Thursday, 9 September 2010


Isn't one of the worst things about moving location - all starry eyed and looking forward to fantastic family jungle fun - is what happens when one of your kids doesn't share your wonder and sense of adventure?

And aren't children shy about letting you know what they think of the delightful new experiences you enthusiastically lined up for them! Don't they just meekly present themselves like cute, big-eyed, soulful bush babies, silently yearning for some little hug which will soon pay attention to all their fears!

Well Tiger doesn't do any of that crap, obviously. Tiger lets us know exactly what she thinks about the museums, galleries, theatres, islands, butterflies and poxy beach.

She is conducting a kind of daily low-level terrorist assault. Some days are worse than others; maybe she bottled up the resentment she had yesterday and shook it up this morning before slicing off the bottle top with a machete. Then she got out of bed.

Now, I'm not sure what to do about this ongoing issue. Some days I can ignore it, and have my head screamed off. Other days I can try and attend to it and come within a whisper of a nervous breakdown. On any day I can try and drone on, reassuring Tiger about anything and everything. Or I can simply get cross and snap. That's quicker, but the result is painful and I may well come away without my scalp.

Ultimately I feel my hands are tied. There is a line, and it's non-negotiable. Tiger, we are not all going home just because you want to and just because you're making things pretty miserable for the rest of your worn out family. We have contracts, leases, employments, commitments. And I cannot post you home because the spoilsports at the Post Office don't allow it. Believe me Tiger, all last week I was eyeing up boxes and packing tape.

Anyway, I would like to say that today I took Shark, Squirrel and Tiger to the Hong Kong Space Museum. I did not. I took Shark and Squirrel. Tiger created her own demonstration of exploding star in the front room and there was no way I could safely get the hydrogen gases back in the nucleus in time to catch the ferry.

If you have relocated children across continents, and they did not fly away buoyant with enthusiasm, then I would really like to know what you did to help.

Because right now I am at a total loss.


kellyi said...

Do not tell me this now. Do not tell me. I don't even know if we are really going yet but I am already lying awake at night worrying.

I can't offer any advice as we last moved when the eldest was four, so she wasn't too bothered about it.

She is already asking about the horse riding possibilities when/ if we move....

HEY!! There is an idea. Bankcrupt yourself by taking your darling horse riding. Bound to work. Provided she is the horsy one.

Fiona said...

I do hear your cry, but can't offer any tangible advice. My kids struggle (going through the mill with the youngest right now) because of our choices to live an ex-pat life. But they are younger, and still open to stuff like reward charts and bribes, which I am guessing won't work with Tiger.
Hope it gets easier.

Laura S said...

Grit, I've been reading and loving your blog for a few months. I have a persistent inner voice that I am doing my best to suppress about home edding our 3 girls (who are all 2 years apart in age, unlike Squirrel, Shark and Tiger). I really enjoy your provocative writing and your honest look at life, and the snark and humour too. Just one comment and one truly end of the pier suggestion to offer. The comment first; I am sure you have thought of this, but in case it is comforting. It must be likely that you would be having variations on the same fight with Tiger if you were still in England. I am thinking of the great shampoo battle, and others that have recently appeared in the annals/chronicles. Yes, the ODD has more to kick against in your present situation, but that doesn't mean she wouldn't be finding more things to dig in about at home, particularly as she gets close to teen territory. Now for the suggestion so antithetical to everything you stand for as to almost come full circle and make sense: BOARDING SCHOOL (a free one, of course, I haven't entirely missed the messages about the Grit economy). Check out one of the UK's few maintained boarding schools, Royal Alexandra and Albert. It's very good, and they have a few open places. Yes, I know you wouldn't do that to her, but it could be useful in terms of giving her another option to discuss with you, which may be part of the problem at the moment; it sounds as though part of the reason it's so bad is that there are no alternatives on the table, so she is cornered. I went to boarding school, and loved it, and got a very fine education out of it too both academically and in terms of learning to live in harmony with Ermintrude with whom you have nothing in common but with whom you also have to share harmoniously a modest sized bedroom for 12 weeks, so I know some of wot I speak...Good luck and please keep writing about it...

Kestrel said...

We moved across our continent one year ago. We all grieve differently, I grieve like Tiger does. Angry, screaming, furious and demanding to go home. No amount of chivvying made me calm down. I totally hear where she's coming from. I calmed down, eventually. Tiger is what she is, her grieving is how she does it. Just keep doing what you're doing - letting her know you hear her, you're sorry she feels like this. Explanations about leases etc ain't going to do diddly when you're sad and angry sad and furious at the world. She can be furious at you because you love her. I'm sorry you're going through this.

Sam said...

I have similar explosions from my eldest, and we haven't moved anywhere, so perhaps it is just something to be lived with.
I moved many times growing up, but the worst was when I had just turned 13, and loved my life, my friends, my home. We moved somewhere (to me) completely horrible and lacking in any good points. I was miserable. In time, various good bits did start to make themselves known to me, and my family weren't proactive, like you are, in finding and supporting my interests.

Just...hang on in there, give Tiger lots of time to adjust, and continue to (offer to) show her all the good bits.

