"I miss the city. I miss my library. I miss my friends."
I didn't expect my 3-year-old to say this. He's 3, how attached could he be to a place, to other 3-year-olds?
At this moment, very.
He is seated alone on the far side of the playground on a 52 acre suburban park, devoid of people save the seven kids and four moms congregated near us.
The new kid.
I felt it, too. After a dozen years in New York City, I had grown accustomed to being surrounded by people. At any given moment, the person sitting next to you could start a conversation and suddenly you've got a new friend. As a parent, I had an extremely strong network of stay-at-home dads, I'd been interviewed, invited to do reality shows, and given the gift of a platform here on The Huffington Post. In my neighborhood, though, I was happily just another parent at the park in a city where being an at-home dad was more and more common.
But in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, I'm just a strange male presence on the playground.
Leaving New York was never something we saw ourselves doing until our son came along. We had a community, friends with whom we shared milestones, and a city that had been battered by terrorists, blackouts, blizzards, hurricanes, heat waves, and the Republican National Convention, all of which we survived. We celebrated two Super Bowls and a World Series together. I got to work in the greatest theater community in the world. My wife had the opportunity to work at some of the most respected universities and with colleagues who were some of the best in her field.
But things changed three years ago when my son was born and the wild west began to tug at us.
No matter how many times we'd go see the dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History, it's never the same without grandparents, all of whom were a four-hour plane ride away.
Taking my son, clad in infant pinstripes and mini Yankee cap, to games at Yankee Stadium will be some of my greatest memories. Going to Coors Field with Grandpa K, trading in his well-worn cap for Rockies gear, will be even better.
The joy of watching my father teach my son how to fish is immeasurable.
So here we are. The right opportunity presented itself and we jumped. A few days before Christmas we had a job offer and in thirty days all of our belongings were on a truck.
We are temporarily displaced. Nomads. Living with family until we get settled. We are in the process of actually buying a house -- something we never imagined in the million-dollar market of NYC. We've found our favorite library. Bought a car. (No -- nothing is walkable.) My wife has mastered the public transportation system. I've found a CrossFit community and I even got my wife to give it a try. We've had the chance to plug right in with family -- which also means strapping on a tool belt and heading to my brother's for an afternoon. We've found good schools including pre-schools that would make New Yorkers stampede and at a quarter the price of those in Manhattan. We've even found a few local coffee shops and an old school diner to replace our hangouts. We've got Rockies baseball, tailgating at Air Force football, and taking Turtle on his first camping trip in the Rocky Mountains to look forward to.
It's remarkable how easily we have already settled into a routine.
I still have some work to do, though. I've got serious in-roads to make with the Moms, but as I look around the park or the library, I notice the occasional at-home dad and I think we can create a community. And it's not like I haven't done it before.
Moving meant sacrifice. We knew that. Sacrifice from the Latin sacer, meaning holy. What could be more holy than giving your child every opportunity to thrive and grow up with the people who love him most?
As for the "new kid," I watch him, sitting alone, elbows on knees and hands cupping his face knowing that in five minutes, he'll try again, finding his way in with the other kids -- probably the five-year-old girls, they seem most receptive. At the end of the month he starts mini-kickers soccer camp and after that it's tee ball season.
I think he'll be just fine.
As will we.
If you have stories of relocating to a new city with your family, please feel free to share! I'd love to hear them.
Follow Chris VanDijk on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@skinned_knees