The dreaded drop-off.
As parents, we've all experienced it. Whether it's for work, a vacation or a night away, the drop-off is inevitable. Sooner or later, someone else is going to have to watch your child.
And while leaving your little loved one can result in a number of outcomes from them, the feeling for Mom and Dad is typically the same.
Blue. Somber. Sad.
In three-plus years of being a father, I've experienced at least a few of the drop-off debacles that can happen.
Drop-off scenario 1: Kicking and/or screaming, squeezing and crying.
You know, those moments where your little girl grabs onto your legs, holds on tight and looks up with big, welling eyes.
"I don't want you to go," she begs.
Ugh. If that doesn't pierce the heart, nothing will.
I've seen the kids who have attachment issues - and our 3-year-old, Grace, doesn't fall into that category. She's really good with going to day care and preschool and when babysitters come over for the evening. But every kid goes through those moments when they just want their mommy or daddy. I get that.
Those are drop-offs when, as a parent, you need to give your kid a good hug, trust they'll get over it and run. Go, quickly. Leave the problem for some other adult.
And although that's typically the best way to get out of the mess, who enjoys bailing on their child like that? It's a painfully tough feeling to leave your child in tears, and soon after being apart, all you want to do is go back and coddle them.
Drop-off scenario 2: Child has no idea what to do, where to go and is confused with what's going on.
Picture this - kid gets out of bed, messy hair, still half asleep and, unfortunately, only gets juice, not coffee, to wake up.
Parent is in a rush to get to work and still needs to drop daughter off at preschool.
A quick high-five and "Have a good day," and daughter gets ushered into classroom where 25 other little ones are scattered. (It's at this moment I'm reminded of the utmost respect I have for the patience and tolerance of preschool teachers.)
Daughter, though, slowly walks into the room and looks lost - even though she's been at the school for weeks. Imagine the narrative going on in her head. "Who to play with?" "What to play with?" "I'm hungry." "Where's my juice?"
As you leave your child in this state, get ready to feel remorse. That extra hug - the extra five minutes in the morning with your child go a long way to start the day off right.
Drop-off scenario 3: "I love you, daddy. Have a good day."
Self-explanatory and the hardest to deal with.
When your child is so perfect and happy during drop-off, you just don't want to leave them.
Those are the days, no matter how tough it is to go, you're reminded you're doing something right as a parent.
Luke Hagen is the managing editor of The Daily Republic in Mitchell, S.D., and father to 3-year-old Grace.