The kids were dancing when we opened the door this morning.
Upstairs, in their little corner of the world, the kids were dancing to some oldies and I figured, “Hey, Violet loves to dance, so this is perfect right here.”
I gave her a quick kiss on the top of her head and told her I would see her later and that I loved her and I turned to split, all of it fast, with no dwelling at all, just like I thought you are supposed to do. But, in the nervous frozen seconds that followed, as I held my breath and moved my feet away from her, I took two steps away from the classroom door and heard what I hated to hear.
She was crying.
Then came the squat thump of the door rattling in it’s jamb and I knew she had thrown herself against it, the theatrics/the drama of it all completely swamped in her earnestness.
Dammit. I just stood there, listening to her wails for a second, hearing the slow slide of her t-shirt moving down the other side of the wood as she collapsed in a small sad heap of whatever it is that some three-year-olds get to feeling when you leave them behind with great folks who simply aren’t Mom or Dad.
It’s new, all of this. She’s been going to the Y, five days a week, digging her daycare buddies and just thriving in her time away from us for almost six months now. So why this sudden change of heart? I keep asking myself. It’s as if someone out there in the cosmos flipped the wrong switch for the wrong little girl.
And it sucks.
As parents, we can’t ever start thinking that things are one way and they’re going to stay that way too, huh? Young kids seem to spin on a dime sometimes, that’s what I’m figuring out. But that’s not really some big parenting breakthrough, now is it? Yeah, I suppose realizing that you have a pickle in your midst is something, but the realization on its own hardly helps put the fires out when you’re stuck standing there feeling so busted because your kid is breaking down in the middle of a perfectly awesome Sock-Hop.
My wife had mentioned this had happened to her two or three times over the last two weeks, so I knew it was a possibility, but still.
I guess I thought I had the gift of parting without sweet sorrow.
And I guess I was wrong for like the gillionth time in my life.
It was probably the wrong move, but after thirty seconds or so of hearing her sobbing two feet away from me on the other side of the door, I creaked it back open. Miss D. was right there trying to calm her down, which immediately indicated to me that I was probably the last person she wanted to see bumbling back into the room. But here I was, to save the day or whatever.
I took Violet outside the class into the hallway for a minute and I told her that it was okay, that I was going to be back before too long, just like every other day, and that I would bring her her Zip-Lock bag of raisins and a juice box and that we would watch some “Scooby-Dooby-Doo” together later on.
Miss D. was there, too, trying to get V to dance with her, telling her that she needed a swinging partner and all, but my daughter was gasping on her own sobs the way that sad kids tend to do.
A little boy came over then, a sweet kid who I’d seen before and who always seems to have a smile to sling your way, and he looked at my weeping kiddo and gave her a grin and pointed down at his kicks which had a small piece of plastic on the toe that was lighting up and flashing bright red.
Violet did that beautiful little laughing-through-the-tears thing that only kids can pull off right.
I wanted to hand that little man a fifty-dollar gift card to DQ right then. And I probably would have if I had one in my wallet.
Miss D. whispered for me to go then. “We’ll be alright,” she assured me. I felt like such a dork. Of course they would be. These ladies were pros at this. They had more tricks and whispers to heap upon Violet than I could ever come up with in that particular crunch.
So, I went.
Outside the Y, I had my flashers on on the Honda and just before I hopped in the driver’s seat I was mantra-ing, “Don’t look up at the window. Don’t look up at the window. Don’t look up at the window, you dumbass!”
I looked up at the window.
She was there, in Miss S’s arms, her soft palms pressed against the glass, her face an exploding river heaping up over it’s banks, mouthing, “Daddy! Daddy!”
I gave her a weak flappy wave and blew her a kiss but I felt sick.
And when I came back around the block, to speed by the window/make sure of something I don’t even know, they were gone, disappeared back into a Sock-Hop on the second floor of a building that simply vanished in my rear-view as I rounded the bend.
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