"By the tenth hug and kiss, the child is hysterical and we just wish the parents would go down the hall or around the corner, and then listen," says one seasoned teacher.

"Because they do stop crying, often as soon as the parent is out of sight."

The first time away -- whether it is day care, nursery school, or kindergarten -- is often a day for tears.

Along with other parents, however, Alexandria single parent Don Fisher says his 5-year-old is all set for kindergarten experiences. "The only thing we're anxious about is making the bus on time, and our dry run this morning says it's going to be cereal, not pancakes, to make it."

The moment of separation is sometimes harder for parents, especially stay-at-home Moms, when they return to an empty nest for the first time in years.

"After 11 years at home," offers 40-year-old Ellie Rosenthal, Arlington, a full-time mother of three and an inactive registered nurse, "it'll take awhile to gather my thoughts and see what the rest of the world has been doing. "First," she says with a laugh, "I think I'll just sit and stare at the wallpaper. Then it's time to figure out what Ellie wants."

Although the freedom may look heavenly, social worker Emily Brown warns that "Many women who've been home for years may find it hard to get used to having it all to themselves."

Reston kindergarten teacher Lena Goreski, drawing on 15 years of watching first-day separations, offers these pointers for parting:

Give one big hug goodbye and GO.

Don't ask to stay or visit the first week. (observe or volunteer after several weeks.)

Encourage independence by having children walk with siblings or friends, or take the bus. (But be waitng at the bus stop the first few days.)

If you walk with them, encourage them to go part of the way by themselves. (Example: Down the hall to the classroom, thus avoiding making the classroom door the site of the big goodbye.)

No matter what, bring them back the next day.

Make sure they know who will meet them, or where they should go after school.

If you can, practice the route, making a trial run to the bus stop and down the hall to the classroom

Be positive and encouraging. Don't emphasize how much you'll miss them.

Organize their school clothes and things at home. (Mittens and boots by the door, library books ready to return on the right day.)

Label everything and send a tote bag of some sort every day.

Be patient and trust the teacher.

Allow extra time the first few weeks to talk, listen and answer questions about school. (Even if they want to know today what happens to them when it snows and school is closed!)

If you're distressed, go someplace besides home that first morning. Have coffee with a neighbor, or perhaps go shopping.

Plan something special to do with your new time.