Keeping my kids engaged with our move…

Since we first separated, pre-divorce, I’ve had a three bedroom townhouse about a mile north of Linda’s place and as time has passed, it’s become more and more obvious that with three kids, the place is just woefully too small, especially given that none of them really want to sleep in the downstairs room once I’m upstairs and it’s late. No worries, I don’t really care if we all shuffle around during the night.
So we’ve had the townhouse on the market to sell since March of this year and finally we’ve closed the sale (a painful example of value depreciation in this depressed real estate market, but that’s another story) and found a new place that we all like.
What I’ve worried about, however, is that moving into a new place would be more uprooting, more change in their young lives, after we’ve had what’s frankly been a difficult and tumultuous divorce and passage of time as they recalibrated their little brains to understand two parents, two households.

To try and keep them engaged, I’ve offered them financial incentives to help keep our place clean — which they’ve done really well. It’s shown beautifully and we’ve received universally positive feedback from the over 40 people who have come through the townhouse. In fact, having looked at a dozen or so places myself, I can say that our place is far nicer and neater than any of them. And I have three kids!
More than financial incentives to keep the old place clean, though, I’ve really wanted to have them forward-focused, thinking about what we want down the road so that when we move, it’ll be into our new home not daddy’s new house.
To accomplish that, we have had many conversations about the inherent trade-offs in buying a house, issues like age versus price and location versus price. More than once I asked them if they’d prefer an older house that’s close to school versus a newer, nicer house that’s further away, or a bigger house that’s further away versus a smaller place that’s closer.
Their answers have been consistent from month to month: bigger, newer wins and an extra five or ten minutes in the car is no big deal at all.
Which is good, because the place we’re going to buy is indeed further from their school and our current neighborhood, but by a surprisingly short amount: the townhouse is about 4 minutes from school (a nice walk or easy bike ride) and the new place is ten minutes by car, so it’s still biking distance, though a bit more of a ride.
I let them figure out who got which room and each of them has quite quickly picked out their own space in the new place which is over twice the size of our little townhouse, and with five rooms, there’s one for each kid and space for guests too. Seems a bit extravagant, but I know from experience that if my children are perpetually on top of each other without their own space, it gets a lot more tense and difficult.
Oh, and one more thing I’m doing to help keep them engaged? I’ve told each of them that they have a $1000 redecorating budget that they can spend as they like. If they want to buy a new bed, a little couch, a desk, or re-carpet, or repaint, it’s all good. They are thrilled beyond words about this and are talking about it all the time now.
I know I’ll survive the experience when my 13yo daughter talks about how “JC Penny has really cute bedroom setups, but it’s a really expensive place, so we’ll need to find something more reasonable”. Beats Crate and Barrel or Ethan Allen as a starting point, I’d say!
Anyway, we’re still signing paperwork and keeping our fingers crossed that it all goes through, but so far, I can’t complain. My kids are excited beyond words about moving and getting their own space in our new place and that’s more important than anything else.
Oh, and I am looking forward to the new digs too. 🙂

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