We had dinner with friends the other night - our first friends here in Vermont. We reminisced, as we walked through the woods, about how different the kids were when we first moved here, and how they’ve changed over the past year.
In our neighborhood in D.C., outside time centered around trips to the playground, family outings to nature centers, and walks around the monuments. A special outing on a cold, rainy day was a bus ride to the train station for hot coco – or for a really special outing, a ride on the bus and metro, escalator included. My kids were city kids.
When we arrived in Vermont, I eagerly tried to send them out to play in the yard while I made dinner, or cleaned, or just wanted a moment of quiet. But they wouldn’t go. They’d stand stubbornly by the door and wait for me. If I did manage to shoo them out the door, they’d wander aimlessly around the driveway for a few minutes before returning to the steps to peer through the window to see when I was coming out to join them. These same kids who would race down the city block, let themselves into the playground, and climb for hours without a second glance at me seemed uncomfortable in this new, undefined space around our house. They were fearful of the woods and wary of the steep slope of the driveway and street. There were no fences holding them safely in their play space, no sidewalks or stop signs to mark their boundaries. It must have been overwhelming to a three- and five-year-old.
But slowly they have eased into their new surroundings, regaining the confidence they had in the city. Katherine started biking up and down the hill, and Clara started digging in the mud and collecting rocks. Katherine joined me on long walks in the woods, and Clara followed caterpillars across the driveway. By spring, they were out the door before I could stop them.
Now, in our new home even further out in the country, we walked through the woods with the friends who had welcomed our city kids to their neighborhood one year ago. The kids ran ahead of us, disappearing into the trees, only an occasional streak of yellow shirt or shriek of laughter giving us a sense of where they were. They looped around, meeting us from the other direction, red-faced and out-of-breath, pausing for only a minute before running off into their new freedom again. The woods is now their playground, and they have settled in.
I am reminded once again of the advice I was given years ago: it takes a year, a complete cycle through the seasons, to adjust to a major life change.