Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Mommy Always Comes Back

Let your feelings flourish and get on with your life of doing.  ~Lao Tzu

I love that our school is so full of parents, especially our Pre-3 class where on most days we have more than one adult for every two children. It's the thing that attracted me to cooperatives as a parent: I was only obligated to be there one day a week, but I could, and often did, stick around on other days as well. 

And as great as that is, every parent of a young child needs a break now and again, and since you know the co-op is a safe, loving place to leave your child for a couple hours, every child at one time or another misses Mommy. The most important thing I ever do is hold a child as her tears soak through the fabric of my shirt and it's usually about missing Mommy.

I can't fix that, missing Mommy. She's gone and she'll be back: that's what I know. Sometimes the mommies have told me where they're going, so I can pass on that information as well. And I can agree with children that Mommy is indeed someone to be missed. I remind them, "Mommy always comes back." Sometimes I even say, honestly, "I miss your Mommy too."

I used to think the idea was to get kids to quit crying, to distract them with the toys or the people or with picking them up, but I now know that distracting themselves is their job, if it ever could be mine. We never stop missing our mommies, but we can learn to miss her and get on with our lives of doing.

Yesterday, a boy, after first rejecting, then accepting the idea that Mommy had indeed left to take a "short run," told me through his tears, "I want to read a book." He was crying so hard it took three times before I understood him. We held hands and went to the loft where he knows we keep our books. When Teacher Tom reads you a book, it tends to attract a crowd. I tried to compensate for that by offering my lap, but he chose to remain standing beside me, feet on the floor, hand fiddling with my ear as I read a book about how everyone has to sometimes stop and go potty.

Most children miss Mommy either for a short or a long time, then get engaged with things until she returns. Yesterday's boy missed Mommy in a sort of ebb and flow, as if remembering and forgetting, remembering and forgetting, crying and laughing, withdrawing and engaging, gradually, gradually getting comfortable with the situation, transferring his attachment, temporarily, to Teacher Tom: holding my hand, pinching my ear, following me from place to place, returning to me again and again if we got separated, like a tide slowly backing off the beach. When I had to leave the room for a minute, he cried for me, not as intensely as he had for Mommy, and like mommies always do, I came back.

After about 45 minutes, I realized he was all the way over there on the other side of the room, engaged with a half dozen kids in a play dough baking game. When did it happen that he stopped following me around? As I was watching him from afar, Mommy came back. She stood in the doorway watching him as well. This is what she was hoping to find.

When he saw her, he shouted, "Mommy!" Mommy always comes back.

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
Bookmark and Share -->


Natalie said...

Teacher Tom, thank you for the sensitivity of this post. I hate the philosophy of separation at my children's preschool. They want you in and out as quickly as possible (unless, of course, you are staying). If the kids cry, they push you out saying "he'll be fine. As soon as you are gone he'll be fine." I know that's true, and I know that the teachers do their best to comfort and distract. But I always wonder, what message am I sending my son when I just turn and walk away while he is upset? In this MOMENT of time in his life, what does he need the most from me? And so I stand my ground and stick around until my little one has distracted himself and then make my exit. And he is fine. And we are fine. And the teachers role their eyes.

Unknown said...

Dear TT, I am new to your blog and just adore your posts and the insights and experiences you share here. This one was really touching, made be a bit teary, these kids are lucky to have such a dedicated teacher, and maybe I miss my mommy a bit too!!!

Carrie said...

Where I work sometimes we have mommies that have a hard time leaving too. Just this morning, I had a mom watching from a few steps away after getting her little one eating. I noticed that look of "oh please don't cry". I gently put my hand on her arm and whispered "he'll be ok momma." Then she was ready to leave. He whimpered briefly then went back to eating after being reassured mom would be back.

Kerry said...

We had a very similar situation just today in our co-op preschool, because it was class meeting day, when the parents meet with one teacher, while other teachers stay with the children. What I tried to explain to the hesitant mom, who had feelings much like Natalie's, above, was that what it says to the child when you leave is, "This is a safe place, and it's okay to have fun without me. I trust that you are strong, and you can have your big feelings and you will be okay. You aren't so fragile that I have to make sure you never have a negative emotion--I can believe that you will weather the storms of your feelings, and come out feeling strong and competent." Children need to know that their anger and sadness won't break the world, that they and everyone else will come out the other side feeling fine--and the only way for them to know that, is to have the chance to experience the feelings.

Anonymous said...

Our school has curbside carline. At first it was hard to say goodbye from the car but it became easier.

Heidi said...

I really appreciate your posts - such a great blog, really. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

That was beautifully written.