The first time a young child is left by its parents so they can go out clubbing or scuba diving (or whatever new parents are doing these days), it can be traumatic. After all, baby has grown accustomed to those faces, and this other face, the face that is now in charge, while possibly familiar, is still different. “Waaahhhhhhh!” says baby.
Babysitter feels bad, but what are you going to do? What are new parents to do? Not go clubbing? I don't think so.
What baby learns is that mommy and daddy come back, they don’t walk out that door and leave forever. This is some sort of developmental step missed out by those unfortunate babies whose parents are too clingy and could never ever leave their precious offspring with someone else. This child goes on to become homeschooled and quite possibly the national champion of the Spelling or Geography Bee.
The trophy looks very nice sitting in the closet, where the antisocial and friendless child sits as well.
I distinctly remember the first time Kristin and I left our first child with her first non-family babysitter. Kate was screaming holy murder as we walked out the front door. Kristin was a little worried, I waved and walked on (because I am, after all, a heartless knave). Babysitter announced upon our return several hours later that Kate stopped crying mere moments after we left.
And thus, the baby learned. Parents come back. And the knave is exonerated of his callousness, although he likely does something else unkind within a very short period of time. He is, after all, a knave, with a long history of knavishness.
It is different, however, when it is the kids that go. As our three children have grown they have disappeared for days or weeks at a time on school trips or with various family members or friends, and I have never been sad about that because they always come back. Plus, during their absence I can satisfy my lust for tacos and doughnuts without having to share.
Kate, Kelsey, and Kyle are reaching the age when their disappearances become lengthier and more often self-generated. When they are gone it seems like they are really gone, and any hours spent in their presence are the exception rather than the rule. Two of them drive now, and the third is aching to, and so sometimes a car is missing and a note is on the counter. They have earned the right to come and go as they please—to a certain extent.
When Kate went off to college last fall her departures naturally lasted for weeks at a time. A phone call once in a while, an email here or there, but her face had never been gone for so long.
Now she has taken her work and school goals to Arizona! I imagine the reunions will be even more infrequent, unless I get a job as a long-haul truck driver. Since that is unlikely to happen, I’ll just have to settle for the voice on the landline and the notes over the Interweb, and whatever joyous face-to-face encounters await in the future.
I can count on my fingers and toes the months until Kelsey performs her own collegiate disappearing act, so that is going to pass extremely quickly. Then another college will be sending me a monthly bill, or maybe she’ll be building schools and digging wells in poorer nations. Or enjoying the high seas trying to save the whales. One thing I know for sure is I shouldn’t waste time trying to predict what my children will do!
Even Kyle is going to have to fly the coop at some point. He threatens to stay with us until he’s thirty, and while that might sound cute, trust me, it isn’t. I have always said that I don’t want grown children living with me, because I think that stunts them. It prevents them from living their own life.
Plus, it begins to feel as if they are just waiting for me to die so they can get the house.
Children need to grow up. Children, eventually, need to go out on their own as well. But I have come to find that such departures create strange and unexpected feelings, at least for me. Now that I am in the process of being left by the children, I think that I just might cry at first, but I’ll get over it.
After all, they handled it with aplomb when I did it to them.