly curious) responses, not all of them positive. That’s what comes from surprising people: they surprise you right back.

This is all a bit off the point though. I’m not pregnant. I’m emigrating. Surprise! If you didn’t already know, we’re going to DC, in the summer, for 3 years. It’s a work thing. His work, not mine.

We have managed our information flow a bit this time: mentioning it as a possibility over Christmas to see how people felt, and then telling people in a specific order, so that we got to break the news in person, rather than have people hear second hand. This hasn’t worked in every case (apologies), but has spared a few blushes.

But really the people who cause the most concern are the boys. 3 years for us is a blip. Long enough to make the investment, to get to know a place. Too long that you can just tough it out. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s a sabbatical, not a holiday, but not a permanent move either. If you’re 7 or 5, it doesn’t seem like that though. Child C is too young to know anyway, but A and B have some quite fixed ideas, and why not – 3 years is the best part of half their life times. Child A will feel the brunt of it: although he’s leaving the lower end of primary school, he’ll come back to being at secondary school. Child B will just come back to the same school, and Child C will come back to start school. But as I say, he doesn’t have an opinion.

Telling them though has been the hardest bit so far. You can make a list to deal with the other things, but little boys’ emotions just aren’t compatible with lists. And you only get one chance to do it right.

But this is what we did: We asked questions of them, to see how they felt about abstract concepts like ‘moving’, ‘new schools’ and ‘America’. Then we started planting ideas in their heads about ‘bigger gardens’, ‘the Empire State Building’ and ‘skiing at weekends’. These ideas were all quite popular, but there was an underlying current around disliking change. But then we struck gold: they didn’t like me painting over their old bedroom’s terrible paint job, but the did like moving up to their new bedroom in the attic. So we concentrated a lot on good change, the excitement of a new school, new friends, outdoor swimming pools, camping, hiking, the American dream. The real sticking point has been the length of time we’re going for, so we just stopped talking about that.

For now, they’re taking it very well. I hope you are too.