Why Does He Cry When I Say Goodbye?

Alright I will admit, that does sound like the beginning of a cheesy 80’s love song but that is NOT where I am headed, in fact, it’s to the preschool playground. My middle monster is now 4, and has been attending preschool for over a year now 2-3 days a week. Before that he went to Family Day Care once a week for a year leading up to starting preschool. He is a bright and sensitive child, and I love that he is a feeling and emotive little boy. But when it comes time to leave him at preschool, I find his emotions tear my heart out when I end up having to leave him in tears.

As a baby he felt separation anxiety very strongly, much more than my other two kids. It was so hard to get him to sleep between the ages of 8 and 18 months as he seemed to want to always stay close. It took every trick in the book to attempt to put him down and walk away, often ending with me returning rocking and giving cuddles (yes yes I know, bad bad parenting, creating more attachment issues blah blah blah) but anything was better than the crying.

When he started at Family Day Care just before he turned two, the first week was a bit wobbly with his carer recommending I pick him up half way through the day, something she didn’t have to suggest for my first child. The next week was a bit soppy too, and as instructed I used to throw him into the arms of his carer and would disappear with a forced smile on my face. If I could just hold it for another few seconds until I got into the car then I could cry there.

He settled down after a couple of weeks and then when my in-laws came to stay while my third entered the world, he flared up again, presumably from the change in routine. Nan was now a mummy sub and a new little brother was enough to send his toddler world into turmoil. He did however settle again, but this was never a guarantee that his little chin wouldn’t still wobble from time to time and give me that look that says “please don’t leave me”.

Then came preschool time. He was quite happy to go, having been an honourary student since his sister started years before, and the crying seemed to fade under the ‘cool new thing’ distraction. Not much crying in the first year, but this year it has reared its sobby face. Not every day mind you, just maybe once a week or fortnight, and he wasn’t the kind to clutch the leg for dear life, but sometimes would cry before we left home “I don’t want to go”. At first I thought it was because he was there 3 days a week now and it may have been too much for him. So I did the clever thing and chatted with his teachers who assured me that as soon as I was out of sight he cheered up and played well, especially enjoying Wednesdays – the day I had thought was too much. As most would agree our Mummy Spidey Senses are usually bang on, but not this time. The next logical step in my head was to ask the little SNAG himself about how much fun he has playing with his buddies, trying tCL Society 118: Boy cryingo gauge whether there was any nasty playground politics at play, but there was none. I just put it down to one of those things I was to never understand but simply accept.

He can at times be a bit funny at the park with his friends and birthday parties too, preferring to hang out with me rather than to go and play. I’m sure there are many of you nodding your heads and remembering that slight embarrassment of the new growth under your skirt. I wanted him to join in and have fun, and he and I have talked a lot about it. Again I decide this is just something I need to understand is his way, and you know what? I don’t mind. His big sister was never like this, and his little brother is showing no signs at all that he will cling to me, it’s just part and parcel of being a sensitive new age kinda guy.

It is so hard isn’t it to walk away from our kids when they are clearly sad, and I don’t do it at home. Of course I walk away if they are just whining or faking it, that happens a lot, but when I see my wee man and that look he gets in his eyes I need all of my strength to keep from crying myself. What an emotional pair we are! The last time he cried at bye-bye time was two weeks ago, the first time in a while, and my husband decided to have a man-to-man with him, seems we were still trying to get to the bottom of it. In the debriefing that followed, I discovered that the reason that he cries is because “I love mummy so much and I want to be with her”. My heart still swells when I think of him saying that, and I promise to never ever ever again worry when he cries at our sayonaras.

Emma Eastman 2013
Copyright 2013

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