Reverie in Action: Failed Attempts at Running Away

When I was just about three I told my mother that I was running away.  I cannot clearly recall what had transpired to incite the notion that, having just gotten all of my teeth, my parents were just holding me back and I needed to move on with my life.  I remember stewing angrily in my room for what seemed like hours.  However, when you’re that young, every room seems deceptively large and time has no meaning.  It’s like you’re perpetually high and your judgement generally reflects that.  When my mother tells this story it always begins with me coming out of my room in a striped shirt and announcing, “I running away.  Goodbye.”

I don’t remember any of that.  All I remember is feeling fairly confident and then suddenly terrified as my mother helped me pack up my belongings.  She didn’t even pause to allow me a moment to reconsider, my bluff was called immediately.  “Alright.” she said, “You are going to want to make sure you’ve got everything you need.”

I was pulled down the world’s shortest hallway and into my room where my mother laid out my blanket and began filling it with important items for running away.  These items included a shirt, two pairs of underwear and a couple of my smaller toys.  Packing lasted about thirty seconds and my security blanket was tied into a hobo’s bindle before  I was pulled back down the hallway and into the living room.  I was starting to whimper because I didn’t understand why my threats of abandonment had met no resistance.  In fact, my mother seemed to be helping me on my way.  Every child occasionally fantasizes about the day they are dead or missing and their parents kick themselves for not having been nicer to them.  Trying to live this fantasy had backfired horribly and I suddenly realized that I was being pushed toward the front door.  I kept attempting to sort out why my plan was failing until I heard my father say “Goodbye, son.” from the couch and it all became very real for me.

I began to frantically try and reason with her, I claimed that I had changed my mind and assured her that everything was just fine.  I’m not an expert on psychological warfare but nonchalantly pushing your child out into the night and telling them goodbye seems like the equivalent of dropping an atomic bomb.  It was kind of chilly so she gave me a jacket and then shoved me outside.  Pointing to the corner of the road she informed me, “There’s a man waiting to take you away.  Good luck with your new life.”  Then the door shut behind me.

My mind exploded and I began shrieking.

I scratched at the door for five minutes and, eventually, I was let back into the house and asked if I still thought running away was a good idea.  I learned a lot about life that night.  Parenting is a series of random experiments hoping to yield a fully functioning human being.  While I think my parent’s methods might have occasionally been harsh or psychologically damaging, I can also vouch for their effectiveness and memorability.  I am unsure if I would parent differently and I have no idea if I would make a good father.  The concept and principals of dadsmanship are alluring but seem as intricate and mysterious as some ancient religion.  I suppose it wouldn’t matter just so long as my child lived out my dream of writing and directing darkly bizarre low-budget spoofs of major Hollywood hits and box-office fluff like Maid in Manhattan.

I’ll probably still love my child even if they don’t become a critically acclaimed weirdo and genius.  I think Betty Boop said it best when she sang, “Every little nobody is somebody to someone. You’re not just a nobody, you’re somebody to me.” That should apply to everyone.

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68 Responses to Reverie in Action: Failed Attempts at Running Away

  1. lunargirl says:

    I Think you’d do just fine, Posky. I really enjoyed this. I think my mother did almost the same thing to us. We all lived through it, and not really any the worse for the wear…

  2. nrhatch says:

    Psych out!
    Talk about reverse psychology . . . your parents probably never had you threaten to run away again.

    That man waiting at street corners . . . he’s out there.

  3. Very cute post! I ran away once, to my friend’s house down the street, but when I learned that their family rule is that you have to eat a piece of fruit before you can have dessert, I ran back home.

  4. This was actually a horrible story. Thank goodness the street corner guy looks so friendly. That made it better.

  5. Dr. Cynicism says:

    That reverse psychology is a bitch isn’t it. Probably why I went into that field :-)

  6. comingeast says:

    Great post! I enjoy your writing.

  7. My cousin showed up at our door once when we were kids. She had just run away from home… with a suitcase full of socks. I’ve always wondered what my Aunt said to her to make her think, “I never, ever want to get caught without a clean pair of socks.”

    Any Dad whose aspiration for their child is to see them as a critically acclaimed weirdo or genius is a great Dad in my book.

    “Goodbye, son.” lol Write when you get work.

  8. I don’t remember a thing I did or thought when I was three!! And now it seems like those must have been exciting years…I do want to run away now and I think my Mom will behave exactly like yours…not as nice…she won’t help me pack!

  9. CB says:

    I would have shit and died. I’m thinking that was entirely over the top in reverse psychotic (like the pun there don’t you) behavior!

    Being that I’m a mother of two Badass little girls, I’d never ever do that to one of them! Holy shit! How about a hug and ‘let’s talk about what happened to make you want to run away?’

