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.