Saturday, March 24, 2012

The incorrect, but popular, method of bringing a child back home.

It could happen
(This photo provided by jusben)
Ryan likes to test me by running away. Like most 2-year-olds with six months experience, he's very good at it. He slinks away from my side, usually to look at something innocent like a butterfly or a blade of grass at the far end of our yard. I allow this because not doing so would stifle his independence and his natural curiosity. But, once he realizes he has some distance between us, he starts to s-t-r-e-t-c-h that distance out slowly as if there is a rubber band connecting us and he's seeing how far it will go.

I react in one of two methods. The preferred method, of course, is to firmly tell him to come back. This works once in a while, especially if I have something valuable nearby to bait him with, like gummy snacks or a bumblebee. But usually, he continues to watch me as he takes sideways steps away. Although he's good about staying on the sidewalk, there is always a chance that he will make a break for the street and I know that at that moment an 18-wheeler or a derailed train will hurtle itself down our quiet neighborhood street and strike him. Worse still, and more realistic, a passing car could recklessly hop the curb and get him. Although I realize this could happen with me standing next to him, my mother-bear mentality tells me that I would be able to stop the errant vehicle and save my boy.
But, after exhausting my attempts to get Ryan to come back, including counting to three, threatening a time-out, and using the old standard "I'm leaving, goodbye," the possibility of Ryan being struck dead forces me to rely on the second method and last resort in getting a child to come back to his mama.
I run after him.
Running, of course, is just what he wants me to do. Like most moms, I lose all credibility and authority when I run, especially when he also starts running and I end up chasing him down our block, passed the neighbor's houses and the playground crowded with teenagers across the street. I have never been much of a runner. As a high school field hockey goalie, most of my running occurred wearing large leg pads, forcing me to run with my legs somewhat apart. Fifteen years later, my husband confirms that I still run like this and likens me to Chilly Willy anytime I move faster than a light jog.
I'm convinced Ryan knows this and that's why he runs. He looks over his shoulder at me, laughing, and suddenly we've gone from Mother and Son to two crazy people running down the sidewalk sharing a good time. When I catch up to him, it's impossible to compose myself and give him the stern lecture he deserves. On a good day, I scoop him up without speaking, carry him back to the house, and plop him in his timeout chair. But most of the time, I start laughing before I get to him, which causes him to laugh harder, and we collapse to the ground together in a fit of giggles.
This is, of course, not the right way to do things. But I know that way too soon, Ryan will be able to run much faster than me. I won't be able to catch him and he won't want me to. So for now, I run.


  1. Great story! Ah the joys of toddlers.



  2. So, I don't have children, but I do remember being a child and running from my mom when she called after me. I recall thinking of it as a game of chase, and laughing about it — although, she wasn't too pleased. All was fun and exciting until I hid in a clothing rack (the round kind) while Mom was shopping, and when I came out to say "Boo," she was no where to be found. She, apparently went looking for me, scared out of her mind, while I was playfully hiding from her. I think I was around four, at the time. Apparently, some nice person took me to security and they called my mom over the speaker to come get me. I don't remember ever running or hiding from her again.

  3. Oh, gwad, I so know this situation. My daughter who is now 4 was a total sprinter right at 18 months. The minute I set her down anywhere she took off. No amount of bribery or consequences could stop her. She was also big, strong and VERY fast. I spent a year of my life constantly trying to keep myself between her and danger. Should I protect the cars, hot barbeque or water?

    Once I was at a busy playground and sprinted after her to catch her on the precipice of an empty concrete wading pool. There were kids playing soccer in the space and she just ran to them. She had no idea that there was a step down and I just barely caught her shoulder as she reached the edge. Afterward, a dad came over and complimented my catch and said that every parent in the park had been watching and holding their breath.

    She also wanted me to chase her. That was part of the reason she ran and when she was really little, we'd chase her at the park. We had to stop doing that completely and now with our second, who is almost 2, I try not to do that. It's sad because playing chase with your toddler is so fun, but then they want to do it all the time.

    The good news is that by the time they are faster than you (my daughter is) consequences work much better and also, they begin to have some concept of danger.

    In the meantime, know that I hear you, I feel ya!

  4. This is why they make those child leashes. Just saying.

  5. I'm not a mom, but this is certainly a common theme amongst the stories I hear from friends who are.

    I hope that, despite the anxieties, you continue to enjoy those giggly moments. Silly, leave-the-world-behind "laughter feedback loops" (as we call them in my family) are the best therapy. Ever.