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I need a parenting manual. Seriously, where do I get one of those?

I know my older daughter Dylan never wanted to move to Florida. I could tell because she did subtle things like leave a note every night by my bedside saying, “PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME MOVE.” And there were a lot of tears.

We promised her swimming, new friends, an adventure, a summer that never ends!

She responded by saying that sledding was the passion of her life.

I honestly thought that once we got into the groove of the sunshine state (which by the way, they are totally not kidding about because the sun here is fierce) that she would be happy. She was in 3rd grade. She’d be fine. Kids are resilient. Kids go with the flow!

There was no flow. She cried about missing her best friend and at one point, through streams of tears said, “But what about Lucas!” Who the hell was Lucas (name has been changed to protect some boy I never heard of), I thought? Apparently he had been in her class in New York for the last two years and now his absence was crushing.

Her school (although academically rigorous) was too big with very short recesses, strict rules and less focus on the arts than her New York school. Both my daughters had great teachers but somehow, Dylan’s spirit was wilting.

I tried to honor her feelings. I tried to tell her to be brave and keep moving forward. Sometimes in frustration, I told her to be more grateful for all the wonderful things in her life. Sometimes I just hugged her through my own tears because I honestly had no words.  What was I supposed to say, I wondered?

So this year I moved Dylan and her younger sister Summer to a much smaller charter school. With no bus service, I’m doing a lot more driving and I’m pretty convinced that Florida is the most gigantic state ever. Like way bigger than Texas. I’m sure of it.

I could barely breathe the first day of school as I waited to find out how it all went.


And at the end of the day, I got a “good” from Dylan. By the end of the week, we were still in the good territory and she said her teacher was very nice. This was promising indeed.

Then we went to the beach.  It was a gorgeous day and we found a great parking spot. We splashed into the water with our boogie boards where it quickly became clear that the jellyfish were out in full force.

After a young girl was stung, we quickly retreated to the shore where Dylan downward spiraled into a pit of misery about not being able to swim, missing New York, her friends, her old school and of course sledding.

Damn you jellyfish.

Of course, she has recovered. And her second week of school seems to be going well.

I still can’t quite exhale.

I only hope that someday when she faces tough challenges in life she’ll be able to say, “My parents made me move to Florida. And it was really hard. But now I know I can survive anything.”

I’m guessing she’ll be saying it from her apartment in New York.

16 Responses to where is my parenting manual?

  • Natalie says:

    I’m not saying it’s easy or super fun or anything, but as someone who was moved quite a few times across several continents as a child, I wanted to say that she will be ok… even if she tells you the opposite for several years to come…;)

  • I feel for you! Last year, we only moved my 2nd grader to a new town, and it was a traumatic experience. It has been exhausting to try and maneuver around her triggers and keep anxiety at bay. I am hoping that this year will be better. Hang in there!

  • Kira says:

    My parents moved us from NY to FL when I was 10. I went through exactly what you describe. It took a loooong time (2 years?) for me to adjust, and for years after I still insisted I was moving back to NY the first chance I got. I followed through on that and wound up going to college in NY. But you know what? After college, when it came down to where I wanted to ultimately live? I picked Florida. Sunshine & family won out in the end.

  • Leigh Ann says:

    I can’t imagine how hard that is, on her AND you. I never moved as a kid, so when we think about moving even in the same city, it gives me panic attacks to think about switching schools. You’re a great mom. 🙂

  • Pat says:

