We all have to run away from our family sometime or other. My twins turned nine a couple months ago, and I’m seeing signs almost daily that they’re practicing to run away. But today was the first day my nine year-old son officially ran away.
I guess he was really mad at me. I’d caught him sneaking something into his mouth and challenged him about it. When he refused to tell me what it was, I told him to spit it out. He did so, but he spit it where I couldn’t see what it was. Then he calmly walked back into the house, packed his backpack (I later found it packed with a glow-in-the-dark football, sunscreen for the scar on his nose, heel cups for his shoes and a Calvin and Hobbs book) and informed me that he would be running away.
I told him to clean his room first since his grandmother was coming to town in a couple days, and after he’d finished with that, he could run away. His eyes widened with hurt that I could be so callous about losing him forever, but that was the only sign he gave of any of the emotions he was feeling.
I decided to leave him to his running away and go shopping for groceries. We had none in the house, which was why I hadn’t made any dinner yet even though it was dinner-time, and which was why, I guessed, the big dramatics.
It was hard to leave. Part of me wondered if he’d really take the whole running away thing to hell in a handbag. What if he got snatched away? What if I’d really never see him again? Panic set in, but I still went shopping. He needed to run away. I needed to let him run away.
I called my husband for reassurance that I was doing the right thing, but he was at work and didn’t answer.
So, when I got to the market, I called home, hoping that my son would answer.
But my daughter answered the phone, and she told me Aaron had disappeared and she didn’t know where he was.
My insides quaked, but I calmly told her that Aaron had decided to run away.
She said, he had?
I said, yes.
She asked me if I wanted her to go into the field and look for him.
I said no, she should stay put.
She told me that she’d seen him go out through the back gate into the field and he was wearing his backpack.
I told her Aaron wanted to be by himself.
She said, ok.
I told her I’d be home shortly.
A couple minutes later, while leaving the grocery store, I got a phone call. It was Aaron.
He said he’d tell me what he’d had in his mouth if I let him watch the Mariners baseball game.
I told him I’d think about it.
He said he’d had a Hershey’s kiss in his mouth.
I couldn’t help it. I chuckled and asked, why didn’t you just tell me earlier? I’d have let you keep eating it.
He said, Goodbye, in a sulky tone. And hung up.
When I returned from the store, all was normal. My son was home. I was home. I let him watch the Mariners game while I made dinner. It was like nothing had happened.
Only something had happened. He’d run away. I’d run away.
I’ve had a lot more practice running away from my family than he. But he’s growing up. He’s going to be running away sooner than I’m ready for.
But, at least for today, we’ve both come back home.