The first goodbye

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The first goodbye between a parent and a child will elicit a range of emotions from each. The feelings, and responses, of both parent and child, are dependent upon a range of factors including who the child is being left with, how well the child and the substitute carer know each other, the feelings of all parties about each other, the circumstances, the environment, and the list goes on.

A parent who feels empowered by the decision, and views the child’s new situation positively, will accept and adjust to the change more easily. That’s not to say a parent won’t feel some sense of loss and anxiety as well, but it is important that the child is prepared with reassurance rather than the negativity of anxiety or concerns. A more confident and secure child will view the situation with positive expectations.

Anne Goodwin, on her blog Annecdotal, often refers to attachment theory, and the responses of children to real or imagined abandonment. In her post Compassion: Something we all need Anne shares the following video, explaining that

“Research psychologist Mary Ainsworth developed an ingenious method of assessing whether or not an infant has developed secure attachments. In the Strange Situation, babies play in a comfortable room until, at a given signal, the mother leaves. What distinguishes securely from insecurely attached infants, is not how they behave when the mother (or other primary carer) leaves, but whether they are able to settle on her return.”

She continues

“Research suggests that about two thirds of the population can be categorised as securely attached. That’s a whopping one third of us who aren’t.”

The research also suggests that how secure children feel in their infancy influences how secure they feel later in life. A sense of security influences one’s ability to adapt to change and new situations.

It is not unusual for children, or anyone, to feel a little apprehension in a new situation. A more secure individual generally accepts and adapts more easily.  When carers drop their children at child care, kindy, or school, they may be advised to “drop and go”. Mostly the children are fine once the parents have disappeared and the children have time to settle.

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If children experience more difficulty than most, or if it occurs for a prolonged period, causes may need to be investigated. Sometimes a child may suffer from anxiety. Sometimes the environment may not be welcoming or appropriate to the child’s needs. Happy, secure, confident children will always face new situations better than those who feel anxious and insecure.

father and child

Parents can help children prepare for that first day of kindy or school by:

  • Talking about what to expect and the fun things they will do
  • Having special items for the child to take or wear; for example, a back pack or lunch container, hat or shoes
  • Rehearsing the journey
  • Visiting the kindy or school, and meeting the carers or teachers if possible
  • Writing happy messages (in words or pictures) to be found in bags, or lunchboxes
  • Establishing routines, including the goodbye routine

Hey I love you with quote

While the routine doesn’t have to be as elaborate or serious as that in Ian Whybrow’s Hey, I Love You!, a signal that the parent is leaving is useful in making the break. It doesn’t have to be immediate. Depending on the practices established, parents may be able to accompany the child to the door, or into the room.

I always welcomed parents to come in with their children in the morning. The children could show their parents around and discuss work we were doing. Parents could help children organise their belongings, and talk to other parents and children. When it was time for work to begin, I would play music that would signal children to join the song or dance, and parents to take their leave.

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about goodbyes. She is on the move from a place to which she felt attached, to a situation unfamiliar. She is sad at leaving but is able to view with hopefulness the situation to which she is moving. Charli has challenged writers to

In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a goodbye. It can be the last polka until next time; a farewell without end; a quick see ya later. How does the goodbye inform the story. What is the tone, the character’s mood, the twist? Go where the prompt leads.

Usually I post my response as the deadline draws close. However, as she is on the move, Charli has extended the submission period. If you would like to join in with a flash fiction “goodbye”, you have another week until September 13 to do so.

Here is my response to the challenge.

A goodbye clapping song

(Parent and child chant the verses together or take turns, changing the pronouns to suit. They begin by clapping their own, then each other’s’ hands. On the last three beats of each line, they clap each other’s hands. The pattern for each line is “Own, other’s, own other’s, own, other’s. other’s. other’s. On the last line they smile, wave, blow a kiss, and leave! It’s meant to be a bit of nonsense and a bit of fun establishing a goodbye routine.)

It’s time for you to go, go, go

I’ve lots to do and can’t be slow.

It’s time for me to fly, fly, fly

Upon my broom into the sky.

It’s time for you to leave, leave, leave

I will be happy, do not grieve.

It’s time for me to run, run, run

And jump so high I touch the sun

It’s time to say goodbye, bye, bye

You’ve work to do and so have I.

I’ll blow a kiss, and smile, smile, smile

I’ll see you in a little while.

Bye. Have a good day. Love you!

 Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

41 thoughts on “The first goodbye

  1. Bec Colvin

    That is a very cute poem in the FF! It sounds fun and I can see how it could ease the difficulty. I remember having trouble saying goodbye to you when I started school! But also when I saw the title of this post I thought it would be about Lucy Goosey! The abandonment experiment is very interesting, and it is alarming that 1/3 of people are not secure. Poor things.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Yes, a third of us are. It is very sad. Lucy Goosey is definitely a story about attachment and abandonment. I don’t think you could ever listen to it all the way through, could you? And there I was, attempting to ensure you felt safe and secure! 🙂

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  2. julespaige

    Charming. Children do need routines. Today along with another grandparent, we visited our Little Miss at her Nursery school. I must have made her comfortable when she was with me and going to various programs. When it was time to leave (the program was only about 45 mins to an hour) Little Miss gave us each a hug and a kiss, and returning to her spot on the rug didn’t even look back…she’s only been in ‘school for two weeks’. I am also guessing that the teachers are also compassionate and that thankfully “our” Little Miss isn’t one of the ‘criers’.

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    1. Norah Post author

      She must be a wonderfully secure child, happy to be involved where she’s at, and safe in the knowledge of your return. Feeling safe and secure is so important. Well done Gran. 🙂

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  3. Pingback: Goodbye « Carrot Ranch Communications

  4. Charli Mills

    Wonderful, thoughtful post and I enjoy how you and Anne Goodwin both explore the topic of attachment theory. I never really thought about how stressful first day of school can be for the kindy teachers, witnessing all the tears of that first school goodbye. Our eldest walked into the room, waved and said, “Hi tids!” She had trouble making the hard “k” sound. Todd cried, said next she’d be going to college and I scoffed only to turn around crying because she was going to college! It happened so fast, but I loved every minute with my children and proud of the lives they’ve made for themselves. I think your post is drawing out many memories from your readers! And your flash is brilliant. What a great way to expand the form.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Charli; and welcome back. It is lovely to see you here again and to glow in the warmth of your feedback. It is incredible all those years, from kindy to college, one blink and they’re gone. We love them at every age, but every age is not long enough! You have much to be proud of in your children, and I in mine. It is wonderful to see them as happy responsible, socially aware and caring adults making a positive contribution to our world, not to mention our own lives.
      Thanks for approving the flash form. It wasn’t at all where I thought I’d go, but I was quite happy where I ended up. 🙂

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  5. Rowena

    I loved your clapping song, Norah and read your post with reflective interest. My daughter went into family daycare one day a week when she was 10 months old. She was still being breastfed and I guess spent most of her time with me or family. When I dropped her off for her first day, apparently she screamed the place down and I was phoned…just when I’d arrived at the beach for a much anticipated swim!! The carer had been doing daycare for 12 years and had never needed to ring a parent before. I went home to try to find something to calm her and to see whether she could stay, and found her hot pink patent leather shoe with a diamante bucket and took it over to her. She used to crawl around the house with it. That seemed to settle her.
    She’s now pretty used to going away what with scout camps and is away on a five day school camp this week. We were actually relieved she got away with us all being sick. Hopefully, she’s missed this bug. Mum and my son are on prednisone and Geoff and I on antibiotics. Yuck!
    xx Rowena

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, Rowena. How wonderful that daughter was able to settle with a shoe, and didn’t need Mum after all! If only you’d known.
      Yes, they do grow up and venture into independence. It’s a good thing.
      I hope your daughter managed to avoid the bug too, and that you are all well soon. Take care.

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  6. ellenbest24

    Hi Norah, very informative as per usual. Your response to the carrot ranch prompt has pleased me no end. First it’s fun, secondly I can sing it with my grand daughter’s next week, so when we leave they enjoy our goodbye. But mostly and selfishly because my response was a poem, and I was concerned that it wasn’t true flash fiction, a story as I would usually produce when taking the challenge. So now I’m hopeful that it will be suitable. Have a good weekend. 👋👋👋😇

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your delightful response to my flash, Ellen. I’m pleased you found it fun and that you are going to try it out with your granddaughters. I’d love to know what they think of it.
      I’ll have to get over to your place and read your poem. It will be suitable. A few of us have done poems previously. Charli does say to go where the prompt leads, so if it leads to a poem – excellent! I hope you have enjoyed the weekend. Today is grandparent’s day here in Australia. I didn’t see my grandchildren today, but they had a sleepover on Friday night so I got to see them Friday and Saturday. It was lovely, but I can’t be too greedy! 🙂
      Have a good week.

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  7. Hugh's Views and News

    This certainly brought back one of my first memories, Norah – The Day my Mother dropped me off at my first day at school. I can still see vividly, me in a classroom of about 30 other 5-year-olds, screaming my heart out (I was the only one standing and crying), and watching my mother walk away. She too was crying, although I never saw that because she was walking away from me.
    I don’t remember much else of the day, but I do believe it was the only day I cried at school (other than when I got my final exam results).

