When I was six years old, my parents committed the heinous sin of telling me “No.” I was convince they no longer loved me and perhaps never had. I wept and wailed at the cruel fate that had placed me in a family that treated a child so cruelly. They’d told my older sister “No” on occasion, but that was okay because she deserved it. I suspect they’d told me “No” before as well. I simply couldn’t recall those occasions.
I eventually ran out of tears and exhausted the more violent shows of temper—throwing all my stuffed animals and dolls across my room. However, I was still furious with my folks and not a little anxious about what life would be like in a house where my wishes were not the highest priority. As many children do, I decided to run away from home. Since the point was to show the parents how horrible life would be without me around, I planned with that in mind.
I cleaned my room. (There. That would show them.)
I bundled together my favorite teddy bear and my Girl Scout sleeping bag (yes, I was only a Brownie, but the sleeping bag was still a Girl Scout product) and headed for the garage where my bicycle was kept.
I made a quick stop in the kitchen for a bottle of juice and some cookies. I figured I’d get hungry on my long trek to . . . to . . . well wherever I was going it was away from home.
I set out, heading west—away from town—and into the late afternoon. As I rode along the bumpy edge of the two lane I started crying again.
I didn’t want to leave my comfortable home, my toys, and my friends. I’d never see any of them again. My heart was breaking, and that anxiety over the horrible change at home faded against the anxiety of where I would go, who would take care of me, who would love me.
The sun began to sink below the treeline when I stopped at the bottom of a very long hill. My home was out of sight. The landscape was strange, definitely not what I was used to. No dogs barked. No children laughed or played. The only sound came from some creepy cawing crows. The wind gusted, and I shivered. I’d forgotten my jacket. I had the sleeping bag, but I couldn’t wear that. I’d have to go back for the jacket. But wait, if I went back my parents might stop me from running away. Nah, they wouldn’t stop me. They didn’t love me enough to let me have my way. They didn’t want me. Still if I went back what was the point of leaving again. I’d just remember something else I’d forgotten and have to keep going back.
The light was fading. How would I see where I was going? Where was I going anyway? Why did I have to run away? Out here there was too much stuff to worry about. At home all I had to concern me was my parents and sister. Out here . . . who knew what kinds of creepy things might leap at me out of the dark? Out here no one cared about me. If no one at home cared about me either, at least I’d be warm and dry. I could still go to school and see my friends. Worry over all the things that might happen and all the things I couldn’t do or wouldn’t have convinced me to turn around.
I pedaled up that hill as fast as my six year old feet could go. I actually made it to the garage and up to my room before dinner. I sat on the bed, heaving great sighs of relief that I wouldn’t have to face all the anxiety causing challenges of living on my own. When Mom called me down to set the table, I went and said nothing about my adventure. No one else did either.
When I look back at this event, I realize two things. First, as I feel asleep that night, I recognized that my parents probably knew exactly what I’d done and being wiser than their six year old daughter figured I would come home on my own.
Several decades later, I became aware of a peculiar behavior pattern. When anxiety over come me, I run. I run away from whatever it is that is causing me stress. Then I run away to home, where everything comforts me (even chocolate and ice cream) and my family cares about me—not enough to give into my every whim but enough to reassure me that whatever nasty person or event stressed me out is not worth the worry. The things, the people, worth worrying about are at home, and they love me, so—no worries. If you think about it, home is a pretty good place to run away to.