The Day Our Child Ran Away

All you moms out there, this one is for you.

I’m probably preaching to the choir, but even choir members need encouragement now and then. You still need commendation when you soar over the high notes and remain steady on the low notes. If you’re a mom, hang in there. Keep doing the right thing even when you’re tired, weary, and when you feel like you can’t hold that whole note one more day (or hour.) Take a deep breath and hold that note from deep down in your heart. Even when you’re in the Trenches, those notes will hold steady when they come from your heart.

The Day Our Child Ran Away

Running Away srrey NOTE

The tub of photos was stuffed with memorabilia and down inside, I found the note.

I’m keeping it for posterity.

She was seven when she wrote that note. I found it in the living room several hours after it had been written. As a mom, I don’t meander around the house to see if any of my kids have left a note about running away. For several hours, the note was left unattended. When I happened to find it, I thought I ought to go see where she was.

She was there, riding her bike in the yard. Either she had left and returned or she’d gotten sidetracked as she prepared to take her flight.

There was another reason I went to find her. She’d left home a few years before of her own free will because she didn’t want to follow our rules.

You see, at our house, we have rules. Ridiculous rules like picking up your toys, making your bed and brushing your teeth. Imagine that. She didn’t like those rules and she wasn’t about to follow them. Plain and simple, she wanted to be her own boss.

After all, no other parents made their kids pick up their toys or brush their teeth. In our house, I, the mom, even checked toothbrushes to make sure they’d been used if I thought a kid was lying to me. If a child came to the table with dirty-yes-of-course-I-washed-them-hands, I sent him back to the bathroom with instructions to sing Row, row, row your boat all the way through to the end while washing with soap and water.

It was all those rules that were the bane of her contention, and she wasn’t about to keep living with us if she could live somewhere else where she was certain there would be no rules like ours. This was when she was four.

After hearing that she was tired of living in our house for days on end, I finally told her to choose a place to live. She did. She moved in with an aunt and her family — and stayed there one day for each year of her life.

The day she was leaving us, we packed her clothes and read The Runaway Bunny many times – at her request. I told her that she could run away from me, but I would always be her mama and she would always be my little girl.

She found out that living with Aunt Ruth wasn’t the same as a sleepover at her house. She had chores and responsibilities there. A visit to the grocery store didn’t provide a lollipop like it usually did because Aunt Ruth didn’t buy lollipops for her girls at the grocery – she just bought them when someone was visiting. This time, Rebekah was just one of  Aunt Ruth’s girls and not a visitor, so there were no lollipops. [Real world, here she comes!]

She was gone for four days before a friend [thank you, Sue!] helped her find the words to say that she’d like to come home. During those four days, her aunt Ruth’s “rules” made it easier for her to choose to come home.  [Thank you, Aunt Ruth!]

You know what? The rules didn’t change when she came home. We still had rules, and she still had to follow them.

To my dismay, she still tried to buck the rules. On her first day back, she sat in Time Out for two hours until she was ready to  allow me to comb her hair. The point wasn’t that she had to have her hair combed that day or at that time. The point was that she refused to cooperate and was defiant in her response. What could have been completed in ten minutes or less took over two hours all because she wanted to be the boss.

our littlest gal – the runaway princess

If ever I questioned my ability, I re-learned that day that parenting is not for the faint of heart.

Our kids need us to be loving but  firm.

They need us to be kind but consistent.

They need us to be gentle but strong.

It’s called trench-parenting.

Our kids need to have us be their friends. However, we need to –always – be their parent first. Parenting trumps friendship.  Every. Single. Time.

running trench

Trench parenting doesn’t change the rules so a kid will be happy.

In worrying about what others will think, parents are tempted to change the rules to make their child happy – this keeps temper tantrums (and running away) at bay. It also breeds contempt for authority and creates insecurity.

Trench-parenting releases kids to make their own choices, even if those choices would not be mine. Trench-parenting does not smother and stifle. Trench-parenting seeks the best for the child. Trench-parenting continues to release its offspring, allowing choices and consequences to be learned. Trench-parenting allows the consequences of choices made to be experienced rather than bailing a child out of trouble.

Trench-parenting doesn’t cling to and hold on to children. Rather, it begins releasing when a baby is born. Trench-parenting parents, rather than befriends, the child.

It wasn’t easy when my child wanted to live somewhere other than at our home, but I had to let her go. We weren’t changing our reasonable rules so she would decide to stay. We couldn’t negate the rules for her and enforce them with our other children. To negate the rules for all of the kids would have made them our superiors and we (their parents) would have become their servants. Trench-parenting doesn’t do that.

Almost twenty years later, the runaway princess is getting ready to move back home after being gone for college and world travels. The rules have changed because she is an adult.

Yet some things remain the same.  She still calls this place home.