Thursday, September 17, 2009


She just drove away. She's heading back to school for her last year of college. She's happy and excited, and a little bit nervous. She loves school and she's anxious to see her friends.

And here I am, curled up on the couch, crippled by spasms of crying and sadness that come in waves, the way the pain comes in waves after you burn your finger or stub your toe or smash your finger in a door. Missing someone hurts, even before they leave. At this moment, there is no way to separate the physical pain from the emotional pain. I know that both are only momentary, and that in a few minutes I'll get busy cleaning up all the messes she left behind, and happily diving into projects I've been wishing I had time for.  I've been looking forward to some me-time.

But first: give me a few minutes to cry.

When moms and dads say goodbye to toddlers at my school, the pain for some of those children and parents is no less intense, even though this separation is only for a couple of hours. It's just one of those things, part of life. Some of us experience it more intensely than others, and at times in our development it can be more intense than at other times. But there is no fixing it, and no rushing it.

I started feeling this "separation anxiety" when I occasionally had to be away from my own mother for a little while when I was very young. I remember feeling as if my arm had been ripped off when I was pulled away from my mom for an hour while she went to the grocery store. I continued feeling it when my daughters were little and we occasionally had difficult goodbyes,  and I still experience it very strongly now every time I say goodbye to my daughters or my mother after a visit. Maybe this is why I'm a toddler teacher.

While I've learned that I can't run from the sadness, I've learned that some things can help those waves of pain to pass a bit more easily and quickly:

-Go ahead and feel it, and cry as long and hard as I need to. Holding it in or hiding it hurts more.
(So, I always give "permission" to my toddlers in school to do the same.)

-Talk about it if I can, or express it in some other way, such as through art, music, or writing.
(At school, the children usually need to paint, work with clay or sand, scribble with crayons, dictate a note, build with blocks, or play in water.)

-Fresh air and exercise will make me feel better.
(Kids already know this, and often head outside with no prompting when they are sad.)

-Hugs and comfort from others help a lot.
(That's what teachers are for.)

-When I'm ready, I need to get busy doing something meaningful and interesting.
(At school, I learn what each child loves the most, and I help them head toward their favorite activity when they are ready.)

Ok-- now I've cried and I've written about my feelings. I'm doing a little better. I think I'm ready to go for a walk. Then I think I'll plant some flowers, and after that I'll get busy on all the work that's piled up lately. I'm ready for a good day. Maybe I'll call her later and see if she's all moved into her new room.

I was sad, but I'm all better now.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I would love to hear comments from readers! Please let me know what you think.