by Kimberly McElreath

Other parents would beam with pride over their child’s first word and argue lovingly about the loyalty of the child whether he or she identified with “mama” or “dada.”  My first communication was “bye.”  Apparently, at even a young age, I knew that I desired to be somewhere else.

The thought of someone, anyone really, coming to take me away from my mother consumed my early childhood dreams.  Without any rationale, or confirmation, of his desire to bring me into his new world, my constant pleadings were directed to my father for him to come and give me a better life.  Anywhere had to be better than here.  Right?  I could not comprehend how he could speak the words “love” and “miss you” and never follow through on meeting the basic need of any child which is to just be comforted and “loved.”  He was able to freely give his “love” to others, so why not me?

Yes, there’s that word again.  Love.  I sit and stare at my own child who is only an infant, and I know that I love him.  Ok, I can check that box.  Parental love.  Done.  This is where the emotions start to split for me.  Did my parents validate the act of saying goodbye as an easy option for parents?  It seemed easy for my father to leave our family and just create another one.  He physically left.  I yearned for him to come back, or did I?  Did I specifically want him or just an option of someone who was not emotionally gone like my mother?  Again, I watch my son, and I don’t feel the undying need to hold him to my chest every second of every day.  I enjoy the time when he is safely gliding in his swing, and I am able to have myself back for a few minutes.  Goodbye to “Mommy” for five, ten, or even fifteen minutes.  Goodbye to bottles and changings and crying and responsibilities and expectations.  Goodbye to disappointments and to disappointing others.  Goodbye to this role that I greedily craved for years.

Now, I look at him again.  My heart does a sort of pulling sensation that I cannot identify.  I know that I want to argue over his first word, and I pray everyday that neither of us will want it to be “bye.”

About the Author:

Kimberly McElreath, originally from Georgia, is a middle school administrator in the Seattle area of Washington state. She received her Bachelors of Arts degree in Music Education from Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia and her Masters of Education degree in School Administration from Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington. When not supporting the growth of her students, Kimberly enjoys spending time with her friends and family.  Being a novice writer, she looks forward to continuing to explore her voice and style.