Our youngest son, O, ran away from home yesterday. This is not a new thing for us considering how many kids of ours struggle with attachment issues stemming from early neglect prior to their adoptions. (Today, by the way, we are celebrating -- use that term loosely; we ate pizza -- four years since adopting J and tomorrow, we'll celebrate five years since adopting S, H and Z.) Anyway, being six, it must have felt like a big adventure for him to threaten to run away from home and then loop the block and come back home, sweaty and apologetic.
A couple of our other kids were really worried about him. He's a petite little boy in the 15th percentile for height and weight (if that). He's verbally delayed and speaks more like a 4-year-old. He doesn't have a whole lot of good street sense and frequently darts in front of cars and such, so we do need to watch him fairly closely. But I knew -- based on his former attempts of running away -- that he doesn't ever go very far or for very long. So I didn't leap up to go find him this time, I just calmed the other kids down and promised he would return ... which he did, after being gone about ten minutes in all.
I survived a runaway attempt by two of our older two kids last summer and that was much more terrifying because of their ages, their financial resources and the fact that it was two of them working together. It took hours and hours before we had them back with us and they'd traveled nearly 60 miles away before doing that distance again to get home. So to some it may seem heartless that I shrug off our six-year-old's attempts, but to me, it's just that I can't freak out every time. Being the youngest, I think he is more rebellious than any of the kids, so he's going to try this pretty often to try to grab some attention. I figure if I don't give him any, he'll get bored of attempting and figure out some other way to get my attention -- like being extraordinarily good at things.
A mom can dream, right?
So today, O had still not completed the job I'd asked him to do yesterday that caused him to run away. I asked him to complete the task today. He argued that he still didn't want to do it. Well, he could do it or he'd miss out on lots of other fun things in the meantime.
But instead, today, he packed a backpack and a pillowcase to try to run away again. On his way out the front door, I stopped him to check his bags. They contained: a small blanket, a Pillow Pet, five stuffed animals, a reader based on the Incredible Hulk (he has yet to know how to read it) and several small toys.
I questioned him about clothes and food and he said that if he needed to change, he'd come home. If he got hungry, he'd come home. I don't think he really gets the point of running away from home.
I asked him why he brought all the stuffed animals and they were so he had something to sleep with at night (he doesn't usually sleep with anything). I asked him about a little plastic fish and he said that hotels usually have pools and it might be fun to take the fish in the pool when he gets to the hotel. I asked him how he'd pay for the hotel and he said he had a dollar.
Before I died laughing while he was somewhat hysterical and desperate to leave our home, I called up my youngest sister (he adores her) and asked her to talk to him for a while. She explained to him about how he'd probably need to eat from garbage cans (which grossed him out) and how one-dollar wasn't nearly enough for a hotel room. He thought maybe he'd wait to run away from home till he lost more teeth then. Our tooth fairy usually leaves 50-cents per tooth. He'll be waiting a while.
In the meantime, he explained to her that he was only intending to run away to our neighborhood park. He'd play with his toys for a while and then he'd come home at dinner time and it would be too late to do the job I'd asked of him. Probably by then, he figured, I would have assigned it out to someone else.
In the end, he brought his stuff back to his room and unpacked. He still hasn't completed the task and I can hear him playing around and soon I'll send him to his bed for the day. The job will wait for him tomorrow.
I'm not suggesting that I have any good parenting skills at all -- especially where running away is concerned. This is more just a story about a crazy six-year-old kid and his silly logic about running away, but just till he's hungry or tired of wearing the same underpants. I'm here taking things one day at a time. And for now, all five kids are safe in our home for the night.
I pray they will still be here come morning. I've got lots of chores to assign!