The Goodbye Girl

By Veronica

My in-laws came to visit us for our baby’s first birthday. (Yes, I know that means she is not a baby anymore. Shut up.) We had a lovely three days together, full of excitement for all my children. My mother-in-law is a firm believer in the old adage that guests and fish stink after three days.

My four-year-old daughter does not do goodbyes well. She gets angry and pouty. She refuses hugs or kisses. Sometimes she even hits. She feels rejected and she lashes out, full of I-don’t-like-it and  I-don’t-need-you-anyway. It is hard to watch.

Last night all the other children said their goodbyes and went to bed. I let my four year old stay up while I got the other girls ready for bed, hoping that she would come out of her shell enough to say farewell.

When I finished the bedtime rituals for the others, I came back to find her curled up in a chair, covered with her security blanket, sucking her thumb and scowling. She refused to say anything but surly grunts.

I held her in my arms and told her that Grammie loves her when she is nearby, and Grammie loves her when she is far away. I told her that Grammie loves her when she says hello, and loves her when she says goodbye. This started to sound like a game to my girl, so she perked up and added, “And she loves me when I hate to say goodbye? And when I don’t want her to leave? And when she calls me on the phone?”

Yes, yes, and yes. My girl came out of her shell and accepted hugs and kisses. Grammie and Aunt said goodbye, and they walked out the door.

And my little girl, still in my arms, did not scowl and sulk. Instead, she dropped her thumb and sobbed wet, wailing, shuddering cries of heartbreak, raw and honest.

I held her like that until the cry became a whimper, and the whimper became a sigh, and she slipped at last into sleep. I thought of how much sadness she will face in life, and how many times she will be tempted to shut off the loving part of her heart so that it can’t hurt her anymore. I thought of how likely she is to direct that anger at me someday, and I kissed that soft hair, grateful that for now, mama’s arms still have the power to soothe, and her heart still allows me in.

3 Responses to The Goodbye Girl
  1. Jen
    September 15, 2009 | 3:18 pm

    Oh, the thought of how our daughters may one day reject us…it’s heartbreaking.

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