Transitions

As a Montessori teacher, I learned that what could potentially make or ruin your day in the classroom was the way transitions were handled. Transitions are all those moments when we go from one activity to another, when we need to interrupt our train of thoughts or our focus in order to move on to the next step or activity. For example, transitions are the moments when children leave their parents’ care to enter the classroom, when they are invited to put away their work (as we call all activities in a Montessori classroom) to get ready for circle, playground time, lunch, nap time, etc. Every parent has also probably learned about the challenge of transitions through their own experience: getting out of bed in the morning or out of the bathtub, ending playtime to go have a meal, turning off the TV in the middle of a very important episode of Tchoupi because it is time to put on pajamas, brush teeth, or get some homework done.

As teachers, we learn pretty quickly that transitions go much more smoothly if we always give the children a moment notice before asking them to stop what they are doing. It could be a gentle “5 more minutes” reminder or sometimes, a run through the day in the morning when something out of the ordinary is to take place.

We also learn to advice parents, to tell them that discussing drop-off in the car and agreeing with their child on what is “going to happen” is much more productive than running out of the classroom door as soon as little Jordan looks away, leaving his teachers to have to deal with an hysterically crying child for the next 15-30 minutes.

As adults, we tend to forget that transitions can also affect us and leave us a little more fragile or emotional: a new job or a move, a separation but also a marriage or a birth, and sometimes, just a change in a well-known routine.  I usually underestimate the impact of a move on my emotional health… You would think that considering that I have moved 28 times over the past 20 years, I would have a very good handle on it; sadly, I just tend to forget how draining and emotionally exhausting it is. The packing, the moving, and then the unpacking, but also reorganizing one’s life in a new space, figuring out where to go grocery shopping and which route or public transportation to take to make it to work, deciding where to leave the keys and the cell phone when getting home, and learning to use that new stove top/oven/washing machine/shower, etc.

On top of it, I usually inadvertently change my diet whenever I move. I change grocery store so I stop forgetting that I used to buy that kind of bread or vegetables and it can sometimes take me a couple of months to realize that I miss making my black bean hummus or my shrimp risotto so much. And then, it takes a little while feeling at home again in a new place: figuring out where things feel right, where to put that painting, that statue or that plant, and surround ourselves again of the beloved items that we have been carrying around for so many years and so many miles…

I usually tend to go into hibernation after I move. I need time to get familiar with my new space before I feel comfy again so I stay home a lot, inviting people to come visit as much as possible versus visiting them or going out. And when I finally feel at home in my new space, I am again ready to venture outside as I feel safe coming back to a place that truly feels like an extension of myself at the end of the day.

My last move was only supposed to be temporary so I did not really take the time to adjust or care for my new place. But when it became clear that I was going to have to stay there longer than anticipated, I realized that a couple of months had passed and that I had yet to start feeling at home. I simply had not put any time and energy into it. So I fixed up the couch, moved things around, got curtains and finished unpacking. I hibernated for a bit, taking care of my home and myself. And now that another couple of months has passed, I think I feel ready to venture outside again because I now have a space that truly feels like home to which to head back.

And as I am once again going through some transitions, I try to remember to take it easy if things get a bit rough, to be indulgent with myself when I start feeling stressed out, and to be thankful for all that surrounds me.

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