Call me a bad mom, but I did it. I helped my six-year-old run away from home.
Third born sons have it rough, according to my then six-year-old. The older brothers are bossy, mean, and don’t let him play. The chores are too hard. And his mommy won’t let him eat cookies and popsicles all day instead of vegetables and fruit and meat.
So my boy had a solution to this problem.
He decided to run away from home.
And I helped him pack his little roll-away suitcase.
To the complete astonishment of his two older brothers (the mean, bossy, unloving ones), they watched as I helped my little son plan what to take.
Our mother/son conversation went something like this:
Me: “Maybe you should take a few extra pairs of underwear and socks in case you decide to stay gone longer.”
Son: “Oh….yeah, that’s a good idea. And in case my feet get cold at night, I can wear 2 pairs at once.”
Me: “Don’t forget your toothpaste and toothbrush. But since you won’t have a mommy and daddy around to remind you to brush your teeth, you should just probably leave it home.”
Son: “Yeah, I probably will forget to brush anyway. And I don’t want anybody being the boss of me anymore.”
Me: “Good idea. Did you pack your money? You know…for food and drinks. You can pack one meal in your suitcase but if you put more than what you eat today it will spoil. So you need some money.”
Son: “Ummmm, I don’t have a job, Mom, so I don’t have any money. I spent all my birthday money already. Can I borrow some dollars?”
Me: “Sure. All I have is one dollar to give you. I haven’t been to the bank lately. One dollar won’t go far, but I’m sure you will figure something out.”
Son: “Yeah, cause I’m smart.”
Me: “Did you remember to pack extra jeans and shirts and a jacket?”
Son: “Mom, it’s summer. You don’t need a jacket in the summer.”
Me: “Well, it gets cool sometimes at night so you may want to take it anyway.”
The conversation continued and little by little I watched his tiny face go from a confident smile at the thought of running away to a concerned frown as the process of packing went on.
Me: “Remember to plan to sleep under a shelter of some kind in case it starts to rain and thunder. You don’t want to get wet.”
Son: “Okay….Mom, you know I don’t like storms. Maybe I can just come back and sleep here when it storms.”
Me: “I don’t know. When you run away, it’s usually for good. And you will be too far away to return when it storms.”
I helped the little guy pack and shushed the older two from trying to reason with him and me both.
Me: “Boys, your brother has made this decision so don’t try to talk him out of it. It’s for the best. He’s decided he doesn’t like it here anymore.”
(This was the hard part.)
Son: “I didn’t say that! I just….”
Me: “Never mind. You better hit the road if you are going to be out of town and settled somewhere before dark.”
I ushered him out onto the porch with his little suitcase and blue stuffed dog. He looked back once while I quickly looked the other way so he wouldn’t see my gathering tears.
In my heart I knew what would happen.
But it was still very difficult to let him go out into the world all alone. The truths that I knew were unshakable kept my feet grounded to the porch as I watched my son start walking down our long gravel driveway.
Love can be trusted.
Love never fails.
Love never forsakes.
Love is an open door.
Love always accepts you back home.
I knew these things. But my little man still needed to test these truths out on his own. He needed to know that even though things don’t always go his way, even though he didn’t always get his own way, even though he had to eat his veggies, it’s worth the stay.
Home is not as bad as he thought.
For a moment, I sat on the top porch step and dared not look in his direction for fear I would rush after him and rob him of a few needed lessons.
Finally, I went back inside and listened to the barrage of questions from his siblings:
“Mom, how could you? Dad’s going to be so mad at you! He’s only six! He’ll never make it out there!”
I looked at them both and answered quietly, “He’ll be back.”
I knew my son would return because he knew where love was.
I knew my son would return when he realized that home wasn’t as bad as he thought.
I knew my son would return when he got scared or insecure because he knew where safety and provision lived.
Within the four walls of the home he had just ran away from.
Glancing back down the driveway looking for the tow-headed boy, I didn’t see him.
Had he walked so quickly and already gotten out of sight?
This alarmed me. I looked in all directions out the window and couldn’t see his tiny form anywhere.
Panic filled my chest.
I stepped back outside on the porch and looked around the yard. I walked toward the other side of the house and then I heard it.
Sobbing. Six-year-old, heart-wrenching sobbing.
I stood back and watched as he sat under the porch on top of his suitcase, blue dog pressed to his chest, crying over and over again, “I just can’t do it! I can’t! I want to but I can’t! I can’t leave home!”
He got it. The lesson I wanted him to grasp was now learned.
He couldn’t leave home. Where the love was, the acceptance, the veggies, the chores, the mean brothers, the mommy and daddy, the games, the laughter.
I knew he realized now that the good came with the bad, the rough and the smooth, the pleasant and unpleasant; they all dwell together.
Though he couldn’t have put it into words, he had learned it.
The good or bad in Life shouldn’t dictate what we believe about love.
The truth should be our dictator about love.
Maybe we could all learn a few things from my little man…..
We don’t have to run away from home when things get hard or unpleasant. Circumstances should not dictate love.
Circumstances change; truth endures forever.
When the urge hits to run away, instead remember:
I Corinthians 13:7-8 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
I John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.
Hebrews 13:5 I will never leave you nor forsake you.
Unpack those suitcases, friends. Stay home. Stay where love is.
Love’s arms are always open, waiting, ready for your return.
Love is watching for you come back home if you’ve left.
Love is forgiving, receiving, healing.
Because God is love.
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