‘It’s broken my mama heart to be away from her. She moved to live with her dad. My heart was heavy.’: Mom of 6 is away from daughters for holiday, ‘This trip was much more meaningful to me.’

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“The last 18 months have been pretty challenging for our family. Never without blessings in the midst of all the heartache, but challenging nonetheless. In May of 2018, our family moved from Salt Lake City–a place we unexpectedly came to love after a very quick 15 months of living there–to Detroit, as part of a growth opportunity for my husband’s career. It was an amazing opportunity, but it came with lots of difficulties.

We are a homeschooling family with five children (and expecting number six!), and when we made our move, our oldest daughter, Celia, was in the midst of a really hard season. Celia has severe autism, and as she’s reached puberty, her meltdowns have become more and more aggressive, towards herself and others. She was triggered by noise and activity, and in a house with toddler brothers, those meltdowns came frequently and were harder and harder to guide her through. She also doesn’t homeschool with us like the rest of her siblings- she just genuinely needs the benefits of a public school special education system, and with our frequent moves, that instability was really taking a toll on her.

So we made a tough decision. When we moved to Michigan, Celia moved to Georgia to live with her dad. It’s been an amazing situation for her— he’s a high school special education teacher and has no other children, and his parents are retired and constantly available to help her thrive. She’s attended the same school for more than a year and will be able to stay with her peers all the way through high school graduation. It’s been an amazing shift in her life, and I’m so grateful to her dad and his family for being able to make it happen. She’s done better than my wildest dreams, but it’s broken my mama heart to be away from her.

Courtesy of Lauren Halcik
Courtesy of Lauren Halcik

Learning to live without Celia in our daily lives was only part of our challenge in Michigan. We bought a family home- the house where my husband’s grandmother raised her 10 children. It’s been an amazing blessing for us and for the family. But like so many grandmothers’ homes, it needed a lot of work. I LOVE watching Fixer Upper (I mean…right???) so naturally, I expected to take on our own family fixer-upper to be a gem of an opportunity.

And it was…except when it wasn’t. Our remodel far exceeded the cost of anything we ever expected, and did I mention I was pregnant with baby #5 at the time? Oh yes. That too. And homeschooling. In a construction zone. Every day. So we had baby #5 (a precious rainbow baby who we absolutely adore) in the midst of a whole-home renovation that more than doubled the original remodel budget. On a single income. Just par for the we-should-have-seen-this-coming course, right?

And then the real excitement happened. During the first week after our sweet baby was born, my husband got the announcement that his boss had left the company they worked for and that their local Detroit office was being reorganized into either the Chicago or New York offices. Sucker punch to the gut. While this meant nothing for us in the short term, it did spell what we had genuinely hoped not to have to do- move to a major city with the huge cost of living and long commute times and not many housing options. And that was if his job wasn’t reorganized out of the company altogether, which happens pretty frequently in a company as large as his, and those layoffs typically come with a very brief severance. Not ideal in an economy like the one we have in Detroit. It was a stressful time.

We were fortunate— the reorganization took longer than we had expected and no one came asking us to move or find a new job any time soon, but eventually, the time did come. So we made the decision. My husband started the job search and was fortunate enough to find another job in a place that we love. This winter, we listed our fully-renovated family heirloom home just in time for the holidays, as my husband prepared to take on a new job with a new company, back in Salt Lake City. In fact, we had our last goodbyes with him as our realtor hosted an open house, and we sent him on his way. The next day was another goodbye- I packed my 10-year old daughter Cora up and sent her off unaccompanied on a flight to Atlanta, to spend December with her sister and her dad and their family, like we always do. Celia’s autism makes it challenging to disrupt her routine much, so we go visit her there versus her coming to see us here. It’s so much less stressful for her, and we get to enjoy our time together.

But this holiday season will be different. With three boys under 6 and one more on the way, plus waiting in Detroit for our house to sell, I won’t be traveling to be with family. It’s just hard for me to navigate with all of them on my own (all you moms out there who are traveling with littles, I salute you). So I’m here, waiting and praying for things to change so we can be together sooner rather than later.

When I took Cora to the airport, it was nothing new for us— she flies unaccompanied to Georgia on a regular basis. We did this when we lived out west before— Delta does an amazing job getting unaccompanied minors safely to their destinations and even handled Celia’s challenges beautifully in the past. But this trip was much more meaningful to me. My heart was heavy- I’d sent my husband off to a new job with a new company a thousand miles away just the day before (for who knows how long until we sell our house), and Cora has always been my right hand when my husband travels for work. She’s such a gem— helpful, loving, always quick with an inside joke or encouraging smile when I think I can’t take one more fart joke or break up one more brotherly wrestling match. Knowing she’d be gone and I wouldn’t be bringing us all down later in the month to join her and Celia just about broke my heart. I had a sweet friend stay home with my boys so that Cora and I could have time for just the two of us until her flight took off.

We listened to our road trip playlist on the way to the airport, and when we got to the check-in counter, the gentleman who helped us told us we looked like twins (bonus points for him) and made jokes and put Cora right at ease. When she told him she’d done this several times before he saluted her and she beamed with pride. At our gate, the flight attendants doted on her, reassuring her when her plane was delayed that they would make 100% certain that she made it to Atlanta, and even announcing her like a celebrity to the other passengers when it was her time to board. She was ecstatic.

Courtesy of Lauren Halcik

The flight crew cracked jokes and kept what was a fully-booked flight of anxious passengers light and positive as they worked to navigate through typical Detroit weather delays, and what would normally have been an emotional and stressful experience for me was an absolutely joyful one. Cora and I sang Taylor Swift songs and laughed at the crew and watched planes come and go and snacked on Starbucks goodies (the Starbucks at Gate A18 in DTW is the best Starbucks in all of Detroit and probably of any airport in the country, I’m just saying), and my heart wasn’t broken one bit. The flight crew got her happily onto her plane and they high-fived me and reassured me that all would be well from that point on, and I genuinely believed them. I drove home with a full heart— my daughters would be together for the holidays. My boys had gotten a playdate with their Michigan friends. And in spite of all we have going on, I am consistently amazed by how good people can be when we need them to.

It’s hard saying goodbye to people we love. It’s hard closing chapters. And doing hard things during the holidays- that can be unbearable. We never know what people are dealing with. But when people share goodness… my gosh is it good! My friend, who watched my babies for hours so I could spend the morning giving Cora a proper sendoff, gave life to me. The staff at Delta, who would probably say they were just doing their jobs, breathed life into me. The ladies at Starbucks who were singing holiday songs and calling us all ‘sweetie’ and wrote a happy message on my iced latte- totally life-giving. Little things matter. And now, as I pray for my home to sell in the middle of a Detroit winter and just weeks before Christmas, as I hold my little boys close and miss my girls and my husband and my family, those little things matter even more. Because they remind me that even in hard times, goodness is always there. It always will be. And it’s worth sharing with the world.”

Courtesy of Lauren Halcik
Courtesy of Lauren Halcik
Courtesy of Lauren Halcik

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lauren Halcik from Detroit, Michigan. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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