Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Saying Goodbye: What's Easy is Rarely What's Best

A couple days ago I took the boy to day care. Mrs. Blackwell usually does this, while my contribution to Master Blackwell's commuting tends to be on the pick-up end of the equation.

Obviously that's the better side of the deal.

Instead of leaving your kid, you're going to get them. In the boy's case, he's often excited to see his daddy. A typical scene sees me arrive and watch my son for a moment or two without him knowing I'm there.


Once he does notice me, he yells "Daddy!" and runs over to me, I crouch down and give him a big hug. No matter how good my day might have been up until that point, this moment is always the best. Sorry, I'm getting all Hallmarky, I know.

But, then there's the flip side to this scenario — leaving your kid at day care. And that ain't Hallmarky. No ma'am.

Some days are easy and the boy just wanders off to play immediately after we arrive. Then there are days like the one I'm about to describe.

On this day, my son woke in a most perfect mood. Bright-eyed and bushy tailed, ready to spread cuteness and positive energy wherever he went.

We had waffles for breakfast and he couldn't have been happier about it. He even narrated as I put his meal together for him. "We gon make waffles. An we gon have stwaawbewwy jam and we gon have seewup."

He was especially cooperative while getting ready to go and an exemplary little passenger on the way to day care.

Then, when we got there, he decided it was not where he wanted to be. As I undid his car seat he began to let me know.

"Want to stay with dah-dee," he said.

I undid another buckle.

"No! Want to stay with dah-dee and mom-meee," he pleaded.

Tears slowly filled his eyes. But he wasn't having a tantrum he was, by all appearances, incredibly sad to be parting ways. Sad about being left. Sad about not being with me or his mom.

In the same way picking my son up from day care fills my world with an incomparable warm, glow, leaving him there can cast it into cold despair.

When he cries like that, I feel like I'm hurting him. Like, in some way, I'm depriving him or otherwise causing him pain. It's like someone has opened a pit in my stomach and filled it with a bag of ice.

I scooped him from his car seat and he hugged me — tighter than he normally does — and his head rested on my shoulder. As we approached the door, his teacher was waiting with a big smile.

For a moment it appeared his sorrow might wane and brighter spirits might prevail before I left. At his teacher's encouragement, they headed to play downstairs.
And we're set to add another little tear jerker. 

She took him by the hand and, as they moved away, he extended his hand to me. I took it and we walked toward the stairs but, after he made it down the first step, I pulled from his firm little grip.

He immediately started crying. I asked his teacher, "Should I stay or should I go?" but, of course I knew the answer.

What good would staying do? It would make me feel better for the moment and him too. But, as he grows up, what kind of a person would he become if mommy or daddy always stayed?

I don't know the answer to that but I'm betting he'd be a frustrated — and potentially very awkward — man.

There's no reconciling this, or relieving the pangs of anguish. Nope. All I can do is acknowledge one truth that applies to nearly every element of being human. That is: what's truly, fundamentally best is almost always what's toughest.

So, given how tough leaving him is, there's no question I'm doing the right thing.

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