Five days a week, when I go off to work, my son J lets out a wail of protest. Every morning we go through a routine. I trudge down the stairs, bag in hand, slip on my shoes, and kiss him goodbye. Always with the explanation, “Mama will go to work now.” When he can’t grab my neck in a deadly wrestling hold, he’ll let out a cry that will curdle your blood. This, parenting books tell me, is classic separation anxiety.
With time I’ve learned to deal with it, go out the door with what I think is a reassuring wave even as my heart gets flayed to pieces by his cries. Well, today I got a most unnerving surprise. As I was stepping into my slip-ons, glancing warily at my son, he turned to me, smiled, and said very clearly, “Buhbye.” And I haven’t even gotten to the door yet! He was sending me off and I’m not even ready! At the door he waves, with a serious expression—but no cries, no wailing, no pleading for me to stay. I give him a kiss and step out, pretending my heart isn’t being flayed to pieces. That’s having children for you.
Separation anxiety. J might have stumbled on a cure, but now I think I’m the one who’s got it.