Wish you were having an easier time, but then what would you write about ;-)

Sam x

Rachel M. said...

I don't have enough experience as a parent to give you any advice but from reading the comments above it sounds like others have some great tips. At Tiger's age I remember going on long road trips with my family in a crowded car for 2 weeks at a time and hating half the places my dad chose to take us. I kicked up a terrible fuss and looking back feel quite guilty about it. I just didn't want to be so close with my family for such an extended period of time and had no escape! I'm sorry you're going through this, it sounds awful.

sharon said...

My two pennyworth - ignore, as far as practicable, the tantrums and screaming etc. On the occasions she is willing to join in any family activity, accept it quietly as though that is the norm. Do not continue to try and cajole her into accompanying you anywhere but accept her first refusal and go about your daily activities with Shark and Squirrel. Tiger will get over it eventually and you will all survive, even though the timeline may be longer than seems fair. And, yes, I know all of the above is easier said than done but I think it would work.

Laura S's suggestion may have some merit providing you don't think it would actually appeal to Tiger as a viable or preferred option to staying in HK. If you think she might jump at the chance then maybe not such a good idea to raise the subject of boarding school.

Virtual hugs, beer, chocolate, cake and fine wines in the meantime. You deserve them all.

Kelly said...

Yes, my oldest was 9 when we moved, and furious. For. a. long. time. "Only old people live here. You moved us to a town of old people." It was true. "You made me leave all my friends." Yes. I could explain till I was purple that Daddy had to do this for his job and we have to eat but he didn't care. Adjustment is adjustment; people do it as they will/can. I agree with comment above. It's painful, but to some extent at this age you have to let her be and get on with your life. At least, that's what I had to do. But ending the conversation can be somewhat effective. "I do understand how you feel, and I have explained to you that there is nothing I can do about this. Short of putting yourself in care and seeking an adoptive family, you are stuck with us and we are stuck here. But what I will not do is discuss this anymore because it isn't doing any good. Please join us anytime you choose, you know we will be happy to have you."

Actually, I have continued to have to have this conversation periodically with this child/young person for 13 years. We had it again last week. This, I have discovered, is his personality, and though he is usually lovely, gracious, thoughtful and fun, he goes through these bouts of misery, and just has to learn that he isn't taking the rest of us with him. He is learning this, gradually, but, as I said, he is 22 now....

Grit said...

thank you so much for your comments people, i feel a lot lot better and much less alone!

you have all given me a way of thinking ahead about this, rather than in the here and now. thank you.

really, i'm more than happy to continue these ideas about different forms of educational context and will want to do so, either in email or some aspects on the blog, so please bear with me.

but thank you all again. it's very helpful to think that there are voices with ideas, wisdoms, experiences and support out here!

MadameSmokinGun said...

Probably missed the boat here as my 'puter went all soppy and wouldn't let me comment last night BUT for what it's worth I'll spew my bit too.

I thought as bonkers as the boarding school thing may sound - I get the 'here's an option' idea. And there may be other kinds of 'options' - even if not exactly the one she really wants.

I also wondered if maybe hurling out a few 'this can be your responsibility' things around might provide a bit of distraction at least. Maybe a part of the house can be a Tiger-only territory - if it isn't already! Or some long-term project - something to either continue once she 'gets back home' or can share with her friends when she 'gets back home' - perhaps emphasising the IMpermanence of your current situation - a whole year at that age is infinity. How about a totally Tiger-point-of-view project about her experiences of Hong Kong (even if everything is negative) to show her friends 'when....'

Could she write her own blog/rant? I'd read it!

(Or would this just be adding fuel to the fire?) I just wondered if maybe encouraging her to her vent her spleen creatively (especially if she has no idea this was coming from you so it feels rebellious) might at least save a couple of eardrums....?

Chi said...

I am a huge fan of Aletha Solter's Aware Parenting approach(see also involves listening with empathy to your raging child and allowing the emotions to pour forth in all their guises.I am able to create enough of a feeling of safety in my kids so that their deepest feelings come to the surface at more 'appropriate' times.
Patty Wipfler has some great articles about similar transitions in her archives-Hand in Hand Parenting or the Superprotective factor.
I am also a huge fan of comic relief.Play and laughter can really get some emotions unstuck and they seem to lose their hold a tad.How about some games with her involving you being overdramatic about leaving your favorite armchair?
I feel for Tiger and yet somehow know she will come through this gracefully with your amazing support and love.I grew up as an expat so can fully understand her rage.I always settled in and ended up loving the various countries in the end but I think there are always deeper reasons for these protests.....good luck!

Grit said...

Thank you so much for your ongoing comments, people. you are wise, and i'm thinking more broadly from your ideas and approaches. i'll keep on coming back to this as i continue to work with daughter. she is a person with so many sides to her; i'm sure as she grows, she'll become a vibrant force in this world!

Jimmie said...

I sometimes have days like Tiger. :-)

My daughter was only three when we came to China, so it's a different ballgame altogether. Patience is about all you can offer, I think.

Nice to meet a fellow expat in Asia.