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Mar. 5 2010 - 1:17 pm | 2,006 views | 2 recommendations | 4 comments

Family wrecked by dad’s move for the last good job in America

"Saturn" by Goya

Image by Flickr

After essentially getting fired, I managed to put things together and get the last good job in America, but in another city. So my family and I moved, bought a house we can almost afford, found a good public school with the sorts of hippie progressive education stuff we believe in, and plunked the kids into it. “Landing on your feet,” people said. “Dodging a bullet.”

Of course the transition was rough for the kids. “Give it time,” “It takes six months,” people said. Turns out, people don’t know shit. Six months in and the kids are worse than ever. The fifth grader grows more sullen by the day; the second-grader breaks down and cries at dropoff time, “I’m so lonely,” ” I want to go back,” “Don’t leave me, please, I need you.”

What should we do? Where’s the line between telling them to tough it out and realizing they might be right — that we might very well have dropped into the pit of suburban anomie? — Krugmanic Depressive.

There’s nothing you can do, not about where you used to live and the job you had and your kids’ lives before the move. That’s all finished.

Even if you gave up this last good job in America, managed to sell the new house at only a slightly catastrophic loss and moved back to the old hometown, what would happen there? What kind of grim situation would you create, with no income? Try to find an apartment near the same school? Rent a foreclosed house up the street from your beloved old home? Live in a van? Struggle with part-time or free-lance, if you can even get that in this hellish economy? Send out resumes by day and snap at everybody by night?

If the kids are bummed out now, just wait until they find out nothing’s the same back at home, and Daddy has gone all The Shining. Their buddies and playmates have already moved on — six months is forever for grade schoolers. Gangs of school kids are vicious, regardless of their parents’ Progressive Intent or whatever. Last year’s best buddies would be complete monsters if your kids returned to town under different circumstances.

Your children may or may not understand this, so you want to sit them down and paint a somber picture of despair and betrayal back in the old ‘hood. Play some deranged music at a low volume, maybe that creepy Bartók violin thing or the soundtrack to Mulholland Drive. A few more tears won’t hurt, at this point.

But are you truly stuck in what sounds like a lame suburb where nothing’s fun and nobody’s really connecting? Of course not. Things are already uprooted and weird. Maybe there’s a funkier part of town, still close to your job, where the kids actually hang together and there’s a farmer’s market and a community garden and those “art walks” where responsible parents are allowed to dump plastic cupfuls of wine down their throats while the kids play on the water’s edge.

There might be an interesting charter school in town, with some outgoing kids who welcome new pals because everybody there has been uprooted by their well-meaning parents. The huge public school full of smug little punks in a nice neighborhood is generally only fun for people who grew up there — the new arrivals are never really going to fit in.

The kids need to find their spot, but make sure you’re not doing too much “dropoff.” If this town is home, you need to sell it to your whole family. Why shouldn’t this place be bombed from space? Make the case. Make it fun. These kids aren’t teenagers, yet, so you’ve still got some time. Americans move, it’s what we do. Nothing is permanent. And the kid who learns to deal with change is the kid who won’t be a drooling dope-addict wreck when the inevitable deaths and disappointments arrive, as they do for everybody.

How long will it take for Silicon Valley to save us all from the Great Recession? — Don Frances

Oh they just need to come up with another couple dozen Social Networks and interactive tablet experiences and everybody’s rich. Probably about 27 days from now. Be ready!

Send your important questions to ask.layne@gmail.com. But if you have a REAL problem, call the police or something, as Ken Layne will not really help you at all. This is just a web page on the Internet.


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  1. collapse expand

    Cruel but necessary words of advice. You are a sage for 21st century America and all its fucked-upedness.

  2. collapse expand

    Part of me feels for the kids. Part of me says, suck it up kids. My family moved…a lot. By the time I hit high school, I had attended four different schools in four different states/countries. Each move meant leaving friends and the dread of trying to make new friends. I was always envious of my friends who lived in one place their whole, short lives. Looking back, the moving helped me learn to adjust to new locations and new faces. Later in life, my dad told me he never really thought of how moving would affect us. He always believed he was making a better life for us as he grew in his career. In retrospect he realized the moves could be a somewhat traumatic and I could see he felt like he let us down a bit. I reassured him that we were no worse for wear.

  3. collapse expand

    Between seventh and tenth grades, I attended a different school every year. No, it wasn’t fun. Sometimes I liked where I was. Sometimes, I had to endure it, knowing that next year would be somewhere else.

    Kids are more resilient than you give them credit for. It may also be that they’re mirroring your feelings of loss. Look toward the future, and they will too.

  4. collapse expand

    A couple of practical tips for kids in a new school. First, the parents should get involved at some level. For the second grader, stop by after lunch and be a guest reader, bring a funny book (click clack moo, cows that type; Dear Mrs LaRue, letters from dog obedience school; sylvester and the magic pebble). The other kids will enjoy the story, the break from the usual classroom activities, and will often reach out to your child as a result of your participation. in addition, it will give your child a sense of comfort to have you in the classroom. If you feel OK here, shouldn’t s/he? For the older child, sign up for an after school program or class. if the school doesn’t offer, check county recreation for chess, engineering, scouts, ceramics, gymnastics, etc.
    In today’s school environment, there is often VERY LITTLE time for socializing — which makes it hard for the new kid in town. In a 15 minute recess, how can a person develop meaningful relationships? This is where an after-school program can help to facilitate social circumstances, making it easier to break the ice. If a program doesn’t exist, approach the PTA or principal and offer to run such a program for your child and others. What is your child interested in? 24-game? Learning a foreign language? Get the whole family involved. This can be a commitment of an hour a week, or once a month.
    It’ll be worth it — both for you and your child.

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    About Me

    Hello, friends. I am the author of the novel "Dignity" http://amzn.to/jSf6CF and write about the desert, houses, politics, our souls and other topical subjects. You can see my stuff at http://kenlayne.com or http://twitter.com/kenlayne .

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    Followers: 122
    Contributor Since: January 2009
    Location:Mojave Desert