The Case of the Clingy Toddler
The Beaner is not a clingy kid. There are times when he doesn't want me or Al to leave him (for example, when I go to play hockey; for some reason, he loves to tell me and everyone else "Mommy play hockey!", but he doesn't actually want me to leave the house to play hockey), and he's been known to melt down if I try to run an errand in the car without him, but when I go up to work in the morning or drop him at sharecare, he gives me a kiss and a wave and says, "bye bye, Mommy!"
The last couple times I've brought him to sharecare, however, he's shaken his head when we arrived in front of the stoop with the red door and said, "no Muh-ma and Jess." (Muh-ma is his approximation of his friend M's name, and Jess is M's nanny.) Luckily, as soon as Jess opened the door and M shouted a gleeful "HI!", he forgot his reluctance and went inside to play. I wondered why he wouldn't want to play with M and Jess, especially since he's ALWAYS happy to see them on Fridays when Hannah and The Beaner meet M and Jess at the playground (or at our house, or wherever).
This morning I drove The Beaner (and Al) over to M's house because it was raining quite hard. When I went to pull him out of his carseat, The Beaner clung to the straps, shook his head, said "no Muh-ma and Jess!", and then started to whine and cry. It was horrifying having to pry his hands off the straps, but it got worse when we got inside. He WOULDN'T LET GO. M was happy to see him, and Jess was too of course, but The Beaner wasn't into it at all. At first he tried to convince me we should leave by pointing toward the door, and when I didn't budge, he just refused to participate. Jess tried every trick she knew (and she knows many), but The Beaner wouldn't let go of me.
I think if he'd jumped in and started playing, M would have too, and M's mom Tracey, Al, and I could have made our exits quietly. But when The Beaner went clingy, so did M, and it went downhill from there. It took over 20 minutes for Tracey and me to get out of the house (I'd sent Al out to the car as soon as Jess distracted The Beaner with a book), and when we left, The Beaner was crying and holding out his arms for me. I took one look at that weepy face and ran, knowing it was my only chance. If I looked at him any longer, I would have scooped him up and taken him home... and that wasn't in anyone's best interest.
I ended up sitting in the car for a couple minutes bawling in anguish, with Al rubbing my back supportively. I then got it together and drove Al to work, telling myself that The Beaner was going to be fine, that I did the right thing, and that he was probably happily watching Sesame Street and playing with M's toys within minutes of my departure. Still, it was incredibly hard, possibly because I have so little experience with this kind of situation. Every other time The Beaner's wigged out, I've just let him come with me to hockey or to the store or wherever. This time, I had to let go, and just leave.
Jess called in the afternoon to let me know that The Beaner was indeed perfectly fine five minutes after I left, and he got on the phone and told me himself "m' play with Play-Doh!" And when Al picked him up and brought him home this evening, he was cheerful and chatty and seemed to have completely forgotten the trauma of the morning. When I came downstairs from work, he sang, "oh look, it's Mommy! HI MOMMY!" and waved. "Eating gips," he said, holding out a grape to Al, who was sitting across the little table from him. Al clinked grapes with him, they shouted, "CHEERS!", and then The Beaner got up and gave me a giant hug. God, I love that kid.