Just a Thought Parenting — A Moving Experience By Janice Lane Palko

I have not read the best-selling book What to Expect When You’re Expecting nor have I seen the movie based on the book, which was released this year.  From its description on Wikipedia, this book is regarded as “the Bible of American pregnancy.” However comprehensive the book may have intended to be, it fails to alert soon-to-be parents of one side effect of parenthood.  That whether you want to be or not, you will become a mover.  Not a mover in the sense of mover and shaker, but as in Mayflower or United Van Lines.


Mercifully, parents’ induction into the life as a stevedore is gradual, beginning with toting a diaper bag everywhere you go with your baby, and when the situation warrants,  the ever-essential portable bed, infant seat or stroller.  I had twins so our load was multiplied.  


When the children became a little older and more mobile, they were able to help with the toting and hauling somewhat, but no matter how I tried to train them, they always seemed to leave their backpacks lying around.  I don’t know about you, but when I went to school, maybe I brought home a book or two a night.  Now students carry backpacks that seem as punishing as Sisyphus’ boulder.  Unlike moving baby items, moving backpacks requires brute strength.  But I think that is God’s way of preparing you for the next chapter in your adventure in childrearing—full parental pack mule status.  


Since 2005 when my twins graduated from high school and headed off to college, my husband and I calculated that in those intervening years we have moved our three children 23 times.  Fortunately, by this time in our lives, we had the right equipment for our lot in life—the proverbial mini van.  With our red Caravan, we have moved children in and out of houses, dorms, apartments, acquiring along the way scuffed knuckles, wrenched knees and frazzled nerves.  Some moves stand out more than others.  The year my daughter moved into an  apartment in an old home with an impossible staircase that necessitated precise geometric calculations to get the mattress around a tight corner tested our spatial analytical skills.  The 20-minute time allotment at the dorms at Penn State for parents and students to unload their contents was a study in time and motion efficiency. 


While all the moves have posed challenges—from hauling boxes in sweltering Georgia heat to removing an enormous bureau so that my son could spend his summer in D.C. living with friends before grad school—where his quarters were defined as living behind the couch.   (I’ve heard of the movie People Under the Stairs, but never the Boy Behind the Couch.)


However, by far the worst was couch boy’s move to an apartment in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, when he acquired his first job in July 2011.  In addition to our faithful van, we borrowed my father’s truck to haul all of his belongings there.  If you have never been to Old Town, it is the area around Washington, D.C. near where George Washington lived.  It’s quite charming but quite congested.  To move, we had to pay for a $35 parking pass that would reserve a parking space on the street for us in front of his building on busy King Street.  By this time, our trusted van had lost its air-conditioner.  The least affected by heat, I volunteered to drive the van whose main content was a new queen-sized mattress.  Everything went smoothly until we hit Old Town on Sunday afternoon, where I was required to parallel park the van.  Well,  I can’t remember the last time I paralleled park—probably because it was so traumatic, I’d blotted it from my memory.  I am a pull-in, mall-shopper kind of parker and now here I was faced with the worst parking situation ever—a tiny spot on a busy city street where I must hold up traffic to  situate the van whose visibility is inhibited by the giant mattress in the back. 


While my husband and son guided me in and sweat poured from me, I somehow negotiated the van into the spot.  After that chaotic episode, moving all his furniture and belongings up two-flights and driving back to Pittsburgh in the same day seemed like a breeze.


My youngest will graduate from Penn State this spring, and we were hoping to hold on to the van, which was 12 years old, for one last college move, but alas, fate intervened.  The van’s transmission went several weeks ago, and we were forced to get a new vehicle.  We selected a Honda CR-V.  The bells and whistles on my new ride are amazing—it has a rearview back-up mirror, Bluetooth ,and I can even customize the wallpaper on the dashboard screen—and this isn’t even the deluxe model.  But if Honda really wants to attract buyers, they need to develop an accessory that will moves children without the assistance of parents.