When I drop Angus off at school, I stay with him until carpet time—I sit at the edge of the circle and leave after the first song. He stands when I do and gives me a hug, then a kiss, then a “nosey,” our noses brushed quickly against each other. Then he says “I love you” and I repeat this. Sometimes this is all it takes. Other times he follows me to the classroom door, worried that a step was forgotten or that the sequencing was wrong. Did we do everything? Am I “infinity sure”? Maybe, to be safe, we should repeat it.

Returning to school after winter break was difficult for Angus. Two weeks of LEGO and books by the fire (and math; we never abandon math), and Angus was quite ready to adopt that routine for the long haul. Math at the kitchen table in pyjamas is still math, but more appealing than math at a desk in a noisy classroom.

That first day back—and the second, and third, and etcetera—did not go smoothly. There were tears. There was screaming. There was the necessity of added steps: kisses tucked in all four pockets, then waves at the window of the main door. Waves while he was screaming, bucking in the arms of his assistant, and I was walking down the front stairs, wondering what was worse: a long drawn-out goodbye (which made the inevitable leaving potentially louder) or striding down the stairs with purpose, not looking back (impossible even if recommended).

Angus has a hard time with good-byes, in all their forms. When playdates at friends’ houses wind down, the departure is never smooth. A friend who knows the protocol, or is reminded of it by a parent, might walk with Angus to the car, stand there until he is buckled in and the door is shut, the window rolled down for a final, contained, good-bye.

But Angus’s friends are seven-year-olds, so this is not the norm. The norm is gleeful hiding, which escalates to more desperate escapes, then thrashing in my arms as I carry him to the car. Occasionally the tears can be interrupted by a reminder of some favourite activity at home—that I will play with him—or the promise of an impromptu trip the library. Essentially, bribes.

When Super Granny leaves our house, Angus must stand at the door and wave. If he walks away, seemingly skipping this step, I cannot celebrate this small success and think: “maybe he’s being flexible.” This is experience speaking. Experience of me calling Super Granny and making her drive back to our house so there could be waving instead of a continued meltdown.

When Mike or I drive away, we must blow kisses. Then we must catch the kisses blown back to us and put them in our pockets. We must wave, then “queen wave” with cupped hands, then wave with a single finger, then sign “I love you,” then give the thumbs up to signal that the whole routine is completed.

I am certain it was Mike who introduced the finger wave and the signing—one day the routine ballooned and I was expected to know it. I was, let’s just say, “unimpressed.” I was probably as unimpressed as Mike was when I made the mistake of tucking extra kisses in Angus’s suspenders during a particularly tear-filled goodbye. Of course this is now necessary if suspenders are part of the equation.

Sometimes I think I should work hard to extinguish Angus’s routines. I should stop doing them and deal with the meltdowns until he finally accepts less detailed procedures. Maybe smooth good-byes should be my top priority. Until a goodbye is a hug only or a wave from the car. But there are other things to work on that seem to nudge this one out. There are simply not enough hours in the day, or gas in the tank, to devote myself to everything that I want to, or feel I should.

A friend recently told me to remember that one day everything that is now looming in front of me will appear in the rearview. Angus will not be 20 needing goodbye nose kisses in front of his university classroom. He will likely not require this in middle school either (please!). But he does now, and it’s easier for both of us if it happens.

To Angus, who I’m sure will have swiped Island Parent from the pile at Thrifty’s and flipped immediately to this article: hug, kiss, nosey, “I love you.” And an extra kiss tucked in your pocket, just to be safe.

Laura Trunkey is the mother of the amazing Angus, and the author of the story collection Double Dutch (House of Anansi, 2016). Find her at lauratrunkey.com.