    I feel your pain! I’ve been on both sides of the equation, so I understand what you are going through. When my parents moved me from California to Illinois, I was disconsolate for years, waiting impatiently for the day when I could leave that horrible state. But before that day came, I met and then married a farmer, which means you are pretty much married to the land he farms (in Illinois) and stuck in a state filled with gray skies and corn fields. 31 years after my parents doomed me to the worst possible fate by uprooting me from my friends, home and school, I committed the same crime, dragging my 6 year old daughter off to sunny Florida. My dream finally came true, but hers, not so much. We explained that she would be living in Mickey Mouse’s back yard and there would be beaches and pools and no winter. She claimed to love the cold and hate summer and would never forgive us. We ended up bribing her with a Barbie dream house. She gradually adjusted to her new life, but for years she dreamed of nothing but leaving Florida for good. Her senior year, she would only apply to out of state colleges, even though the out of state tuition was astronomical. But then fate intervened. She did NOT get accepted at the pricey college in another time zone, but she did get a scholarship to be an exchange student in Germany for a gap year. I sent her off last summer convinced that she would never come back from Europe. She had a great experience and did and saw lots of cool things all over Europe. She also learned lots of things: how to speak German, how to drink beer, how to travel by yourself, how much it sucks to be cold all the time, how to live out of a suitcase, what it’s like to have SAD from not seeing the sun for months, how much she misses her family and friends here, how great it is to have free refills and ice in your drinks, and (shocker alert) how nice it actually is to live in Florida. She had to re-apply to colleges and ended up starting college this week USF in Tampa, only 1.5 hours away from good ol’ mom and dad. What??? 12 years of hating Florida and being mad at her parents for moving her here were washed away during 1 very mild winter on a different continent. However, I still hate Illinois. Hmmm. Maybe I need to spend some extended time in Europe too???

  • bitsy says:

    My parents made me move to Florida and I hated them for it and never let them forget it. I’d like to tell you that she will see the light soon, but that might not happen. I can tell you for sure that you are not damaging her and she will be fine. Better than fine! Now I can look back and see all the cool parts of it that I miss. I would even move back.

  • Mary Clare says:

    I could use a parenting manual, too. When my crying 3 YO clung to me as I dropped her off at school and I had to wrench her from my body to hand her over to the teacher, I think it was the right thing to do. Still my heart ached. Oh, it’s complicated…You just do what you think is the best and cross your fingers. Maybe for Dylan making a close friend will make FL her home. Finding some buddies in her new school will help, I bet.

  • Judy says:

    I am adding my voice to the having to move trauma experience. This was a move from California to Pennsylvania in the fifth grade. The trauma was my mother’s, though. It took her seven years but we did make it back to California where my father died 18 months after the move. He was healthy until after our return. Due to my mother’s brain washing on how awful PA was my brother and I had no interest in ever leaving CA again. He turned down an acceptance and scholarship to U. of Penna. I turned down a good job transfer to another state as I couldn’t imagine living outside CA. My mother’s intent was not evil just homesickness extreme. I wrote letters for seven years to my left behind BFF. Our paths y’ed off in the 11th grade when she had to get married and I had no clue. It is all survivable.

  • Oh, that IS hard! You ache so much for your kid, even when you know she will recover. My friend (who is military) had to practically drag her high school daughter by the hair on a cross-country move from Tennessee to Hawaii. The girl was leaving behind a boyfriend, etc. Yet, she ended up meeting the guy she would marry in Hawaii. So you never know how it will end up. I hope Lucas isn’t too disappointed when Dylan meets the love of her life down there in the Sunshine State.

  • ErinB says:

    I will send her a picture of my kids stuffed into the car seats with coats, mittens,gloves, scarves, boots, the heat on full blast and still can’t get warm…maybe that will help??! Hugs to you both. xoxo

  • Lee says:

    You are already an amazing parent, Kelcey. Crying with Dylan while hugging her tight and moving her to a smaller school (and being willing to drive her!) are showing her how to deal with pain. “Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids” by Bonnie Harris is my recommendation for a parenting manual. Your delightful sense of humor and your strong connection with your children will reap lifelong rewards for all of you, no matter where you live.

  • hokgardner says:

    We moved to Sarasota, FL from Massachusetts when I was in third grade. It sucked, and I cried a lot. But then my parents enrolled me in an awesome school and we went to the beach all the time and I learned how to play tennis and I made friends. It took a while, but life there ended up being pretty good. Even though I consider myself a northerner trapped in Texas, I tell people my hometown is Sarasota. If I could move back to the beach, I would in a heartbeat.

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kelcey kintner