    How many meds are you on in direct result of this incident???

  10. theonlycin says:

    There’s no handbook for parenting, I think your folks did it their way and it turned out just fine. You’ll be a good dad, Mister Posky, I’m sure of that.

  11. the stitch line across the mermaid is a nice touch. i always enjoy reading your posts, your word choice and phrasing always bring out an honest laugh.

    my mom’s best trick when it came to psychological warfare was the reverse psychology guilt-trip, “sure, you can go over to your friend’s house instead of helping me weed the garden…” i used to hate it. i knew exactly what she was doing, would consciously tell myself that she gave me permission, so i had no reason not to do what i had asked to do, but always ended up doing whatever manual labor (generally) was requested. i went through a period of resenting the fact that i wasn’t consulted on the whole bringing me into existence thing; but since my mom would leave my younger brother pitching a temper tantrum on one isle in the grocery store and continue shopping, i figured out early on that there wasn’t much sympathy to be found from her. dad used to like to quote cosby, not cliff huxtable “theo, you need a puddin’ pop,” no cosby as himself, warning that he brought me into this world, can take me out, and make another just like me… all things considered, though, i’d take their parenting over the buddy parents.

  12. “aisle,” rather than “isle”… though i’m sure to his toddler brain it was like being marooned

  13. I adore this post. Not only did it make me laugh out loud but it made me think on my parenting techniques. I would’ve done the same thing but then made joke about it later. You sometimes forget the impact and memory you’re leaving on your little one when you do something like this.

    The fact that you have such a vivid memory at such a young age, tells me that it was really something that significantly made an impact on you. Worked, didn’t it??

    Love love LOVE this post.

    Donchya wann come and guess post for A Daft Scots Lass one day?

    • Posky says:

      I remember a lot of things from being a kid but my favorite things are always emotionally scarring.

      You want me to guest post? I suppose I could. What’s my incentive and where is my inspiration?

  14. bellemedland says:

    My parents did a similar thing when I claimed I ‘hated everyone and was leaving immediately’ at the age of seven.
    I was met with no protest, slammed the front door as hard as my seven year old arms would allow, and walked around to the back of my house.
    I realise, at this moment, I’d forgotten to pack any biscuits, and turned on my heel, stomped back into the house and straight up to my room. Not without dipping into the biscuit jar and shoving a few Ginger-nuts into my pocket first, though.

    • Posky says:

      You have to be prepared. I wouldn’t be caught dead going on any child-like adventure without some crackers or a few scraps of bread.

  15. I remember the man at the park. But he was not scary like your man. He was smiling and wore brightly colored clothes and wrapped his long hair in a scarf with a sun on it. He smelled like roses or something. He had a guitar slung over his back. He gave us these little tiny orange candies. Whew. Talk about running away from home….

  16. So many doors open up once you have all your teeth….

    Great post!

    I tried to run away twice. One time I just walked down to the end of the driveway with a suitcase and waited for a bus. Apparently buses (other than school buses) don’t stop at the end of driveways. That’s why more people don’t take public transportation.

  17. daisyfae says:

    mom did this to me at around 5 years old… didn’t help me pack, just sighed and said “make sure you close the door on the way out…” i went and hid around the side of the house for what seemed like hours… until my dad came home from work. then i just kinda snuck back in the house with him and pretended as if nothing happened…. traumatized? only that i never had the chance to screw with my kids that way when they were little…

    • Posky says:

      Don’t let age stop you, there are plenty of of ways to mentally destroy adult children too. Keep reading for future tales on that subject.

  18. Your post actually made me laugh out loud…a few times. :)

    What kid hasn’t tried running away from home only to have their bluff called?? Reading this brought back some pretty hilarious childhood memories, which, I can only assume, most of us have experienced.

    Great post!

  19. 36x37 says:

    Brilliant woman, your mother.

    I recently heard myself say this to my two boys: “Listen. You have two weeks to learn how to behave, or I’ll have to fire Sara [their nanny and a personal friend of mine] and send you to daycare, where you’ll have to take naps and eat broccoli and it’s awful. Got it?”

    Then I texted Sara: “Listen, if the boys say anything about me firing you, just go along with it.”

    Is my idle threat working? No. It’s not. My credibility is due to hit an all-time low in about four days. Maybe I need to tear a page out of your mom’s rule book.

