There are certain places in our world that we can breathe better. Thoughts of the many immediate needs that poke holes into our days fade and tranquility washes over the surface, filling in and smoothing over all those pockmarks. You are once again whole. This is the place where our proverbial cup is filled, our soul is restored and we feel like we are truly free. Do you have that place? If not, I encourage you to find it. It could be the den in your own home, the coffee house down the street, a park, library, or somewhere on the other side of the world.
Going all the way back to Spring of 1998, a group of college kids wanted a small, slow, fun place to just BE for a week of spring break. That was me, my future husband, and some great friends. We traveled to a small coastal North Carolina town we had never heard of before and had randomly found on the “new found” internet. We had an incredible time. We knew there was something there that spoke to us. Year after year we went back, many times with different groups of people, sometimes just us. We were married in 2001 and, starting in 2006, our babies toes were christened to the sand on those beaches. We even renewed our vows in 2011 right there with the muted roar of the waves crashing behind us. This is our place.
Last summer my Midwesterner family traveled there once again with a brand new group of people to introduce to “our place”. We helped another family start their traditions there with their own wedding, always continuing to grow our treasure chest of memories. Meandering down the oak covered streets of town as we waited for our seaside table, my husband turned to me and asked, “Why don’t we just move here?”
I quietly chuckled to the remark until I realized he was at least 75% serious. His eyes were lit up and I knew he meant business. We spent the next year casually talking about this possible BIG move with our four daughters who were 9, 7, 7 and 5. There were days of more acceptance than others, which ebbed and flowed with school drama, holidays, and snow accumulation. What we did know is that we were being led there, and had been for nearly two decades, and it was worth it, to all of us, to just check. Check to see if this was just a fast fleeing crazy ambition, or a concrete pull we were having. We used the summer as a litmus test of our future.
We went on a summer adventure of a lifetime! Our minivan, holding all the treasures we love most, traveled over 3000 miles — but in the midst of it we spent 3 weeks in our small piece of home in North Carolina. Not on the beach like we always had, but in the small town area where we would actually live if we decided to move there. My husband and I worked remotely the whole time and we tried to immerse ourselves in the culture, community and way of life.
In our family, Dad and Mom are the rule makers and ultimate say. But it was immensely important to us that this was a family decision and not a mommy and daddy decision. The only thing we asked our relentlessly shifting and reluctant — though excited — daughters was to keep an open mind and heart, fully experience what we are doing, and talk openly to us about everything they are feeling. This was a FAMILY move after all. This lead to numerous family and one on one discussions daily. It was maybe the closest I had felt with my family in years because we were in this together and it was only and wholly the six of us. The experiences, words, laughs, and contemplation were drenched in richness. It was another reminder that when we give our children respect of an opinion and a voice to share it they can do remarkable things and our family is that much more remarkable because of it.
A turning point in our story happened around the half way point of our stay. My oldest, and by far most reserved about this move, passively told me that she felt this was where we were supposed to be and all her reasons why. I was so proud of her in that moment because she had fully and deeply thought about this and formed her own opinion. I nodded, smiled unbiasedly, and let her know we were getting ready for a dinner out. Then, in oh-so-typical Harden family fashion, we made a decision on a dinner napkin at the local pizza place. Pros, Cons, Questions, and Concerns were the columns and everyone had their time to speak and be heard. Even the 5 year old, who was more concerned about dessert than anything else, added her thoughts and every word of hers was heard. This decision was going to alter their lives forever and they deserved their opinion. In a vote of 6-0 it was unanimous — we were moving. Now the hard part would begin. We talked about that too. Some people would not like our decision. Moving would be one of the hardest things we would ever have to face and it was OK to be really happy and really sad at the same time. With that, we agreed that if we are strong as a family we could do anything, and North Carolina was our home… we just needed to get there.
Children need to know their opinions matter. Even in small decisions, they need to know their thoughts have space in this world. If they are walked on as children, that echos into adolescence and adulthood and they do not feel like what they have to say is worth anything. Parent pressure can silently transfer into peer pressure, less than ideal relationships, and career choices. These are not children as much as they are growing adults, and we want to give them the power of opinion and to know that those opinions count in their lives. This is, after all, their life from beginning to end, and they should have a say. This is not to be confused with “they get whatever they want”. That is why we are here as parents: To help guide their immature wants, tantrums, desires. No, they cannot have an elephant, but they can go to the zoo sometimes.
This choice has been one of the most defining parts of who we are as a family. Hand in hand, we stand in our decision and what that means for us. We will hold one another through the tougher times of this transition and rejoice during the great. We only have our children for such a small amount of time in their lives and then we expect them to make great decisions going forward. That is a much easier transition when they are taught how to use the tools in good decision making throughout life. Decide and decide together.
p.s. If you haven’t found your place, I recommend everyone have one. Know it and visit as often as possible. We are going to live in ours. Life is too short.
Nellie Harden has been married to her best friend for 14 years and is a mom of four little, amazing girls. In addition to being a homeschooling mama, she works with families, schools, and corporations to inspire healthy living around the world through good nutrition practices and growing whole foods. She also enjoys writing about all of life’s adventures on her blog. For more articles by Nellie on Twiniversity, click here.