A few weeks ago, late in the afternoon, my six-year-old Z was climbing the tree near our very un-busy road when I saw that our eleven-year-old neighbor was talking to him. She seemed kind of upset so I walked across the yard to ask her if she needed help with anything. She said yes and explained, “My brother says he’s running away and I have to stop him!”
I wasn’t expecting that. I looked around and saw that her brother walking up and down one of the other neighbors’ driveways.
“Why is your brother running away?”
“Because my Dad yelled at him because he’s always so mean to me! So then my brother said he was running away and my Dad told me to go get him.”
Okay, Gi. Think, think, think. Kid trying to run away, sibling trying to stop them . . . I’ve got this!
“Have you ever read Ramona Quimby?”
“Well this one time Ramona says she’s going to run away so her Mom says she’ll help her pack!! But she packs all these really heavy things like roller skates and, I don’t know, like, a bowling ball or something so that it’s too heavy for her to carry. So one time when I was babysitting my little sister, she said she was going to run away so I did the same thing to her.”
As I observed the blank look on her face I realized that story served no purpose whatsoever. After all, we weren’t inside the house with him threatening to run. He didn’t seem to have any concerns about what to pack. But at least it bought me a little time to think more about what the next step should be. I could still see Brother who had decided to stop running since he wasn't being chased.
“Tell you what…why don’t you just come into our yard and play a bit? I bet if you’re not chasing him and it looks like you’re having fun he’ll come back.”
And the minute that girl stepped into our yard he went tearing past us as fast as he could, right back up their driveway to home. (Phew! It worked!)
This time her face broke into a huge smile and she thanked me. Then she turned around and began skipping home; shouting, “HEY! If you still want to run away, I WILL HELP YOU PACK!!”