When I was a kid, I remember my little brother stomping around the house in his cowboy boots and pajamas, angry about something. He announced he was going to run away. My mother, ever the calm presence, said, "Well. Okay. Let me help you pack."
I was a little taken aback by that, as was he. But she very calmly pulled out a little suitcase and laid it on his bed, and laid in a clean pair of pajamas and Underoos (I think he was in a pajamas only stage, I guess? It was a long time ago.) She asked if he would like to take a snack, he might get hungry while walking. He nodded, still angry but a little confused, and so she dropped some cookies into a zip bag and laid them into the suitcase. She zipped it up, walked him to the front door and handed him his suitcase to carry (not a rollaway, we didn't have those in the seventies, you know,) kissed him on the head and said she would miss him indeed. He walked out the front door and down the sidewalk, his two little arms lifting his suitcase up, getting tired almost as soon as he was out the door.
At this point, I was a little beside myself, that my mother would let her six year old son walk out the front door to run away, much less help him pack. She didn't even try to convince him to stay! But then I heard her go to phone and call the neighbor down the street and tell her what was going on. And then I understood.
Sure enough, the neighbor leaned out her front door and invited him in to share some milk and cookies. He stayed for a couple of hours, watching cartoons on her TV while she piddled around the house, and then she announced that they would be having brussel sprouts for dinner. My brother didn't like brussel sprouts (and rightly so, they are food of the devil, as far as I'm concerned.) Ooh, that's too bad, the neighbor responded. I hear they're having spaghetti, down at your house.
And so he came trudging back up the walk shortly before my dad got home from work, and never a word was spoken in our house about the entire episode.
I often wonder how my mother knew how to deal with that situation, I guess I should ask her. Not only to allow him to follow through on his threat, but to never bring it up and try to drive home a lesson in it, allowing his little ego to stay intact (at least until he was an adult and we all teased him about it.) As a parent, I planned for how I would carry out the exact same technique with my own two stubborn boys, but oddly, the moment has never come.
Instead, sometimes I'm the one dreaming of running away. Sometimes my frustration with working and mothering and being a spouse and a housekeeper and a cook and a chauffeur get to me, and I can't seem to care about any of it anymore.
Sometimes when I get on the highway to go somewhere, I wonder what would happen if I just keep on driving instead of taking my exit. But I never seem to have enough gas in the tank to get very far, or any cookies should I get hungry.
And so I sigh a big sigh, and turn around and go home, knowing tomorrow will be a better day.
Or at least planning to stash some snacks in the car for next time.