Drive-by huggings?

Preschool teachers are very familiar with the tough drop-off. Kids screaming, crying, looking for Mommy. But, even at 18 months, that’s never been my kid. Sure, he might miss Mommy, but he’s smart. He knows that all the toys are inside, i.e., not with Mommy.

He’s 4 now, and very accustomed to the preschool schedule he’s built up to gradually over the years. At drop-off, there is zero drama. I mean zero. Like, “See you later, Mom. I’ve got a few semi-violent factory scenarios to go act out with my wayward friends, so I’ll catch you in three! Later!”

In our case, drop-off is frequently done by the school’s curbside since there is a hostile toddler — The Younger — already firmly secured in his seat.

There is a brief “See ya!” from the preschooler. If I’m lucky. Generally, I wave and say “Have fun!” as he clams up after spotting the teacher, then clambers out with his little lunchbox.

Easy. No issues. No drama. We know Mommy is coming back, even if we’d rather stay forever and play strange bad-guy games with a pack of four-year-old desperadoes.

But this week, we had one of the younger teacher-helpers at the school come and get The Elder out of the car.

During the quick process of popping him out of his seat, she suddenly piped in, “Don’t you want to give Mom a kiss and a hug?” Which is a fine idea. But it hasn’t been our way, and let’s be honest here: He can’t really even do that anyway, what with the massive, debilitating headrest standing between us. After all, it’s a car, not a foyer.

So he simply said bye, no smooch, and went on his merry way, as usual. I suppose I could have gotten out of the car, but that felt wrong, too — like I was violating the rules of the drop-off: “Ma’am, stay in your car. Repeat, do not get out of the car.” Isn’t that the universal unwritten code of the drive-through, well-honed on the many days when one just can’t resist the vile sweetness of yet another Shamrock Shake?

Nonetheless, Mommy’s feeling judged.

Not because The Elder seems at all unhappy with the situation, or even because I am, but because this teacher seems to require that we have a sort of semi-romanticized “parting is such sweet sorrow” farewell each and every day. For her. We need to do it for her.

Perhaps she has some grand illusions and no kids. Or she simply gets off on ooky sentiment porn, which we obviously just aren’t delivering.

But, come on. It’s drive-through drop-off. Any illusions about drawn-out partings-of-ways and inseparable mother-son ties were abandoned long ago, back at the last stoplight. “Wanna go play with the kids? Yep? See you later! Don’t get hurt as you stop, drop and roll out the back door. ”

Look, he gets kissed and hugged — a lot. More than he might even desire. So, am I a monster because I’ve adopted his nonchalant mode of parting at school?

No. According to him, I’m a monster because I haven’t been including little notes in his lunchbox every day. You know, so he can read them when he eats lunch, which is, in fact,  five minutes after he gets out of my car of scant emotion.

“Oh, yeah? You want a note? The food is the note. Eat this, buddy!”

Perhaps needless to say, he now gets little messages with his lunch. Nice ones. And we’re working on blowing kisses.

–Jillian O’Connor