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m pleased you had no other occasions for tears, Hugh. (I don’t believe you about your final exam results!)
      I was going to write my story about the mother in tears. It is very difficult to see one’s children grow up and place them in the care of another who doesn’t know them nearly as well. Most seem to survive though – parents and children. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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  8. Claire @ bletheringbylinley

    This was a really interesting read – I worked in a nursery school/daycare (in Sweden they’re kind of combined) for a couple of years, so dealt with a lot of goodbyes! The main thing I noticed (bear in mind my kids were 12 months+) was that it was the separation itself they didn’t like, often almost as soon as the parent was out of sight they returned to playing happily. I used to feel so guilty about the poor parent headed off to work thinking their child was miserable when in fact the tears had dried up within about 20 seconds!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for reading, and for sharing your experiences in the discussion. It is definitely that way for most children. They soon get on and have a great day. Sometimes they cry again when the parent returns, as if to say, “Why did you leave me? I’ve been so unhappy.I’m going to make you feel bad about leaving me.” Most of them are okay again straight away. But it does seem to be a common ritual.

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      1. Claire @ bletheringbylinley

        Yes I remember that too – I’m sure they’re designed to torture parents 😉 I got into the habit of texting photos or videos of kids playing happily during the day to parents, so they’d know we weren’t lying when we said they had had a good day!

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  9. thecontentedcrafter

    That is a lovely song of farewell Norah – your classroom must have been such a secure and safe place for the little ones in your care! I do enjoy reading Anne’s posts, thank you for the introduction a while back. And I am hopeful that soon Charli will find her safe place again and be able to settle and continue her wonderful work with all you writers in peace and security!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Pauline, for your kind and supportive words for Anne, Charli, and me. I appreciate your stopping by to read and comment. I’m pleased you like the song. I do too (am I allowed to say that?). I wish I had a class to teach it to! 🙂

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  10. macjam47

    Norah, once again you have shown your sensitivity to the needs of your students with this post. Leaving a child for the first time, whether at preschool, kindergarten, or college is more traumatic for parents. The first moments of parting may be difficult for the child but soon immersed in new experiences, the child forgets his/her anxiety. The parent, however, goes home to a quiet house. I’ve always said we prepare our children for their next step but neglect to prepare ourselves.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Michelle. You are right. We do neglect to prepare ourselves. All of those departures you mention, and even a child leaving home, are difficult for parents. I used to wonder at parents wishing their children were old enough to leave home. I thought I would never be able to bear it. But when the time came, they were ready, and I was ready too. We do raise them to be independent beings after all. Fortunately both mine live close by and I see them often, so all is not lost! 🙂

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  11. Annecdotist

    Another lovely post about your classroom days, Norah, and thanks for the mention of my blog and the attachment video (I think I’m going to use it also in my post, but it’s worth several viewings). I’m sure the parents will have appreciated how you took care of them as well as the children, and great to use music as the signal that it’s time to say goodbye. I love the flash / clapping song. You’d know better than me but it strikes me that, unlike pop music for adolescents which is all about goodbyes, there’s not much on this theme for little children, but a song /rhyme must help in making it something that can be talked about if necessary.
    The post also reminds me of how I used to be troubled by a friend who, when she was leaving her young children with their grandparents so that she and I could go for a walk and gossip, would tell them she was going to work. Later I came to admire that way of saying goodbye: they were too young to know or care about her genuine work, or to know that walking boots would not have been appropriate there, but they understood it was somewhere she had to go without them and, more importantly, would come back well before bedtime. I think a parent who was more conflicted about their needs for a time apart from their children (and I might well have been that kind of parent myself) might have tried to explain more in a way that, paradoxically, would raise the child’s anxiety.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Anne. I’m pleased you are also going to share the video. (I hope you don’t mind that I did!) What happens to infants has such an impact on their futures that no part of it should be taken for granted. I feel rather overwhelmed by the lack of respect I see in society and wonder how much of it is a result of lack of responsiveness to them as infants. It is very sad, and disheartening. It is hard to remain a meliorist, but I try. Maybe that means I tend more towards an ostrich than an owl but, although I accept I can’t right all wrongs, hopefully I can help mend a few.
      I’m pleased you like my clapping song. I quite like it too, and wish I still had a class to teach it to. I think they would enjoy teaching it to their parents. How empowering it would be for them to tell the parents when it’s time to leave with a song, rather than the parents trying to extricate themselves.
      The story about your friend going to “work” interests me, as that is what my son tells his children. The children seem to accept when he needs to do something important, but not if that something important is having child-free time for personal reasons. I think it is probably is better than complicating matters but, with my Catholic upbringing, I tend to feel guilty about lying. It makes me wonder (as in a previous post) when and if lies are acceptable; and what constitutes a lie anyway. More to think about. 🙂

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      1. Annecdotist

        Yes, those were my reservations — how could she lie to her kids? But it certainly seemed to ‘work’ in this situation. I think it helped because she was confident that the kids understood the meaning of work in terms of its impact on them. I remember my niece at about 2 using the word ‘shopping’ to mean being out of the house walking around (even with no shops in the vicinity).

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        1. Norah Post author

          I guess it’s all about telling the children what is appropriate for their stage of development. I love the idea of neighbourhood shopping. That’s delightful – with nary a shop in sight. 🙂

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