I’ve always known Joni was right: you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.
We’ve been on the verge of departing for our new life in Calgary for the past month, but today is our very last day in the city I’ve called home for the past seven years: where I gave birth to my son, where I’ve met life-long friends and forged my adult life as I know it. Ever since my husband proposed even applying for a new position in Calgary, my emotions about leaving Montréal have been mixed. On the one hand, being a quick (and cheaper) airplane ride away from my entire family, getting to live in an English-speaking province (j’ADORE Québec, but sometimes, even now, there’s culture shock), getting to start fresh with a new home, new faces, new everything, not to mention my husband’s dream job… all of that is undoubtedly very appealing. But on the other hand, we have been very happily settled in Montréal… my midwife was wonderful, our daycare extraordinary, my friends are the best people around and I’ve become closer to many of my in-laws since having my son. Despite feeling alienated by provincial politics and the more socialist, France-inspired public policy, I love the bilingual culture of Montréal and I love that my son is a fully-fledged member of this curious, Franglais world.
What is “home”?
Cub is too little to really grasp what it means to move. He knows we’re going on an airplane and that we will go to the zoo. On Thursday after the packers had left, he came home from daycare and asked me: “Pourquoi boxes everywhere?” On Friday, we picked him up from dayccare only once our condo was completely empty, so he never really said “goodbye” to the place. But today at breakfast he told us, “Want to go home.” And at lunch he told me the same thing. Technically, at least until tomorrow, we don’t even have a home! And even then, we will be moving into a temporary, furnished apartment that will most certainly not feel that much different than the hotel room we are currently occupying.
Because of our imminent departure, we’ve been sure to catch up with family and friends. My girlfriends and I finally got our collective butts in gear to organize a girls’ night out. We agreed that were it not for my move, many more months would’ve passed without a reunion. We’ve been sure to bring Cub to see his great grandparents frequently, something we might otherwise have only managed once every couple of months. Knowing we might not ever see them again due to distance and old age made it suddenly easy to find the time. The announcement of our move was in part the impetus behind a much-needed and very positive family reconciliation, too. Were it not for the move, the hatchet may have easily been left above ground for many more months! We also invited our daycare provider and her family over for a farewell supper, and discovered that it’s something we should’ve been doing all the time! I have never seen Cub have so much fun with his own toys in his own house, and my husband and I and Nathalie and J.F. didn’t see the time pass being so engrossed in conversation at the dinner table.
An Ode to Daycare
Speaking of daycare… it’s actually my biggest heartbreak that Cub won’t spend the rest of his pre-elementary school years with Nathalie. My besties and I can remain besties thanks to iMessage. I have a new midwife already in Calgary. My online job is totally mobile and I would be happier to teach in Alberta than in Québec once I decide to return to the classroom. But there is nothing mobile about Cub’s daycare. It is incredibly challenging to entrust another human being with the care of your child. With Nathalie I immediately felt confident that Cub would be safe, loved and engaged, and I was not disappointed. I never, ever planned to even send my children to daycare at all, so the fact that I’ve come to adore daycare as much as he does is a true testament to the quality care and the real bond I see between him and his éducatrice, not to mention the other five children with whom he spends his days while I’m working. Sending him to daycare has made me a better Mom, because it’s allowed me to fulfill my personal need for time spent alone fulfilling my own projects, so that when we’re together I don’t feel like I’m racing until nap time or bedtime or tv-time so that I can do “my thing.” And despite it not being a formal, educational daycare program, the learning that has taken place in the past year has been astronomical, and not something that I could have accomplished with him if I were a full-time stay-at-home Mom. There’s no way he would be so entirely at ease in French had it not been for sa garderie. I am a firm believer that it takes a village to raise a child, and while I know that I have taught Cub many things both explicitly and by example, I also see and cherish the lessons he has learned from Nathalie, someone with a different approach and with whom he has a different relationship. Will there be daycares in Calgary? Of course. Will it be double to triple the cost of what it is in Montréal? Yes. I’m trying to keep an open mind that we may find other opportunities for Cub there, such as a Francophone preschool, but I’m also in a very stubborn mindset that reminds me of my attitude when my family moved before I started grade eight. I would never find new friends as good as my old friends… we’ll never find a daycare as good as THIS daycare! (Picture me with my arms crossed and stomping my feet for full effect, then huffily slamming my bedroom door.)
Birthing a Calgarian
How will Cub 2.0 be different having never lived in Québec? I doubt she’ll speak the same level of French as Cub, but we will most certainly strive for it. I’ve decided to speak with her mostly in French given that she’ll have a 100% English environment, so we’ll see how well I can manage that. Cub speaks to me in both English and French, but insists that I read books in English (regardless of in what language they are written). He may become more reticent to speak to me in French as he grows, and perhaps reserve his français for Papa. My daughter won’t know her Papa’s side of the family like Cub does, and may never meet her paternal great-grandparents. She will see more of my family, of course. But in Calgary we will be orphans: we have friends there already, but there will be no family- no familiar home to head to with a warm supper waiting and lots of treats for the Cubs. I was feeling quite sad about this last night as Grandmaman brought out Smarties and chocolate ice cream for her delighted grandson.
No Turning Back
The bags are packed and we’re ready to go: we’re giving this a shot! I’m both excited and nervous, sad and happy… We have one week in our new city before Papa starts his new job, so in the short term I am very much looking forward to this much-needed family time. Beyond that, I know there will be A LOT of adjusting to do, and hopefully the transition is smooth for the head of household (the toddler).
Au revoir, Montréal!