I arrive to pick up ZGirl from daycare. At the end of the day with just a hand-full of kids left, they are all together in the big room. I peek around the corner on the way past to get her bag and caught her eye. She doesn’t smile back. I continue on figuring once she notices I’m no longer at the door, she’ll come looking for me.
I gather her things and return to the doorway. One of the caregivers has picked her up and is standing there. ZGirl is still somber, quiet. I reach for her, but she doesn’t reach back. I gently peel her away from the woman holding her and just as I have her rested on my hip, she begins to cry and wail and reach out…
…for the caregiver.
I hand her back, smiling, wounded. ZGirl stops crying. We talk about her day. Everything’s been fine.
I reach out again thinking this time she’ll reach back. She doesn’t.
Again, I take her back into my arms and she cries and reaches forcefully away from me. I hand her back, not wanting her to be upset when we leave and watch as she not only stops crying but curls up in the arms of the caregiver and averts her face.
I still smile, hiding the hurt as I pretend to look at her journal entry for the day, blinking back tears.