Sunday, January 30, 2011

I Can't Think of a Music Theatre Song about Goodbye? Really? Oh well.

My daughter is extremely loving. My daughter is extremely happy. My daughter will decide right away if she loves you- she probably will- and insist that you accept her hugs. She is extremely charismatic. Even as an infant, people couldn’t help but look at her and interact with her, and this is a trait that has only further developed with age. Her mission in life seems to be spreading joy, and even as a toddler, she wants to teach. If she is experiencing something she thinks you should experience she will take your hand so you, too, can feel. I would like to think that some of these characteristics come from me. I have been told that I am loving, and nurturing. That I am a natural leader and teacher.

But my daughter and I share another trait that I hope she will eventually outgrow. Neither one of us can handle goodbyes. I’m hoping this is not something she has learned from me. I don’t think it’s something I’ve demonstrated to her. But really. She. Cannot. Handle. Goodbyes.

Now let me be clear. It is absolutely typical for a toddler to have separation anxiety when a parent leaves. It’s also typical for a toddler to be afraid of strangers. But my daughter is special. She has anxiety separation from strangers. If we ride on the elevator with neighbors for two floors, and the new best friends get out at the first floor, but we’re taking the elevator to the basement, she screams and cries hysterically. Literal hysterics. And great big crocodile tears. It is heartbreaking. If a package comes for us, I sign, and it turns out the UPS man isn’t going to be her new brother, she pounds on the door and until she collapses in exhaustion. Dropping off our babysitter at the train station means at least twenty minutes of crying.

And it’s even worse when it’s Mommy or Daddy.

Ryan left for work today, and after a half-hour of banging on the ground, she looked at me and said “night night.” It wasn’t even close to naptime, but it was all more than she could handle, and she slept for nearly four hours.

For strangers or people who don’t know Lily as well, this whole thing is cute and endearing. “Oh, look how much she loves me!” Sure. If you want to feel special, go for it. But she has the same reaction to the pizza man.

To those of us who spend more time with her, it is sad, and a little funny sometimes, and I have to say, a little confusing. For the most part, she’s a tough chick. This is the only part of her life that seems to be difficult for her. She sleeps well, she eats well, she plays well- alone or with others. She just doesn’t like to say goodbye.

Interestingly enough, Lily only has trouble when other people are leaving her. If she’s the one leaving, it’s “bye-bye!” with a smile and a wave. She loves bye-bye. But if Daddy puts his coat on to go to the grocery store, you can bet she’s going to try to put her coat on too. It’s easy to be the one leaving. It’s hard to be the one left behind. And it makes me wonder. Is she that afraid people will never come back? Does she really connect to people that instantly?

But maybe she is. And maybe she does.

I am, unfortunately, in a world where people come and go. I don’t work in an office where people retire with a gold watch after forty years. I don’t live in a town where people are born and raised. Where they stay to raise their families. Where they’re buried next to their parents. (Well, OK. Technically I totally live in a town like that. But I am not yet fully-acclimated, and I don’t know that I’ll ever feel like I’m not a New Yorker in some sense.) I work in a field in which people do one show together. They spend all of their time together for six weeks. They share everything and feel like best friends. And then they go away. Maybe they’ll stay in touch, maybe they won’t. And that part of it just kills me. It’s part of why we started our theatre company- to provide a greater sense of community in a field that can be so cold. In a city where people live for months, or years, or a lifetime, but never know how long they‘ll be there, really. Not for sure.

So maybe it’s not that Lily is too young to understand people are probably coming back. Maybe she’s really got it all figured out, and she’s just too young to know she shouldn’t be so honest.


  1. And by "anxiety separation, clearly I mean separation anxiety. Anxiety separation actually sounds like a pretty good idea.

  2. This made me a bit teary-- at 6:15am. Well-written-- and so true-- both about Lily and about saying goodbye. It's something I struggle with, too, as you know. Yes, "Children will Listen..." but they also speak volumes.