We have children
A very wise friend of ours told me before we emigrated to New Zealand, “Don’t worry, God loves your children more than you do.”
I hoped so. I loved them heaps and yet Husband and I still upended their fragile lives and took them to the other side of the world. We took so much away from them and still they trusted us.
We kept the process as fair as possible. We voted on everything, even voting on how we would vote. Would we allow vetoes or would we move by majority? Aged 7,10, 10 and 11 at the start of the process, they made the decision that majority ruled. No single nay-sayer should derail our master plan. I look back at their bravery and wonder if they knew what they were doing. We sure didn’t!
We found the perfect home for our King Charles Cavalier Spaniel. I remember the relief when the gorgeous old couple asked the children if they could have him. Just one small problem. They wanted him right there and then. We hadn’t even sold the house or collected our visas and the decision weighed like a stone around our necks. The children voted yes. They decided if they were dogs, they’d like to live with John and Cecily. We’d never find another home so perfect and he wasn’t the kind of dog you could stick on a plane and condemn to quarantine for six months.
I remember the day we took him to his new owners. It still feels like a lead weight in my chest. He howled, they howled, me and Husband howled. Awful, awful, awful. Then there was arriving home to his empty corner and finding one of his toys under the coffee table. Hideous.
Giving up everything
We voted not to ship anything. No furniture, no toys. Nothing.
That meant selling or giving everything away. Husband made a sales catalogue and as word got around our small town, strangers arrived at the door wanting to view our possessions. We handed over the brochure and they walked around the house and made an offer for the things they liked. One night you might have a bed, the next night you didn’t.
I remember someone purchasing an old toy box we’d owned for over a decade. I hid behind the front door and cried as Husband helped them load it onto a trailer. The sides held the inky hand prints of my babies from years earlier and I knew the new owners would sand off the Benjamin Bunny scene I painstakingly created. Some things feel irreplaceable. Because they are.
We sold our townhouse during an awful lull in the market and it went under contract three times before anyone signed on the dotted line. We’re a praying family but knew everyone watched our journey with interest. Each setback felt like failure. There are always ‘those’ people who enjoy the misery of others and we knew enough of them to feel disheartened often.
A friend offered us part of her house to stay in during our last few weeks in the UK. She warned us that her country house in snowy December might be cold. I bought everyone slippers. We got tired of celebrating our house sale only for it to fall through so I made a deal with the children. When I handed over the new slippers, they knew we’d be moving out to North Kilworth with Eleanor. They knew they’d have six weeks to get ready.
They cheered the day I handed over the slippers, one teatime in November. “Yey, six week warning,” my ten year old son said, clutching his blue slippers with soccer balls on the front. Then came the other bit of bad news. The buyer wanted us out in two weeks.
We managed it. If I’m honest, I managed it. Poor Husband got called away to London on business, to a project he needed to finish urgently. My mother took the children for the weekend and I cleared out our remaining stuff. Church friends helped. Two very dear friends stripped out the kitchen and drove cutlery and plates the half an hour to our temporary home. Another friend turned up with a trailer and went to the dump for us. Another friend sat and breastfed her newborn on my bedroom floor because the bed and chairs went weeks ago. She kept me company. You don’t forget kindness like that, even a decade down the line.
The hardest parts
The hard parts aren’t what you might expect. My mother brought the children back on the Sunday afternoon. I can’t believe I agreed to let them sing at a carol service right in the middle of packing. But anyway. That’s when Mum and I made a terrible discovery.
The bedrooms held only a camp bed for each child. Nothing else remained, or so I believed.
The children voted to go with a clean slate. They picked out the toys most important to them and we promised to get them there. They turned up at school every day with a bag full of cuddlies to give away. For weeks they disposed of their possessions. Or did they?
Heartbreak and cunning
Mum bumped one of the camp beds with her foot as she straightened a sleeping bag and voila!
We discovered a hoard.
My middle daughter created a stash of soft toys under the legs of the bed, placed exactly so they couldn’t be seen from any other part of the room. Out came two unicorns, a polar bear, three toy dogs and a horse. I suspect in war conditions, that child could hide whole families for long periods without anyone realising. At that moment, it just felt tragic. Sometimes we think they’re coping and they’re really not.
Stable House, North Kilworth
We stayed at The Stable House for six weeks. We got snowed in for one of them. It’s an Airbnb now and we stayed there last year during our first time back in over a decade. It’s still beautiful and still run by the same gorgeous people.
This crazy adventure occupied a year of our lives and what a year it was. It’s a privilege to have done part of the journey there. Our children healed a little from the rawness of giving everything up. Check it out HERE if it’s somewhere you might like to stay.
There’s always a way
At 2am on the very last morning, I sat in an armchair exhausted, watching Husband pull our stuff from the suitcase. He needed to make room for the things the children couldn’t leave behind. Our baggage allowance was 22kg each and a rucksack. We needed to sleep before the shuttle arrived to take us to the airport. At 4am he gave up.
I arrived at Auckland airport with only one pair of sandals, the space in my suitcase occupied by 3 fluffy dogs and a deflated football. Husband owned 2 tee shirts and a unicorn. The rest of the menagerie sojourned in a bag with the air sucked out of it, stuffed into a rucksack. Sydney customs staff scanned it five times and cried with laughter at the squashed cuddlies imprisoned, complete with bulging, terrified eyes. They called their colleagues over and scanned them again amidst much hilarity. Glad to be of service. That’s my whole life in there.
Keep it truthful
Our children knew of every disaster, every failed plan and each defeat. They walked it with us and we prayed through it. I think the only surprise was the last house sale and the quick turnaround. They suffered the same disappointment as us throughout the other 3 times it fell through. As adults now, they’re a closed unit. One hurts – they all hurt. One gets into difficulty and they all arrive to help. I’m proud of the people they’ve become. We survived.
My children got opportunities to do things in New Zealand they never imagined in their wildest dreams. They travel, they explore. They’re not afraid of the vastness of the world or of reaching out to touch it. They are highly qualified and highly motivated to change their world for the better.
I look at them now and think that just maybe, it went okay.
Have baby, will travel. Have children, will emigrate.
Never let the idea of disrupting your children stop you from doing something new. They love a challenge. Change is hard if you get to control no part of it. That’s when it becomes frightening.
So give them control. Let them vote and direct some of the massive decisions you undertake. They’ll surprise you. And themselves. Talk to them, be honest. I can’t stress that enough.
K T Bowes is a mystery romance writer based in New Zealand. She holds British and New Zealand citizenship and keeps a foot in both camps.
3 of her novels are free so that you can try before you buy. Check those out HERE.