December 2013 and my son turned six. A child’s birthday is a moment that matters for any parent. Special people sing ‘happy birthday’. A moment when your heart swells, moments to cherish. This particular birthday was the culmination of a year, a journey.
Trying to do the best for your child is a universal parenting force. Decisions involving children take on a greater weight. As an adult, it is some how more possible to unpick choices you make, to reverse if things don’t work out. Once children enter the picture, that changes. Children are resilient, but reversing is less of an option. You want to make the right decisions that take your child forward, towards being happy and settled, to do the best for them.
At the end of 2012, our family of three relocated. Leaving friends and community, moving 150 miles South to be nearer family, to a city where we knew a couple of people. A place we felt offered us more opportunities.
Relocating two parents and a child took months of thought, discussion, agonising, managing doubts. Tying up the ends in one place is never straight forward. A process complicated by the distance of our move. Finally, reaching a point of goodbye. Those goodbyes wrapped in so much emotion, left heavy feelings of finality.
Forward we leapt, there is an excitement in somewhere new and beginning the process of discovery. We were prepared for the ups and maybe the downs were harder than expected. In my heart I knew this was the right place. Then there is that universal force of parenting; is this right for my child? Worrying over details, comparing old with new. Keen to make this place his home.
My boy thrived and to be fair, he hasn’t looked back. He has revelled in the new. Occasionally, he missed old friends, over time gently replacing them with new ones. We had an amazing and memorable summer, a jigsaw of new places, experiences and memorable moments.
A year after our move, my son’s 6th birthday loomed. A year of re-working those ties we’d left behind, finding friends that become a support network. Finding our place in a community.
He made a list of invitees and I launched a plan to take a group of children to a local science project. We needed a helping hand and I asked new friends. They came early on a cold Saturday morning, despite hangovers and probably that pre-christmas need to be doing a hundred other things elsewhere. They shepherded children and other parents came too. A small group of children had fun.
The finale of a birthday is the cake. Everyone is gathered, smiles and laughter and the moment feels good. The cake carried out, flickering candles, ‘happy birthday’ fills the room. I step back, emotions fluttering, for a moment on the outside to appreciate how proud I am of my boy. He has friends and is happy and I look around and we have friends. We have made a new place ours. It’s that satisfying moment on a long walk, when you reach the top of the hill and you look back on the path that brought you there and scenery all around and life feels good. One small moment, but one that mattered.