How do you move a teenage boy across the state of Texas, from the top…
to the middle…
From the flat lands of the Panhandle, where he knows everyone and shows pigs for fun …
To the hills of central Texas where he knows no one and never thought about learning to paddleboard?
Have you ever, ever, ever, in your cross-legged life sat around the picnic blanket with other moms and dreamily discussed moving your kids to a new city once they hit the midpoint of junior year?
Neither have I.
It’s one of those subjects. There are only about five, or maybe even only two or three, but this is one of them. Every parent knows if you’re going to make a move, you better do it before the kids hit middle school. Maybe the most well-adjusted of our offspring could survive a move during 7th grade. But that’s it. No self-respecting mom or dad would broach the subject after that point in time. Sudden death for the relationship between parent and child – that’s the fear. Weeping and gnashing of teeth will follow if the child doesn’t die on the spot.
I get it.
In a small Panhandle community called Bushland, Texas, there’s a post office, a convenience store, a grain elevator, mercantile, Baptist church, Italian food restaurant and three schools. Elementary, middle, high school. Residents see each other when they pick up their mail and at Friday night football games. Everyone pitches in. Everyone takes a turn in the concession stand. Everyone buys a shirt. It’s a small town. It’s a community, and our son was plugged in. He had friends. He liked his part-time job. His teachers liked him, and his pigs loved him (well, at least until after the stock show). 🙂
Only one thing could have given us the courage to take our youngest child, our own son, out of his element, after middle school and before he had a chance to walk the stage with people he’d known since 5th grade.
He said we could.
“Let’s do it,” he said. “I can be Keagon anywhere,” he reassured us. So, before we could analyze it any deeper – before we talked ourselves out of it – we did it. We packed up and pulled out.
We moved to Austin!
Of course, we weren’t the only ones. Austin was named the fasting growing U.S. city almost the minute we backed the U-Haul into the driveway. It was an exciting time to change zip codes. I don’t really see the enthusiasm for all-things-Austin diminishing any time soon, if ever at all. The Capital City has it going on.
A few things made it very hard.
He didn’t know anyone. No one did he know. Not a single face in the halls of his new 2600-student school was even remotely familiar. The teachers didn’t know him from Adam. He missed his sisters. He didn’t know a single soul in the church youth groups he visited Sunday after Sunday. And there were no pigs anywhere in sight.
He had to study harder . It’s competitive here. The stakes are high. The rewards are great for those who rise to the top. That’s nothing really new, or even unique to Austin, but our son just wasn’t prepared. Straight up. He wasn’t prepared. Night after night, glasses perched upon his nose, our brave boy ran his pencil across the college-ruled pages of spiral upon spiral notebook for hours on end. He rose to the occasion, met his goals, proved all kinds of things to himself and to us. But, it was hard.
He had to spend so much time with his parentals. While we loved all the time we were blessed to enjoy with our last child, and while he never officially complained about it, he did get plain ol’ giddy when his Bushland friends came to Austin. He called us his roommates, and reminded us often that eventually he would have some new ones.
It kept getting easier until it got really good.
These things helped.
He took a shot at something he hadn’t been brave enough to try before. For this one thing, I may be the most proud of my son. After only a few lessons, the boy who had traded sports for stock shows in his former life tried out for the golf team in the new one. He didn’t set the world on fire with his game, not by any stretch. But, he did spend time around some really grounded guys who allowed him to be part of their team. Just wearing the team shirt and throwing his clubs into the back of his Jeep on Tuesdays was probably enough to mentally keep him afloat.
I stayed home for a while. Had I been a mom with young children, this wouldn’t have been any big adjustment, but I was fully engaged in my full-time job before we moved, and I missed it. I missed my co-workers. I missed the routine of it all. I had already been there and done the things that moms of young children do, and at this stage in my life, working brought be a huge sense of fulfillment. However, with a husband getting settled into a new job, with a son getting accustomed to a new school, and with all three of us trying to learn our way to the grocery store, it was up to me to structure the sanctuary. In time, a full schedule became his new normal, but in those early months, when all he needed to do was study, it was comforting for our son to look forward to a plate of cookies, a glass of milk, and his “Merm.” That part was really fun for both of us.
He worked. All of our three kids have worked at part-time jobs through school. The middle started her cardiac operating room career of today with two years as a CNA at a nursing home. Our son wasn’t about to do that (LOL), so he worked in a grocery store while doing the whole pig thing, and then, when we moved to Austin, he tried the barista gig and loved it. FIrst, a small shop up north, then the granddaddy of Austin coffee shops after that, Mozart’s, where he still works when home from college.
He saw it as an adventure. At the root of it all, if your kids can see the adventure in a move, their relocation experience will likely be the pivotal point of their lives that opens doors to dreams they never even knew they had. Keagon began to soak up his new surroundings. He Googled places we should eat; he asked around for recommendations to the best of everything Austin had to offer. He even drove his parentals around like a tour-guide champ when he didn’t have Saturday plans.
He did his part to keep Austin weird. Austin’s weirdness is so much fun. Keagon found the murals, he experienced the festivals, attended a few concerts and ate the donuts.
He became a runner. This was Keagon’s thinking time. He ran the trails at Brushy Creek at first, and now runs with his big sister when she comes to town. I’m really glad our son has a passion for running. I personally wish I had it, too.
Then all of a sudden, mid-junior year had become freshman year in college.
And Austin had become our home.
In just two days, we’ll be putting our number one son on the plane for a summer in D.C. I wonder, as I look back on where we were three years ago how we would have prepared to send him off to the nation’s capital had we not lived in this one first. Would that have been his dream back then, or would it have been something else? I don’t know. But I do know this for sure: Merm is going to need a Kleenex on Sunday at the airport.
School is out, and families will be moving this summer. I hope so much that our story can encourage someone else in theirs. Moms and dads are packing their kitchens and garages and all the while, their only real concern is how the kids will adjust. Will they make friends? Will they like their new school? Will we be all right? They may not voice it very well, but that’s exactly what the kids are wondering, too.
Tell them yes, maybe, and absolutely.
Because, you can be you anywhere – and so can they.
Encouraging intentional adventure right where you are – or in your new city,
PS – How can you help a friend or family member who is moving? Check on them after they get there. My brother called almost every day when we moved. It brightened the rainy January afternoons to hear his voice and the laughter in it. Send cards. Do some research on their new city, then compile a fun list of the things you want to do together when you go visit. Send a Starbucks card or get them a new Yeti with the name of their new city on it. Finding your way around a new environment takes a lot of driving, and coffee! Call often. Ask good questions. Listen to their concerns. Be encouraging, but real. Tell them you miss them. It’s nice to know someone misses seeing your face, and it gives you the courage to make new friends where you are. Be excited about your friend’s new adventures. It means so much to have the support of someone who knows you well and is rooting for your success. And if they get bogged down in the boxes, offer to come for the weekend and help organize the garage or hang all the pictures.