It’s Not All Mary Poppins

It only counts if they see you

Parenting Tip #29462-7b. If they don’t see you leave, they are less likely to cry.

I am not talking about the morning drop-off. The politics and psychology of that issue are an entirely different matter.

(My opinion? Do what works. Some kids need you to say goodbye, others are much happier if you don’t. Corollary: this is about your child, not you. If it breaks your heart to sneak away without an official goodbye, but it makes your child happier … sneak. And no, it does not damage their little psyches to look up in ten minutes and see you gone. Children are simply not that fragile. People are not that fragile, or we’d all be gibbering blobs of traumatized goo by now.)

But that’s not what I’m talking about!

No, it’s those occasions when your baby/toddler is mucking about in the same room as you — because of course that’s where they prefer to be — and you need to pop into the basement to toss in a load of laundry, or pop upstairs for a pee. You don’t want to take your child with you, but when you go to leave, they will want/demand to go with you, and cry if you say no. And really, all you want to do is vacate for a minute, a literal minute, and be right back.

Solution: Don’t let them see you leave.

It was this morning, as I headed upstairs to the bathroom, that I realized this is so ingrained in me I don’t even think about it. I was heading upstairs, and I heard baby Rory (new baby boy has a name!!) tottering toward the base of the stairs. If he saw me on the stairs, he’d holler. “WHERE ARE YOU GOING? WHO SAID YOU COULD LEAVE??”

I’ve seen this sort of thing played out with sweet and kindly parents many, many times. They hear their child coming, they know their departure will cause him/her anxiety, and so they pause. They wait for the child to appear. They calm and soothe and explain. And then they usually end up taking the child wherever they were going. (And you know what? If that’s what you want to do, that’s fine. But if you’d prefer to do your small task on your own, it’s not.)

So, when I heard those little footsteps staggering in my direction, did I pause? Did I call down words of calming reassurance? “I’m just going to the bathroom, sweetie! I’ll be right back!” No, I did not.

I sped up.

Because if he doesn’t see me leaving, it won’t bother him that I’m gone. What goes on in their wee heads? Why is seeing the departure anxiety-producing, while having me gone (for a brief period) is perfectly fine? I dunno. I don’t know, but this is how it is for 98% of babies/toddlers.

I do know that if he’d seen me on the stairs, I’d have ended up peeing with him at my feet in the bathroom. But that would have meant stopping, soothing, back-tracking down the stairs to get him… and by the time I’d done all that, I could’ve had my 23 seconds in the bathroom and been back down again.

This is NOT an efficient allocation of energy. With four or five toddlers in my care, I am all about the conservation of (my) energy.

I sped up. He toodled on past the base of the stairs, I had my few seconds upstairs, I returned, we resumed hanging out together.

Quick and quiet, I tell you. Quick and quiet!


July 5, 2010 - Posted by | Developmental stuff, parenting | , , ,


  1. I’ve never moved so fast and quietly as when I’ve wanted to pee by myself!

    It’s all in the motivation!

    Comment by Bethany | July 5, 2010 | Reply

  2. This was completely true with my two girls. But Leo? He knows. And he waits. And when I return, he is enraged. It’s exhausting!

    Oof. One of that precogniscient 2%, is he? You have my sympathy!

    Comment by Bridgett | July 5, 2010 | Reply

  3. So true, unless one of the kids you watch has a bigger brother who beats up on him (and the baby’s not even 15 lbs or 1 year yet!). I leave the room to pee the one day a week I have this child, he notices I’m gone, and he starts whining. Even if big brother is nowhere to be seen cuz he’s with Grandma! At which point I try playing “where is thumbkin” from the door, playing peek-a-boo as I return, and then have to scoop and smother with kisses when I return. I can’t wait for this peanut to get big enough to defend himself!!

    Comment by Liz | July 5, 2010 | Reply

  4. I’m always trying to sneak away from my youngest, who is just like Bridgett’s son. He has fully entered what I call the “stick-on” phase of babyhood. As in, if he’s not stuck on some part of my body he’s coming unglued until he can restick himself to me.

    And, I’m glad you chose Rory! One of my most favorite names. 🙂

    Comment by Kiera | July 5, 2010 | Reply

  5. Our bathroom is right between the living room and bedrooms, and whenever the kids heard the bathroom door click shut they would come running like cats to a can opener. So I learned to pee with the door pulled to and the lights off (another giveaway). Trouble is, I’m having a hard time breaking that habit now that they’re a little older and less interested. It flusters my dear, modest husband when he accidentally walks in on me.

    Comment by katkins | July 7, 2010 | Reply

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