First big goodbye

Last Thursday was a sad day for Koopa. It was his last day at his daycare. Now we’re on vacation, and in January he is going to a new daycare. The change is really worth for us financially (we’ll literally be paying 10 times less per month), and its a good daycare and everything. But Thursday was hard. I didn’t expect it to be so hard. I knew it might be a difficult transition, but I thought mostly because of getting used to the new daycare, not because of leaving the old one. I couldn’t imagine he would be so sad to leave it. And again, I had underestimated how grown and mature he really is. I still think he’s a baby.

We had told him about the change a couple of weeks before his last day. I made it sound as exciting as possible. I told him about all the great things he can expect in his new daycare (I did NOT mention that new toilet he’d have to face there). I even promised that he would be able to wear his new pink crocs there indoors. That made him a little happy. This way he doesn’t have to wait till summer to wear them, and he was really looking forward to wearing them. He was still sad about his friends, of course (“Is Mathias going to the new daycare, too?” – “No, Mathias won’t be there, unfortunately”). He really just started forming friendships recently. He tells me about his friends often (“Mama, I have four best friends at the daycare: Mathias, Philip, Gabriel and Abdulla” or “Mama, only two of my friends were at the daycare today!” or “Mama, I love Mathias so much!”). So I knew it would be a sad transition, but I didn’t realize just how sad his last day would be.

On Thursday morning I watched him walk up to his teachers timidly and hand them little gift bags. Along with a small gift, they each contained a holiday/thank you card that Koopa had drawn himself: one of them had a snowman drawn on it, the second one had a plane, and the third one had a… floor lamp.

When I came to get him that day, he was very very quiet, but I didn’t pick up right away that he was also sad. I suspect that the sadness had been building up the whole day. The kids knew that he was leaving, and I was told that everybody wanted to play with him that day, so, I guess, that already made him feel special. They made him a booklet with photos of all the kids and teachers, and each child drew something for him. One of the teachers also gave him a gift: a book that she knew he liked (it was actually Gingerbread Fred, so very relevant to some recent events of our life).

It was also their holiday party that day, so all the parents came and stayed for some activities and snacks. Koopa just looked very quiet and confused, and didn’t want to do all the partying. No matter how much I asked him what was wrong, he wouldn’t tell me (he doesn’t tell me these things right away, if at all, I don’t know if other three-year-olds do). I even thought that he was sick, that’s how far I was from realizing that he was sad because of leaving. I only understood it when he asked “Mama, did all the other kids getting a book as well?”. That’s when I realized that he was feeling special because he was the only one who was leaving.

He started to pull me towards the exit to go home, but when I tried to pack his things he started screaming, “No, leave them here, we will take them home tomorrow!!” He really wanted to make sure that we would come again tomorrow. He cried and cried, sitting on my lap, that he didn’t want to go to the new daycare, that he wanted to stay in the old one, that he didn’t want to leave his friends. I couldn’t believe I was talking to a three-year-old, I really had no idea that he understood all the implications of leaving, but clearly he did. Suddenly I had to make that switch and talk to him like he was a grown up and tell him that yes, its hard when you have to leave people that you love, that I understand that he is sad about it, but that he’ll make new friends and maybe would still sometimes see the old ones.

Finally, I managed to convince him to go spend some time with his friends at the party, and he got into it, and seemed to have fun, and even managed to make some silly faces into the camera (pictures to come, hopefully). I promised he’d have play dates with his friends, and he seemed to be somewhat consoled by it.

He couldn’t handle saying goodbye to his teachers. Didn’t wanna hug them, didn’t even want to look at them. He was just crying uncontrollably and pulling me towards the exit. It was really heartbreaking.

I know that kids adjust quickly, and I know that things will be fine in his new daycare, and he will find new friends quickly. But that was a sad experience. His first big experience of saying goodbye.

About Tanya Mozias Slavin

Tanya Mozias Slavin is a writer, linguist and a mother of two. She was born in Russia, grew up in Israel and has lived in Canada and the US, where she worked on Oji-Cree, an endangered aboriginal language of Canada. She now lives in the UK and writes about parenting, languages, multiculturalism, and everything in between. Her essays and articles have appeared in Washington Post, Brain, Child, The Forward, Scary Mommy and other places.
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One Response to First big goodbye

  1. Unknown says:

    It's heartbreaking. Your story is as well. I have to stop reading it during my work-hours – people will end up thinking I am not emotionally stable ( which is true).


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