It’s almost a given that at one point in a child’s life he—or she—will attempt to run away from home. I’m not talking teenage runaways. I have the younger kids in mind. Their efforts to escape the tyranny of mean old mom and dad are usually fraught with humor of the unintentional kind.
Our younger son recently reported, between guffaws, his ten-year-old daughter’s abortive flight from her gilded cage and from the meanest parents in the whole wide world. Her plan was not well thought out. In her haste, she chose to bolt in the midst of Michigan’s harsh winter.
Snow and ice covered the ground. The wind chill made below freezing temperatures colder still. She departed on foot, insisting she was leaving and never coming back.
She returned fifteen minutes later, red-faced from embarrassment or maybe from the wind chill, and went directly to her room without saying a word. To my son’s credit, he said he refrained from laughing until she slammed her bedroom door shut. Kids.
The incident reminded me of the time our firstborn decided to run away at the age of four and a half. Actually, most people thought he was a miniature forty-year old because he sounded so grown up over the phone. He wasn’t all that grown up on that one particular day. I think of it as my Leave it to Beaver moment in time.
I don’t recall exactly what set him off. It was probably the word “no” in response to whatever it was that he wanted to do.
FIRSTBORN: You’re the meanest mommy in the world.
ME: Then I guess I must be doing my job right.
FB: That’s not funny, Mommy.
ME: I wasn’t trying to be funny. [Actually, I was. The kid was a tough audience.]
FB: I’m really mad at you!
FB: You won’t let me do anything!
ME: That’s not true. Sometimes mommies have to say no, like this time.
FB: Then I’m going to run away!
ME: [attempting to play it cool] Oh? Where will you live if you run away?
FB: With Missy.
ME: You’ll have to ask her mother if it’s all right first.
FB: [Thinks for a moment] I can go live with Jeff.
ME: You’d have to ask his mother too.
FB: [frowns] I’ll find someplace to go. [stomps down the hallway toward the door]
ME: [thinking fast] Don’t you want to pack some clothes first?
FB: [turns and nods]
ME: I’ll get a suitcase out for you.
FB: [packs suitcase mostly with favorite toys and only a few necessities] I’m all done.
ME: [coming up with another delaying tactic] Why don’t you call Daddy at his office to say good-bye before you leave? He’ll feel really bad if you don’t say good-bye to him. [And why should I go through this crisis alone?]
FB: Yeah. Okay.
I dialed the phone for the would be runaway and informed Macho Guy that his son wanted to say good-bye to him before he leaves home for good. Macho Guy laughed and asked if I was kidding. In reply, I handed the phone to Firstborn.
I only heard Firstborn’s end of the conversation. It went like this:
FB: Bye, Daddy … Yeah … Uh-huh … Mommy was mean to me …Uh-huh … Uh-huh … No … Uh-huh … I love you too … Okay … Bye, Daddy.
Firstborn hung up before I could get my hands on the phone to find out what Macho Guy said to him.
The little devil picked up his suitcase and started toward the front door. He stopped halfway there and turned around, an earnest expression on his face.
FB: Mommy, do you love me?
ME: Yes, of course I do.
FB: Do you want me to run away?
ME: No. It would make me very sad if you did.
FB: [a big grin spreads across his face] Okay, I won’t.
He trotted back to his room where he proceeded to unpack his suitcase as if he hadn’t a care in the world despite causing several gray hairs to sprout from my scalp. Kids.
The phone rang shortly after Firstborn decided to remain in residence. It was Macho Guy, speaking and chuckling at the same time.
MACHO GUY: You are not going to believe this. It’s hilarious.
ME: What is?
MG: J.N. was standing in the doorway and he overheard me talking to our little runaway, but he only heard everything I said. After I hung up, he came into my office and said, “Oh my God. Is your wife leaving you?” He thought I was talking to you and that you were the one who was leaving. Isn’t that hysterical? We can’t stop laughing. [MG cracks up.]
Kids. Yes, considering the gender just mentioned here, I meant to write kids and for the very reason that sometimes makes me want to run away myself. ::sigh::