"You wanna run away from home?" I asked.
"Yes. I don't like you," she said.
To tell the truth, that set my heart thumping wildly. What if she upped and went after a scolding, when my back was turned? I would turn around and find her not there... my little doll with the flawless pink cheeks, longan eyes and cheeky smile. What if a pervert picked her up and did unmentionable things? What if she got herself run down by a car?
I decided that if she were ever to run away from home, it ought to be under adult supervision. So I said "Ok... if you really want to do that, I will help you?"
I gave her a small back pack and advised her to pack the things she needed. She put in her favorite toys. I gave her her school water bottle and helped her with her shoes. And then I opened the door and said "Goodbye and good luck!"
She waddled on her very short legs down the long long corridor, with determined steps. She did not look back even once. When she turned the corner to the lift lobby, I flew on tippy toes down the corridor and hid behind a wall to observe. She stood in the lift lobby and waited. She had forgotten to press the lift button... or maybe she was unsure what to do and where to go from there.
She looked very small, and a little worried.
I came out of hiding and said "You forgot to pack your toothbrush and your pyjamas. How are you going to get ready for bed without your toothbrush and your pyjamas? Let's go home and find your toothbrush and your pyjamas and you can run away later."
I took her by the hand and brought her back down the long long corridor towards home. I helped pack her pyjamas and toothbrush in her bag. Then I put her on my knee and gave her advice about dogs that bite, policemen who might put her in jail, sleeping in the rain and all that. Then I asked her if she preferred to run away immediately or wait and do so another day.
She decided to run away another day. And that was that. She never ran away again... and even now, whilst she shares stories of her teenager friends running away from home or refusing to spend nights at home because they can't stand their families, I am comforted to know that she understands how warm and comfortable home is for her. I am glad she knows that here at home, we will always welcome her and want her and be there for her. And that there is nothing she can do that will turn us away.
We will even help her to run away if that is what she really wants.