Phenomenology of the Parent-Child Goodbye on the First Day of School


  • Lee A. Makovichuk University of Alberta


As a milestone in a child’s life, the first day of school is a much-anticipated event. Preparations usually begin well in advance as families shop for school supplies, visit the school, and talk about what school will be like. Regardless of the many preparations, the moment of saying goodbye on the first day of school is sometimes a lot more difficult than either the child or the parent was prepared for; it can also slip unnoticed in the busyness of arriving and leaving; it could provoke a memory of a child’s birth; it may precipitate a parent’s sudden realization that their arms are empty. This paper explores the often-overlooked phenomenon of the parent-child goodbye on the first day of school. It reflects on singular parental experiences of preparation, expectation, and relationality. Lippitz’s (2007) inquiry into foreignness of school invites wonder about the child’s transformation to student and what that might mean for a parent. Drawing from van Manen’s (2015) phenomenology of pedagogical tactfulness, it offers insights into the relationality between a parent-child goodbye and the teacher-student hello. Exploring what makes the parent-child goodbye on the first day of school, as a unique experience, opens new possibilities for understanding the meaning of a child’s transition to school for the parent.