Little Goodbyes Are A Big Deal

In this house, you say goodbye when you leave.

In fact, any house I live in has and will have that rule. I may not be able to impose it on guests or adults, but my children are expected to say goodbye. Whether it’s my twelve-year-old daughter verbally saying, “peace out, pops” or my non-verbal son giving his signature scrunched handed wave, we all are expected to go around and bid each other adieu.

It’s totally Daddy’s thing. Other adults in the house, whether residents or visitors, might not always subscribe to the same mentality, but that’s up to them. For me and for my children, we say farewell. It’s important.

As of last week, I am a 43 years old and in those 43 years, I have met many people who have the same stories about losing a family member without getting a chance to say goodbye. There are tear-jerking tales of missed phone calls, unreturned voicemails, and carefree gallops out the front door. A two second pleasantry can save you from a lifetime of regret.

It’s the easiest thing in the world. “Goodbye”. That’s it. You say it, you leave. The flipside is drunkenly telling people years later at an Applebees how you never had that final moment with a loved one because you were too busy running to a Batman movie or something.

My daughter knows this is an issue for me. I’m big on goodnights too, but those are easily corrected by walking into her room and saying, “Yo. You don’t say goodnight, dippy?” She repeats back a casual, “goodnight.” All is right in the world. See you in the morning.

lgbThe other day, though, she left the house without saying goodbye and went to basketball practice. I didn’t realize she was gone until minutes later, so I texted her, “You didn’t say goodbye?” Of course, this was the one time she left her phone sitting by the front door. Makes me question why she has the thing at all.

So now, this departure becomes an hour-long case of anxiety as I have to will myself not to die before her return. Yeah. I know. It’s pretty messed up and gives you a glimpse into my mental state, but it is what it is. My brain says, “If you die, by any means, while she is gone, it’s going to mess her up for the rest of her life.” My mind shoots ahead twenty years to my little princess, slumped over an Applebees Bar telling the story of her all-important basketball practice to some Virtual Reality salesman, or whatever the heck they sell then.  He pretends to care, but he doesn’t. Dirtbag. Don’t patronize my little girl. Who does he think he is? Why I oughta…

See? I told you it’s messed up, but my brain takes me on a roller coaster ride of emotions. But I’ve met people with stories of loss and pain. I don’t want to hand her the same pain. Some might call insisting on a goodbye my “pet peeve”. I call it “one of the most important things in our lives.”

I waited for her to get home and, when she did, I laid down the law with more importance than I do for report cards and room cleaning.

Listen. From this point forward, we never leave this house without saying goodbye. If you walk out the door, you go around and say goodbye to everyone. You don’t have to be told. People might not remind you. But you’re twelve. You do that on your own now, you understand me? I do it when I leave. You know that. You do too. Things happen. People die. When we leave each other, we make sure we say something. It’s very important.

I half expected an argument, but one of the best things about reserving my angry voice for special moments is that, when I use it, she knows I’m legit. Her face went serious.

I’m sorry.

And that was that. As I walked off, I worried that she would be angry at me. After all, this was a weird request. It would be understandable if she didn’t think it was understandable. I hoped she wouldn’t hold a grudge.

Within the hour, she texted me: Want to watch TV with me?

And we did. She gets it. I love her and she loves me.

The things that are important to me are important to her. She is a part of me so she gets my intentions, when I explain them. If I passively aggressively ignored her upon her homecoming or let it go for the sake of keeping the peace, she never would have understood why it was so important. But I did it right and she got the point.

You’re allowed to have quirky rules as long as you can help your child understand why they are needed. If your rules are simply “because I had to do it when I was a kid”, then maybe those shouldn’t be rules. If you can, however, explain why they are important and how they can make you all function better as a family, then you have every right to voice them. Help them understand what you already know and your children will grow into the people you want them to become.

Will she screw up? Yeah, probably. She almost missed a goodbye before she went out this morning, but she realized and corrected herself. She even offered a apology. I’m proud of her and, as long as I can keep her out of that Applebees after I’m gone, I’ll be able to die a very happy man. Goodbye.