My older daughter turns 4 in November and she recently started her second year of preschool. Saying good-bye to her at pre-school has never been much of an issue. On her first day of preschool when she was not quite three, I was able to hold my tears until we were outside the classroom and the hugs and good-byes were over. Somehow we had raised a secure toddler, who loved school and had no problems with good-bye because "mommy always comes back".
Meanwhile, the process of having children and watching them grow creates the opportunity for reflection on one's own childhood and for some of us may bring up the good, the bad, and the ugly of the fuzzy memories from childhood. My father was an alcoholic from the time of my birth until I was 6 years old. He missed my birth and didn't see me for several days after because he was (according to him), busy working with clients in the Napa Valley... or on a blackout bender (according to my mother).
The problem with being in relationship with an alcoholic (or other addict) is that one never knows what to expect of them; will they be happy, silly, stumbling, or angry? Will they even show up or will they forget, stuck in a time warp of self-indulgence? This can cause trust issues and insecurities, I think especially for the children of alcoholics, who struggle with meeting some of those important developmental milestones related to trust during the first year of life (see Eric Erickson).
Good- byes for me during my pre-school and kindergarten years were difficult at best, mostly because my mother too often relied upon my father to pick me up after school and he was normally late... or didn't show up at all. I clearly remember the feelings of loneliness and abandonment as I sat outside waiting for somebody (sometimes it was my dad's secretary if he was really too plowed to drive) to pick me up ,while the teacher tried to call my parents. I am sure the teachers made some overtime while waiting with me, the sole forgotten child.
I didn't thrive in preschool, because I associated the place with abandonment by my parents. I recall one day faking to be exhausted and my mom shaking me to wake me up and me refusing to open my eyes. My dad cleverly decided to run the vacuum in my room to awaken me, but I refused to give up my act. I didn't go to school that day, but that ploy can only be used once.
Feelings of abandonment followed me into my teen years and the dating scene, making it difficult to trust, yet also making me needy, clingy, and not wanting to ever say good-bye to the lover of the moment. It wasn't until I met my now husband at the age of 20, and dated him on and off for a year, that I started to grow more secure with trust issues. I still had my moments (like when he was going back East for Christmas and I was stuck working over the holidays, as well as dealing with my mother's breast cance) when I didn't want him to go, and I felt that I couldn't manage the good-bye, even if only for a week.
I have somehow managed to move beyond many of these trust issues and even find a place of forgiveness for my father.
It warms my heart to see my daughters hug me in the morning and go on about their day, knowing the good-bye leads to a sweet hello soon enough. This morning as I was hanging out with my preschooler for a few minutes before the hugs and kisses of good-bye, her "best friend" tried to run after her mom for a last hug, but the mom was out the door and gone too fast. The little angel started crying and trembling for mama. I was almost in tears myself, remembering that feeling of insecurity too well and suddenly missing my mommy.
After the teacher had comforted the angel, my daughter said, "I can help her feel better". She put her arm around her and said, "Don't you know your mama always comes back?”