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Sometimes It’s Hard To Say Goodbye

We’ve seen a return of separation anxiety in Maddie’s life over the past month or so, and let me tell you, I didn’t miss it.

We’re getting the new, expanded Separation Anxiety 2.0 version this time around, too.   Last time it was “merely” mommy being out of the room or out of sight, and constantly talking to her or coming back for her to see me seemed to help.  Of course, that didn’t work when I’d be gone for long stretches of time – say, at work – but those didn’t seem to be an issue once she got past the first few minutes and forgot I existed.

This time around we’re having trouble with her seeing me, Brian, or Gamma leave.  If Maddie’s in my room helping me get dressed in the morning and Daddy wanders in, grabs his watch, and wanders out, she sobs and throws herself at the door.  If Gamma’s over for the night and it comes time to go home, Maddie will cheerfully hug her and say “bye bye”, waving calmly, but once Gamma walks out the door and Maddie sees her walking away AND NOT COMING BACK, it’s as if she finally realizes what “bye bye” means and she begins pounding on the glass:  “No!  Come back!  I didn’t mean it!  That was just a game!  COME BACK!!!!”  She then collapses, inconsolable for a few moments.

She’s beginning to trust us a bit more; when Brian leaves to go to work downstairs while Maddie’s eating breakfast, she’ll wave bye bye and be fine, knowing she’ll see him a few minutes when Mommy checks her email.  My favorite, though, is anytime Brian has to use the bathroom and baby girl’s around:  she hears him head into the room and begins calling out peremptorily.

“Dada!  DADA!” a toddler equivalent of “Daaaaaaaaadyyyyyyyyy – where are you?”

Then she rushes over to the bathroom door and continues barking at him until he replies, poor guy, “Daddy’s here.  He’ll be out in a few minutes.”  Apparently her trust only extends so far, because she stands at the bathroom door, one hand on it and often an ear pressed against it, until he comes out.  Talk about performance pressure.

She doesn’t seem to miss us until she realizes we weren’t there, if that makes sense.  So she’s fine all night while I work, but once I come home and she goes, “Oh yeah!  Mommy!” I can’t walk out of the room to put my bag down without the collapsing in sobs thing starting up.  She’s perfectly happy all day long not seeing Daddy, but stop in to grab something off my desk and you’d think it was Sophie’s Choice going on to get her to leave.

So we’ve started doing what all the books say NOT TO DO; sneaking cowardly away while she’s not looking.  When Brian takes over parenting duty, I get my hug and kiss from her, we spend a couple minutes all three of us together, and then Brian says, “Maddie, where’s your dollhouse?”  She’s off to her bedroom and I sneak out the door, with her none the wiser.

Or when the three of us meet Gamma in the park, we all walk Gamma to her apartment and Gamma slips quietly inside with no goodbyes, no stop in the forward stroller momentum.  A lot of experts say that doing this will actually make your child more anxious; he’ll be afraid you’re never coming back and have disappeared forever.  They tell you to smile and hug your child, give a good bye-bye, and then explain that you’re leaving but will be back soon.

Maybe when she’s older we’ll give it a try, but right now that simply fills the occasion with a sense of momentousness for her that makes her worry more.  I think if we left her with a sitter or substitute she doesn’t know, she’d eventually look around and say to herself, “Hey!  Where are the people I know?” and have a little freak out.  But as long as she’s with one of us, she never notices the whole Maddie Support Team isn’t dancing attendance.  So right now, we figure, what she doesn’t notice, won’t hurt her.

Exit Mommy, quietly, stage right.


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