It’s officially been a year since we have left Malaysia and I can finally say that I think my daughter may be coming out of whatever trance the repatriation roller coaster had on her….well, the repatriation roller coaster coupled with being TWO that is.
Having never been an expat prior to this experience, thus never repatriated, in addition to being new at the whole mommy thing, I had no idea that I was supposed to be prepared for my then 21 month old to feel the aftershocks of our around the world move. I guess I was under the assumption that “from what I hear”, most children don’t really recall anything from their memory banks until the age of 3 or later so I figured keeping that in mind, that my 21 month old would be able to make the transfer, so to speak, with relative ease. Her little 3 month old brother was a given to being easy, all he did during the move was eat, sleep, and poop. haha 🙂
Well let me tell you, my fierce little girl has felt every ache and pain of this huge transition. At first I thought it was just her age- being 2 and all, but as I watched her interaction with other kids, listened to her words, and tried to comprehend her actions, I realized something much bigger than “just being 2” was going on. Fast forward about 10 months, which was a couple months ago, my husband and I took a (6 hour) parenting seminar and afterwards, we walked up to the 2 speakers/therapists to ask them about Ava’s behavior. They looked at us both with a little bit of surprise that we wouldn’t expect Ava to feel the big move. Of course she would, they said. After that conversation, we left feeling shocked that we didn’t pick up on all the signs beforehand, although looking back it makes perfect sense.
I want to try and paint you a picture of what our strong little girl has endured in the past year. So, here’s the gist of what she went through: she said goodbye to everyone who was in her life for the first 21 months from doctors, neighbors, playgroup friends, church family, our helper, etc. She then watched the only home she ever knew being packed up and was sent off to a hotel for her final night in town to sleep in a pack & play, then whisked off to Bali for a 10 day stay in another hotel and in another pack & play. All of this sounds fun and exciting, which it was, but still so much for a newly minted toddler to comprehend right?! Then after a quick overnight stay while in transit in Hone Kong in yet another hotel and another pack & play, she arrived into Indianapolis into our corporate housing town home, to sleep in yet ANOTHER new bedroom and ANOTHER new pack & play, for what ended up being just shy of 2.5 months. Once we arrived into corporate housing, with only our suitcases from Bali and whatever minimal toys I packed for her there, we waited for our air shipment of goods to arrive, which thankfully only took about 5 days or so after our arrival. In there I had packed a plethora of toys for the kids, more clothes for them, some kitchen and home items for myself, and other odds & ends. This is what we had until our sea shipment would arrive in 2 months time when we moved into our new home. Thankfully we were back in America, so it didn’t take long to spend money at both Target and Amazon buying the kids more toys and things for their new (temporary) home- lol!
While in temporary housing, she was shuttled here and there to all new surroundings, we was introduced and re-introduced to so.many.new.people!! She had visits from grandparents so David and I could house hunt and car hunt and furniture hunt and she just explored her new hometown, all the while asking constantly about her friends from KL. Broke.My.Heart. She just couldn’t comprehend it all. Fast forward to moving into our new home, where she FINALLY moved out of a super uncomfortable pack & play and into a brand new home, new bedroom, and new big girl bed. What a LOT to take in!! She loved her new home though and became quite comfortable very fast. Soon after I enrolled her in a 2yr old preschool program at the church we decided to make our home.
Preschool became a whole “thing” for me. As the weeks and months progressed, every morning I dropped her off (2 days a week), she would cry and scream hysterically…..and it hasn’t stopped to this day, although 9 months later it is improving. I know it is not the school or the teacher because she then doesn’t want to leave when I pick her up. She loves her new friends, and from conversations I have had with her teacher, she is a JOY (shocked me) in the classroom- loves to learn, listen, share, engage, etc….amazing. Her “fits” at drop off are for my benefit only, gee thanks honey. And I know many kids do this whole crying at drop off thing, so I’m not saying its because of repatriating, but I can’t help but think it doesn’t help matters at all. Beyond preschool, she has had some doozy antics- both publicly and privately. They would easily last 45-60 minutes per meltdown, at about 1-2 episodes every other day….they were so so bad for many months, but she is also graduating out of that stage too- yay for everyone!
This year has been so busy for our first born- she was meeting new friends, growing as a human being, and really starting to command her presence every time she walked into a room. You see, not only do I have a 2 year old who has repatriated, but I also birthed a VERY headstrong, independent, strong willed, communicative, emotional, and dramatic little 2 year old. She is both my husband and myself bottled up into 1 little body and for that, I apologize to the world- hahaha!! I know I will LOVE her fierce determination to do things her way and in her time when she’s older, but right now, not so much. All of these qualities aside though, she literally, and I am not exaggerating, prays every darn day and night, both at nap time and nighttime, for a plethora of people in her life, completely unprompted, and many of which are friends from Malaysia- isn’t that just amazing?! It truly warms every nook of my body. She really does have a nurturing soul.
Anyway, all the above being said, I’ve learned something in the past couple months or so after realizing there was something more going on than “just being 2”. I’ve learned through all the struggles I’ve had with her, all the meltdowns I’VE had at the end of the day, all the times I spoke harshly to her or was just too hard on her, that at the end of the day, what she has been craving is ME- her rock, her safe and warm and steady place amidst all this confusion. If I’m being completely honest, it’s been a huge learning curve for me too- focusing on and trying to comprehend another human beings struggles outside of my own.
As I take a step back and watch for the signs, see how her days are unfolding, I am able to squash her (however significant or insignificant) fears I see bubbling to the surface. I am able to stop whatever it is I am doing and just BE with her- to listen, to play, to giggle, to eat together. But I’m not perfect, I still miss signs, and when I do, she lets me know with yet another outburst or another breakdown. But what she desires is truly to just be with me. Well, that is until Daddy gets home, then I’m chopped liver. Her sun rises and sets with that man, it’s a beautiful thing, that father/daughter relationship. 🙂
Many of you reading this with toddlers and older kids who have walked in these shoes may say, oh, she’s just being her age, everything you are saying in normal. And to that I say, you may be right. But knowing what I know about repatriating as an adult, there is NO DOUBT in my mind that our little warrior has fought the repatriation battle right along side us, in her own way. I’m amazed at how she has adjusted time and time again…..she’s a brave and sensitive little thing, and you know what, I wouldn’t change this transition or the affects it’s had on her developing personality for anything in the world. She amazes me with her ability to adapt and to love.
Until next time, live life through your kids’ eyes~
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