The worst part about having your kids run away is that people suddenly get very concerned about them. Yes, of course, we all want people to care about our kids, yada yada yada, etc., with sugar on top. But let’s be honest, people—meaning MOTHERS—don’t we want people to care about us, too, just a little? Since you all have appointed me the Queen of “frank” and “honest,” I’m happy to admit that on behalf of all of us.
(And that I have been to a therapist, and that I have taken anti-depressants, and that I feed my children processed sugar—spooned straight from the bag ala Mary Poppins, six times a day. Anything else?)
That’s why I have to say Thank You, Big Bahama Mama, for throwing me a line in your comment and noting that I may want to run away, too. But since I was already at the edge of my rope on Monday, I wasn’t sure where to run.
We all have memories of running away as children—it’s pretty hard to get anywhere. But I think it’s even harder for adults. Just a couple days before the girls ran away, I heard the best “mom runaway” story yet from my good friend, K.
K is pretty amazing. She’s one of those people who faces such difficultly in her life that you might wonder how she gets through the day, and yet each time you worry about her you run smack into her worrying about you.
K has Huntington’s Disease. This genetic disease has many heartbreaking symptoms, but the most noticeable to others, and to K in this stage of her life, is the chorea, or jerky movements. These make things like driving difficult, so K voluntarily gave up her license over a year ago. For a mother of three active teenagers, this is just a teeny tiny bit of a challenge. K is used to requiring help from others, and accepts that help with grace and dignity. But sometimes even she gets sick of it.
Recently her husband was out of town for the week, so he and K planned ahead by arranging rides for all the kids to their various sports and other activities. K ran the show from home, making sure the kids’ lives got off without a hitch, and being there to welcome them with a hug when they got home. Everything went fine except one thing: at the end of the week, K realized she hadn’t left the house once. She had been stuck there, stir crazy in the middle of winter. Suddenly all her frustrations and difficulties came crashing down on her, and she stomped out of the house. She told the kids she was going for a walk and they offered, as they’ve been directed by their kind father, to escort her.
“No!” K said. “I’m going by myself.”
As K tells it, she marched up the hill in a fury, dragging and stomping her feet like a little kid.
“I can’t even get in the car and go anywhere!” She fumed. “I can’t even run away like an independent adult.”
You can guess what I said to K. “Oh, K, why didn’t you call me?! You know I would have come in a heartbeat.”
“But I didn’t really need any help,” she said. “The kids were all taken care of, everything was under control, and I wouldn’t even have known what to ask you to do.”
And right there K and I decided she’d hit the nail on the head. That’s the problem with mothers. It’s not that we won’t ask for help—it’s that we only know how to ask for task help.
When it comes to our children, we’ll ask anyone to do any task to help them. We’ll make sure they’re taken care of. But once we’ve either performed or assigned out every task, sometimes we still find ourselves out of sorts, as K did. We don’t ask for help for ourselves, because what would we ask for? There’s food in the fridge, the kids have rides, their homework is done, and there’s a load of laundry in the dryer. We may still feel crumby, like we need someone for something, but there are no tasks left on the list.
We don’t know how to ask for the kind of help we really need, and sometimes even if we try our friends only offer to do tasks for us. It’s not their fault—they’re mothers, too, and like us they only speak task language. We’ve all forgotten to think outside the task.
And so, that’s why we need a Runaway Mothers Club. There should be a clubhouse where we can runaway and hide, with one sign that says “No Children Allowed” and another that says “No Tasks Allowed,” and ice cream, as Big Mama said, and a white flag to raise when you need some kind of something from someone but you don’t know what and you don’t know how to ask for it.
This post is brought to you by the letter S, as in ‘sense,’ of which this post probably makes NONE because I have been constantly interrupted by CHILDREN while writing it. YES you can have some chips and NO you can’t play computer games and YES it was just an accident and No I didn’t know there was a song about Cornflakes and YES YOU SHOULD STOP YELLING AT EACH OTHER!!!!!!!!!