Drop-off meltdowns? 7 tips for a dry-eyed goodbye

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 5-year-old daughter Viva, who doesn’t cry, she just pushes her resentment deep, deep inside.

School drop-off is hard on both you and your child. You’re already wracked with guilt that you’re handing your child over to the man for indoctrination into the identity-destroying anthill that is modern life. You know you’re depositing them for most of their waking hours so you can go sacrifice your life force to Mammon in a cube somewhere. You’re also leaving them to the bullying and negative influence of children who aren’t being raised as well as your own. They’ll probably come home both damaged from teasing and calling you a poopy sandwich face–the new term they learned from Holden or Finley or Asher or whomeverthehell they picked up a swear word from today. You don’t want to drop them off any more than they want to be dropped off.

… and then they start to cry.

Kids are so lucky–they get to sob and cry publicly whenever they feel blue or that an injustice has befallen them. You don’t get to cry when you think about how things never worked out with the prog-rock band you fronted in college. You don’t get to cry when you realize there’s new hair growing out of your ears and you don’t know how long it’s been there. You don’t get to cry when a robot mails you a hundred dollar speeding ticket for going five over in a school zone at ten at night. You want to say to your child, “You’re going to put glitter-glue on things for six hours, and you’re crying? I’ve got to figure out how to insert a graph into a Word doc without messing up all my margins. I’ve got to meet with an investor who thinks their check means they can mount a saddle on me. The cable company says they are coming between 8 and 12–that’s a four hour window! I just backed up my phone and now all my music listed alphabetically from Apollonia to Zevon is missing. And you’re crying? Some people have to photograph crime-scenes for work. Some people have control air-traffic for work. Some people have to debate with a xenophobic Cheeto-man on live TV. And YOU’RE crying?”

But still they cry.

Here are seven tips that might help you curtail the crying–even though you secretly suspect that, like everything else, they’ll stop crying when they grow out of it.

Check in with the teacher

Children are cute, but they’re notoriously full of $#!+. When I teach early education offerings, I find that they drop-off criers almost inevitably stop crying one second after their parent leaves. By comforting them and missing your morning staff meeting you’re playing right into their chubby little hands. Odds are, the second you skiddoo, your kid is making a beeline to the sensory table. Ask the teacher how long it takes them to calm down.

Bring a lovey

Not the old lady from Gilligan’s Island–although kudos to her for rocking pearls every day while cast away on a desert isle. A lovey is a blankie, a doll or an Optimus Prime that your kid can hang onto in the car, up the stairs and up to their cubby, at which time Optimus should probably be stowed away, but clutching the leader of the Autobots might give your little one some comfort through a rough morning … ’till all are one.

Start earlier

This advice is tough for my family to follow. We already feel like we’re waking up about a half hour before we go to bed just to get everybody out of the house on time, but kids aren’t good at being rushed. Kids aren’t good at anything, really. If they’ve got more time for a languid breakfast, time to put their shirt on upside down three times and time to mosey to the car, they are less likely to be stressed at the door.

Distract, distract, distract

Talk about the weather, talk about upcoming nighttime activities, create a scorecard for the points you would rack up if you ran over strollers and people with walkers on the way to school, “Death Race 2000” style. This may get them thinking about the world around them instead of how they can twist the emotional knife outside their classroom.

Go over the process with them

Kids need to understand the plan, and role playing or listing with them is key. The night before, or early morning, list how it’s going to go down: “We’re going to brush our teeth, we’re going to get in the car, I’m going to kiss you goodbye, you’re going to scream for twenty minutes. No, wait! Scratch that last part!”

Don’t ghost

Tricking your child into not crying by giving them the old “Irish Goodbye” (sneaking out) isn’t helping. You’re just betraying their trust, and you need to save up all the trust betrayal points for when they realize you’re lying about holiday characters or how your generation used up the last of earth’s resources.

Kiss and fly

Don’t belabor the goodbye. Give them a hug. Tell them you’ll see them tonight. Tell them to watch out for head lice. Point them towards the imagination station or the easel or the boom whackers … and gtfo.

You know your child won’t cry at drop-off forever. Eventually their sobs will be replaced by long, sullen stares out the window. Then by a brittle smile. Then by a total numbness to all of life’s folly. Then they’ll be a well-adjusted adult like you, and ready for the real world.

Good luck!

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