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when we leave our child

January 6, 2010

I thought I’d write a post about what we do when we leave Michael with a sitter.

I always, always, always, make sure Michael knows where I am or if I am leaving. Even if I am just leaving the room (although this depends on his level of security wherever he is and whom he is with–for example, I can just leave the room at home because he knows where to find me, and I can leave him in a room with Grandma because he feels secure with her). But if I am going to be gone for more than a minute, I always tell him.

The other day Phillip made the mistake of leaving Michael for a couple minutes at our neighbors’ house while he went to get something, and had neglected to tell Michael he was going anywhere. Michael was crying as soon as he realized Phillip was missing. He didn’t know where his Daddy was or whether he was coming back. He wasn’t even in a familiar room. Phillip and I were going on a date and leaving him with these neighbors for the very first time, and I was worried that he wouldn’t be okay after the scare. But I did what I do whenever I leave him with his grandparents: I explain that Mommy and Daddy are going somewhere and will be back in a few hours. He understands this. I’ve always explained it to him, and by the time he was 15 months old, I knew for sure that he understood. He knows we are coming back. At Grandma’s house he just gives us a quick hug goodbye and is off playing.

But the neighbors were new sitters for him. He was distracted, driving his little red car, when my neighbor said, “Quick! Go!” like she expected me to sneak out on him. I never sneak out on him. I just ignored that and went over to him. After I told him that Mommy and Daddy were going somewhere for a few hours and that he would stay there and play, he looked a little nervous. I asked him to give me a hug goodbye. He hesitated. But then he got out of the car, and ran over to me and gave me a hug. Then he gave Phillip a hug. We said goodbye. He was fine. We told them to call if he cried for more than a couple of minutes. They didn’t call. In fact, when we got back he was having so much fun that he didn’t want to leave. He greeted me with a big hug and happy smile, and went on playing.

And people told me he’d never be independent if I didn’t just leave him and let him cry. I fail to see the logic in that. What makes sense to me is to show my child respect. I’m going to tell him what is going on.  I’m not going to break our trust by ditching him somewhere. I’m grateful he feels comfortable with a few people that we can leave him with. I didn’t expect it to happen at so young an age, so I suppose we are lucky. But I think it helps that we have been careful to help him be comfortable with these people, to allow him time to warm up if he needs it, and to always let him know we are leaving and will be back.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. January 7, 2010 8:03 am

    I always tell Margaret when I’m leaving, too. The other day after McKay was home, I went to check the mail without telling her that I was leaving. She called out to me, “Back?” as I as going out the door. It was a nice reminder and I said, “Yes, Margaret I’lll be back very quickly.”

    Sometimes, though, she won’t listen to us as I say goodbye. When I take her to nursery at church, she just rushes in. I try to say, “Ok Margaret, Bye. We’ll be back in a couple of hours” but she’s off in her own world. Oh well.

  2. January 9, 2010 8:54 am

    I totally agree with you. I used to say that to parents ‘quick go!’ when I was a nanny. But that was only AFTER they had said good-byes and explained and were then flaffing about – not helping.

    But I haven’t been out of my girl’s sight for longer than 2 hrs, once, and 1hr a couple times a week, when she’s with her father and I’m just in another room or she’s just up the road on a walk. I can’t even imagine going out just the two of us…… for HOURS!!
    I applaud your courage, I would be thinking of her the whole time and just not enjoy myself anyway. I promise I’m not neurotic!

    • January 9, 2010 10:25 pm

      LOL. I don’t think you’re neurotic. I’ll admit, it did take some courage to leave him with people other than his grandparents. We had two bad experiences over a year ago when he developed early separation anxiety, and the sitters didn’t take me seriously when I said to call me if he cried (the second time I felt I was pressured into it, too, and I vowed never to leave him again with anyone that he wasn’t completely familiar comfortable with).

  3. January 9, 2010 9:14 am

    I couldn’t help but giggle at Mon’s first paragraph. I used to have to do the same thing when I minded other people’s children!

    I always tell Aoife when I’m leaving too, even if I’m just bringing the folded laundry upstairs. At three, she understands the concept very well and even uses it herself, saying things like “getting dolly upstairs mummy, back in a minute!”. We never have any trouble leaving her with a sitter.

    • January 9, 2010 10:26 pm

      The way children mimic their parents, I had been think that Michael would eventually do the same thing, too–tell me where he is going. That would be so nice!

  4. January 10, 2010 8:09 am

    I tell Z where I’m going all the time. Our house is strangely set up (old/add ons/laundry room outside!). We play “where are you”, “here i am doing X” all the time. I’m jealous of the dates…we don’t have much luck with the relatives, and haven’t met anyone else that isn’t already over-loaded with their own children or just life in general. However, Z is happy to go with just about anyone.

    • January 11, 2010 11:27 pm

      It’s hard finding the right people to care for your children! I like your “where are you, here I am” game. That’s a good idea! I can remember even as a much older child not knowing where my mom was in the house (probably hiding so she could get a break from her five children!), and it bugged me. Kids like to keep tabs on their parents. :)

  5. January 13, 2010 4:00 am

    I find that childminders (our preschool teacher, the nursery volunteers at church, my nanny sister-in-law when she babysits) always want us to sneak away, too. I can see where it annoys them that I linger, but I want to make sure Mikko is aware we’re leaving. It’s what seems fair to me. Our preschool teacher in particular kept telling us we should spend less time dropping him off, just dart off. But I wanted to respect Mikko’s need to feel comfortable in the environment before we left, and I didn’t see it as that big a deal to wait for that.

    • January 13, 2010 12:46 pm

      I work in the nursery at our church, so I see all kinds of drop off methods. I personally prefer if the parent makes sure their child is comfortable and secure before they leave–otherwise I have a screaming child to take care of (or sometimes they don’t scream but rather become aggressive or retreat into isolation). It’s the worst when the child is new to the nursery and doesn’t know any of the workers yet. It’s easier to comfort a child that knows you.

  6. Olivia permalink
    February 2, 2010 1:03 pm

    Hmm…I don’t have experience leaving my daughter at a daycare or nursery (she’s 10 months), but I think I would say good bye and make sure she’s comfortable. I’ve done it that way a few times with the baby sitter, but I have snuck out when she is with my husband. Lately, she doesn’t like it when I leave for work in the morning, but if my husband picks her up and takes her back to the bedroom before I leave she is okay. It’s the difference between me “leaving” her and daddy “taking” her.

    There have also been a couple of instances when the sitter came over while she was sleeping and my husband or I have left. I don’t like doing it that way because she gets confused (but not crying) when she wakes up, but I also don’t think it’s a good idea to wake her up just to say good by and leave.

    • February 2, 2010 8:01 pm

      I’ve had to leave Michael before when he was going to be napping, so I told him beforehand that Grandma was coming to watch him and when he woke up she would be there. He was still confused when he woke up (because he had just woken up, obviously, and is used to seeing Mama), but I felt good knowing that I had told him. He might have remembered “Oh yeah, Mama told be about this” and realized he hadn’t been abandoned.

      I do see what you are saying about daddy “taking” her. It’s like that around here to some degree. Since he is with one of us, he feels safe, so it doesn’t matter as much. Still, I feel it is more respectful to tell him I am leaving so that he’ll understand why I don’t come when he calls for me.

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