  20. izziedarling says:

    Wow, Matt … no wonder you remember, even at age 3. Sheesh. I enjoyed this, but I loved the quote at the end. :)

  21. subwow says:

    I adore this post. I was laughing so hard because you have a way of describing the scenes vividly and I could see you with your bundle at the end of a stick being pushed out the door… Awwwww. {{{{hugs}}}}

    Your parents sound like the kinds that are sorely needed right now: FIRM YET LOVING. Of course, I wonder if it had happened now, someone else might have called the cop and you’d have been assigned to a foster home! Like a good Chinese, I believe in “everything in moderation”. And if you already realized that everybody is somebody to someone, then you will be a good parent one day. Will you make parenting mistakes along the way? Of course. We all do. But overall, you will be fine. It’s like weather vs. climate. (Ok, I haven’t teased out this analogy yet. Just bear with me…) Being a parent or at least a mother did change my perspectives: everybody is somebody else’s child, and when I think of that, it becomes harder to ignore the plights experienced by strangers.

  22. emmysuh says:

    I’ve heard that tactic from parents for Wannabe Runaways before…and while on the surface, it’s genius…if someone had done that to me at age…well, any age, even now — I would have had a minor physhological break down and would harbor feelings of THEY DON’T REALLY LOVE ME for…the rest of eternity, I think. Thinking about that gives me chills.

    Love the Betty Boop quote, so simple but true.

  23. Artswebshow says:

    I had some insane ideas as a child but running away was never one of them.
    But hey, to me where i lived the outside world was very scary indeed

  24. Kimberly says:

    Love the cartoons! I enjoy your sense of humor. Do you ever play with color too? Or just black and white?

  25. Well, I see where your dark sense of humour comes from.

  26. Oh I did something very similar. I still remeber it, I flew into a sobbing rage about something (the “something” eludes me…) but whatever it was- it was serious enough for me to run into the hall and furiously pull my boots on in a mad dash to runaway… until mid-pull it suddenly dawned on me, I had nowhere to go. That deflated me like yesterday’s balloon and I returned to my room sulking. Posky, we’ve all been there…lol.
    Love the Betty Boop quote- so true, and oddly touching.

  27. “I’m running away. Goodbye.” So polite of you. Pretty sure all my escape attempts began with “YOU’RE MEAN. I HATE YOU!”

    • Posky says:

      While polite, my grammar wasn’t quite up to the same standards. I said, “I running away. Goodbye.”

      Perhaps I would have faired better if I had been more direct.

  28. Randmiran says:

    Fiji Mermaid in Manhattan sounds amazing and you should probably get to work on the screenplay.

    Also, your mom kicks ass. Three year olds are terrorists. It takes a special kind of mental warfare to take them on.

    • Posky says:

      I’m way ahead of you on that script. He escapes the museum of oddities, raises P.T. Barnum from the dead and bites him in the face.

      I’m still working on the rest.

  29. the master says:

    Been there, done that, when I was six. There was no big announcement in my case, I simply wrote a goodbye note, leaving my mother my favourite fluffy toy rabbit to remember me by, and off I went with nothing but the clothes on my back (it was a hot day, I dressed casually). I met up with friend who also wanted to run away, and we made it three streets before the guilt, the unbearable guilt set in. I imagined my poor devastated mother sobbing down the phone to the police, and her mental breakdown at my tiny hands was too much to bare, so I turned and went back. When I got home I discovered she hadn’t even noticed I was gone, and hadn’t seen the note. Which was on the coffee table.

    Naturally I was a little dejected, but on the plus side I was very happy that I’d spelled “remember” right. I’d never seen the word written down and no-one taught me it, it was pure logical deduction on my part. I still wonder what happened to my friend, though.

  30. Zahara says:

    Yay. I love your parents.

  31. While you bring delightful humor to this story, I really felt the dark underbelly of that experience. No matter how old we are, or how angry we may feel, I think we all secretly wish, that in the face of our threats to run away, our parents would fall to their knees and plead, “No, don’t go! We wouldn’t know how to go on without you”….While it sure left its impact, I guess I’m not sure reverse psychology is always the kindest or best strategy.
    I’m so glad to discover your writing and cartoons, both of which are wonderful!

    • Posky says:

      You’re probably more insightful than the average person. That’s the whole point of running away when you’re that age. Unless your home life is so monstrously terrible that you just need to get away, the real goal is to make them feel bad for some trivial act and test their love. Well, when it comes to love, my mother always calls my bluff.

      I’m glad you like my stuff. Feel free to share and come back often.

  32. Kids must not be allowed to blackmail their parents at any cost

  33. Helle says:

    I am literally laughing out LOUD! I love this. And I’m comforted by the fact that another mother did this and her child turned into a wonderful writer. :-)

  34. Ahhh, thanks everyone above and Posky, now I am convinced my mother was/is a true terrorist.

  35. Pingback: Running Away

  36. I was terrified reading this. I would never have threatened to run away because I knew, even at a very young age, that I never would have been able to find my way home. Even if I just went to the corner. This is a GREAT post.

  37. My mother did the exact same thing. My paper bag contained a tooth brush and a pair of pajamas. I cried and pounded the door until she let me in. HA parenting is silly.

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