By: Sarah Suhail
3 Tips for an Easy Transition
If you’ve ever lived in a country like Pakistan, you know how common it is for people to have ridiculously big homes with drivers, servants, cooks, maids, and gardeners – a whole battalion of people whose only job is to make your life comfortable. More and more, I was starting to see families with a 1:1.5 ratio of family members to helpers. Yes, that meant for a small family of four, there were usually six helpers in the house. The thing is, help is affordable there. And though the concept of “affordability” is relative – big houses are more affordable for families in the East as compared to the West. Of course, it’s not like you have to take care of the house yourself. You have all those helpers willing to run around for you.
If you’ve been keeping up with me in the past couple of months, I’ve been documenting our experiences of Moving Our Daughter From the East to the West including Saying Goodbye to the Extended Family and Adjusting a Child to a Colder Climate. This part of my daughter’s story is about living in our shoebox of an apartment – and how she accepted this little one-bedroom apartment as home after living in a huge four-bedroom house with an equally big garden.
1. Have a Clear Play Area
One of my main worries about leaving the gorgeous and big house where we lived with my in-laws was that Aaliyah would miss her own bedroom. Of course, she didn’t sleep there (you’ll see why not below) but it was a fully, no, overly-stocked toy room. She had a dollhouse, an inflatable toy house, a keyboard, a chest full of stuffed animals and more toys than I could keep track of. In our defense, her dad was excellent at taking her to the orphanage to donate toys that she’d outgrown and she did play with each and every one of her toys. But she was simply spoiled with space.
I didn’t realize how badly she’d need her own space when we first moved here, and the need of having a clearly marked play area was actually created to protect a gorgeous and very expensive Afghan rug gifted to us. There was no way that Aaliyah and her friends were going to play and eat on it! So we bought a nice, large-sized, cheap rug from Walmart that’s so replaceable that our new cat could scratch it and I would almost not say anything. A couple of chairs that we brought from back home have become the perfect divider between the adult and child area. So much so that we can easily have play dates now and I will no longer wonder “How will the adults talk while the kids play?” Everyone has their own space even though it’s all in one room.
2. Welcome Co-Sleeping but Create Opportunities for Independent Sleep
We are the definition of helicopter attachment-parenting – and we’re proud of it. I did try to get Aaliyah to sleep on her own for the first three weeks of her life but she was such a fussy sleeper that her dad finally said to me “If we all get a chance to sleep – just let her sleep with you!” Remember the scene for Lady and the Tramp where Jim Dear and Darling let Lady sleep with them “just this once” when she was a puppy and the scene morphed into her sleeping with them the rest of her single life? Yes, that’s exactly how it happened with us.
I didn’t know that this situation would work in our favour when we moved to Toronto. We never even considered moving to a two-bedroom because our current place was always intended as a starting point – just a place to land and acclimatize to life here. Now that I think about it, it was probably the smartest thing we could have done because when it’s time to move to our long-term place we won’t have a ton of furniture to worry about. But even with just a one-bedroom, Aaliyah has the option to sleep on her own. One of the better decisions we made was getting a sofa bed in the lounge. If we ever reach a point where she wants to sleep on her own, we can let her sleep there.
3. Go Out – A Lot – And Love It!
Remember the ridiculously big garden I talked about? Well I had basically created a haven for Aaliyah, her cousins, and friends, because the city had reached a point where it was almost too dangerous to go out and play. She had a sandbox, a slide, a playhouse – too many cars and tricycles for her own good. It was simply perfect. I knew that when we moved here there was almost no chance that we’d get a place with a lawn (if ever) – and that was okay because she could play in parks. What I didn’t think about in my over-analyzing brain was that it would be miserable for all of us to go out when it was freezing cold outside!
We almost reached a time where we would be cooped up in our little apartment all winter. But we didn’t. One fine day, we were forced to walk home from the subway when it felt like it was minus 40 outside and the following weekend, when it was minus 15, we thought, why not. Let’s just go out. So we went to the Harbourfront where they were having a gorgeous Chinese New Year’s celebration and we had a blast. After that, we didn’t let the cold stop us. We just couldn’t, for our sanity and for hers.
I’ve come to start loving our cozy one-bedroom place and I know Aaliyah loves it because she’s slowly returning to being a happy little hermit which is what she was like back home. We’ve started doing everything we used to do over there – cook together, even though there’s very little counter space (I use the stovetop as a counter when I have to), do arts and crafts on the dining table (which functions as an eating and work space as well) instead of an “art station”, create large train track creations in her play area rather than in her dedicated play room.
I suppose I’ve always known that it’s the time spent together which is more important than where it’s spent. This move has been a fabulous reminder of the importance of doing things with your kids rather than only providing the opportunity to do them.
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