Where do they go when teens run away?

18 May

This subject has always frightened me, long before I was a parent.  When I was younger, I remember hearing stories of kids my age that went missing, it was terrifying.  Kids were always planning on leaving home due to the many injustices their parents had committed; not one of them actually did it.  I would will myself to sleep to stop thinking about what happened to kids that left home and didn’t have a bed to sleep in.  Where do teens run away to? Did they sleep under bridges?  At the train station?  Sneak into a store at night and then leave in the morning?  That part actually sounded fun.

teens run away and usually return

I remember my first and only foray into the great big beyond; I was about 5 years and we lived on a military base. I don’t recall the exact reason I was upset enough to run away but I remember vividly all the other details.  I recall telling my mom that I was going.  I recall her saying something like she was sad but that if I wanted to go then I should go.  I don’t remember what I used for a suitcase but I know that I packed two towels and my favorite stuffed dog.  Here is a five year old’s reason for needing two towels; one to use as a blanket, one to roll up for a pillow.  Why I didn’t just take a pillow and blanket I’m not sure.

I said goodbye to my parents and left our military house that was attached like a duplex to another family.  I crossed the street and very quickly bumped into one of our neighbors.  He was a nice man that we knew and he asked where I was headed.  It was probably only a few minutes but it felt like we talked for a long time.  I cannot recall if he walked me back home or if I simply followed him but I did return to my cozy house and never tried that stunt again.  To this day, I have no idea if my parents called their friend to go out and check on me or if it was pure coincidence that he was out walking at night.  I imagine they sent him.

Beloved has only tried this trick twice or twice that it was for any substantial amount of time and could be called “running away”.  Both times, I watched her leave and more aptly it should have been called “somberly walking away”.  She does get angry with many of our rules and like most teens, often feels the grass is greener at her friend’s homes. Her dad and I never want her to leave home but in both instances told her that if she felt like life would be better lived elsewhere, then she was free to go.  The first time she took us up on that, we looked for her immediately but like a ninja, camouflaged in the elements, she was nowhere to be found.  A panicked hour later, I found her walking in our neighborhood near the park.  I pulled the vehicle up beside her and she got in the car; we discussed what happened and life went on.

The most recent time, she left angry, very angry, as was I.  She packed for the trip and intended for it to sting a bit; at least to her parents.  Six hours later, we reached her at a friend’s and the feelings hadn’t subsided.  We decided a little tough love was in order and did not march over to pick her up.  She was with her friend’s family.  She did return one time to get more clothing and we acted as nonchalantly as we could.  It had to be about her wanting to return not us forcibly keeping her in the house.  On the 5th day, she said she was ready.  I picked her up immediately, she got in the car, and the first thing she said was that her friends family argued more than anyone she knew and she’d rather be home.  I let that comment slide although my tongue was a bit sore from biting it.  Life has now returned to normal.

Now before you call child protective, we had constant contact with her via texts and phone calls, she had her computer and we could see that she was still completing her school assignments, and we knew where she was for most of the time.  It was rough for all of us; it never feels good when your children believe they are happier elsewhere, but we all needed the space.  After returning, we had a heart to heart about what we wanted from our family unit and although I wish deeply that my daughter will never find another reason to leave the nest; I know she will.  It won’t be that she’s running away, it will be worse.  The day is coming, pressing on us like a weight, when it will be her time to burst forth into adulthood.  There is no turning back or denying that fact.  All we can do is pray that God makes the remaining days tick by slowly.

Hovering high and low, Helicopter Mom and Just Plane Dad

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