The Runaway, 2008

My child was a runner. Not a cross-country runner, but a run-away from home runner. And I am not talking about the cute “I’m going to Grammy’s forever” kind of running away from home, either. Although there was that one night a neighborhood friend, Austin, decided he was done with his family and took all his worldly possessions to the fort the kids had made in the woods. Luke, in classic Luke Inwood style, decided he needed a wingman. That joint venture was quickly ended by a visit from Bob the Bogeyman that had both boys headed for the comfort and safety of their own homes. Thank you, Bob!

Ugh, it is actually hard to add any humor to this post because if you have had a child take off, and you honestly don’t know if they are coming back, it is not freaking funny. It is actually one of the worst emotions I have every experienced. It is a heaviness, a sick feeling, an ever-growing panic that wraps itself around your throat until you can’t breathe. And it doesn’t matter if it’s the first time, or the second, or in Luke’s case, the third. Every minute is awful.

John and I don’t even remember what was happening that prompted Luke to take off that first time. Isn’t that incredible? It was significant enough for Luke to run, yet neither John or I can remember the words that must have been exchanged. SO, I am going to go with John and Luke had a fight. It didn’t happen often, but Luke went through this phase where everything his dad said really rubbed him the wrong way. So, words are exchanged and Luke storms out the door and we have no idea where he is going. He can’t drive yet so his options are limited to where he can walk to. It is the first time this has happened and Luke is prone to drama so John and I decide to give him a few minutes to cool down and we figure when he gets cold, or scared, he will come back. After all, he is only eleven or twelve, and it’s pitch black. A few minutes turn into twenty and as we discuss what to do next, the phone rings. I pick it up – remember those days? – and Carissa Mailman is on the other end. Luke is at their house and he is telling her he is scared to go home because his dad might hit him. Yes, you read that right. HIS DAD MIGHT HIT HIM. If you know John Inwood you know this is the most ridiculous thing ever. The man stops for turtles crossing for crying out loud! So I am parts appalled, alarmed, and annoyed, but I thank her for calling and tell her I will be down straight away.

When Carissa opens the door, the look on her face puts me in full-blown panic mode. She seems … hesitant. She invites me into the living room and asks me to sit down, but I don’t want to sit down. I want to grab my child, hug him, and then kick his ass. Instead, Carissa lays out the details of Luke’s arrival at their home: How he was upset, visibly shaking, and of course, that part about his father. She then begins to ask questions about Luke’s relationship with his dad that have me realizing that there is a chance she is not going to let Luke leave with me. You haven’t been there before, friends, but sitting there, recognizing that another human being could stop you from being with your child, is a horrible feeling. It destroyed me. You need to understand that this family had been in our lives for a while. They knew us. But when a young man shows up at your door with claims like that, well… I understand she thought she was doing the right thing to protect him.

So here’s what I need you to know: All’s well that ends well and Luke ended up under our roof that evening. We never really got to the bottom of why Luke said what he did about his dad, but I think he was trying to make the situation more than it was to justify his behavior. As I mentioned previously, this was not to be the last time Luke would use running away as a strategy when he was pissed off. So YOU need to know that running away is not expected behavior. It is an indicator that things are going on in your child’s life that he or she cannot handle. Knowing what I know now, I would tell a parent if your child runs away, even once, that a trip to the therapist is in order. If running away is their best option it means your relationship is fragile, that talking with you is not working, that they don’t believe in their own selves enough to handle whatever problem or problems is plaguing them. They need Help. Don’t take it personally. Parents don’t sign on to be psychologists. We sign on to love them, to love them, to love them. So love them by not ignoring this. It’s a sign. Xxx

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