Please Don’t Runaway, Little One
It’s happened twice now. Once when she was four, and most recently when she was six. I’ll be completely honest with you, I took it very personally. It hurt my feelings and I felt a sadness in the core of my heart. In both instances, as I tried to understand her logic and point of view, I failed to remind my face that I was a strong person, and tears laced my cheeks like a warm, inviting blanket.
She was so serious, too. She carefully, but messily packed her clothes into a suitcase. While she packed her favorite stuffy, she not-so-quietly whispered to Baabaa, her stuffed cow that she thought was a lamb half her life, that they were going to a better place. A place where they didn’t have to be told what to do, where they were free to make their own rules and live how they wanted.
After her clothes and Baabaa were packed, she ventured to the pantry and began to gather her “necessary vitals” as she called them. An abundance of snacks, toilet paper, a couple of toys, a couple of dolls, and she was all set to go. The last thing she had to do was come say goodbye to me. As dramatic as she could possibly muster her emotions, she walked into my bathroom where I was soaking in the tub, and she told me, “I know you’re sad Mommy, but I have to do this.”
And then she grabbed her suitcase and headed to the door.
How did this happen? Twice now? Are you serious? I mean, rip my heart out, kid! Did I not birth you, raise you, love you, teach you, nurture you, and pray for you? Are we not best friends?
The first time it happened, my husband and I thought we’d teach her a lesson and let her walk out of the house and down the driveway, while we stood outside and watched her. Surely she would turn back at any moment as she realized what she was going to be missing with her family and her home. But instead, it became a battle of the wills between us. We were determined to teach her a lesson, and she was resolved to leave. We lost. She got two doors down and we realized that she probably would have walked as far as she could if we didn’t make her stop.
The second time it happened, my feelings were so hurt that I had to call my mom to step in and try to talk some sense into my six-year-old. In her little mind, running away was the only way to solve her problems. My mom talked to her on the phone, gently but firmly. Finally, after about a three-hour standoff (that felt like a lifetime), my daughter conceded and stayed. But she kept her bags packed for weeks just to torture us.
Have you experienced this? This heartbreak, this lack of rational emotions, this very intense time when you should understand it’s just a phase but it feels like so, so much more?
Tell me I’m not alone. Because my brain begins to wonder so many things:
- If my daughter is like this at six, how will she be as a teenager?
- Where did I fail in raising her?
- Did I handle the situation right?
- I knew both times that there was no chance we would actually allow her to run away, so why did it hurt so much?
If you have gone through this, take comfort that at least one other mom has gone through this trauma. This world can be a scary place, so the idea of a kid running away and facing this world alone is a frightening thought. At the end of the day, I have concluded that I must remain vigilant in my prayers for my kids, and actively play a role in my kid’s emotions and feelings.
Both times that my daughter attempted to run away, we had heart-to-heart talks after. And while she isn’t able to fully articulate anything deeper than the reason she was upset in the moment, I was able to see a pattern of her emotions and reactions. Some triggers that I’m realizing are that she gets upset when my stepdaughter comes and goes, when she is overtired, and when she has watched something that shows another kid running away, like the Ramona and Beezus movie that she watched when she was six. I’m learning to stay very aware of what she consumes because kids are so impressionable and don’t interpret things maturely and rationally like we do.
Hopefully, this phase in her life is over, but time will tell!