I'm Running Away
“I do not like carrots!” Dean banged his fists on the table. “I do not want them!”
“Dean,” Mary said with as much patience as she could manage. “You have to eat vegetables. That’s how you grow up big and strong.”
“Maybe I don’t want to be big and strong!” Dean protested.
“Do you want to go to time out?” Mary sighed. Dean shook his head. “Then eat them. Eat the carrots or go to time out for not listening and then you’ll still have to eat them.”
“You’re very mean,” Dean yelled.
“Dean,” Mary said taking a deep breath. “Listen to me. You’re going to eat them. You don’t eat any vegetables and you can’t live on just peanut butter sandwiches.”
“I also eat chicken nuggets and mashed tatoes,” Dean huffed. “I do not like vegetables. Daddy doesn’t eat carrot sticks and he is big. You’re just making it up. I can be just like Daddy and not eat no carrots. You’re just being mean to be mean.”
Mary was hoping this would end when he turned three. Her girlfriends that she set up play dates with promised her that it would get better; there would be less fits more listening as he got older. But now he was three and half and it was clear that with her son it was going to get way worse before it got better.
“Dean, you have to do what I say,” Mary sighed. “Because I’m the mom and you’re the kid. Now eat them. If you eat two carrot sticks you can go play. But until you do, you’re going to sit there. You can sit there all day for all I care.”
“You are the meanest Mom,” Dean yelled shoving his plate across the table. “You know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna run away and you’re never gonna see me ever again!”
“Alright,” Mary shrugged. “Fine, run away.” He’d threatened it before. Dean’s version of running away usual meant climbing under his bed for a few hours.
“I will!” Dean jumped down off his chair and ran as fast as his legs would carry him up to his room. He climbed into his closet and found his sleep over back pack that he brought with him to his Nana’s and his sleeping bag. He took a change of clothes, his favorite Batman figurines , a couple coloring books and crayons, his favorite collection of fairy tales, and his teddy bear packing them as neatly as he could in the bag. He then grabbed his pillow and the blanket his mom folded at the end of his bed, strapped on his bag, put on his Kansas State baseball hat and heading back downstairs.
Mary was sitting on the sofa reading when Dean came back since she didn’t expect him to come back down stairs until after John came home from work.
“I’m sorry, but this is the only way,” Dean said standing in front of her. “I will miss you very much. If you weren’t so mean I wouldn’t have to run away. But you are mean so I have to. Then you learn not to be so mean to me.”
“I’ll miss you too,” Mary said. She was trying to keep herself from crying. Logically, she knew Dean didn’t mean anything he was saying; he was just upset. But it didn’t stop it from hurting like she was a failure at the best job she’d ever had.
“Before I leave,” Dean mumbled looking at the floor. “I need you to pack me some animal crackers and maybe some pretzels.”
“You want me to pack you snacks before you run away?” Mary said trying not to laugh.
“It would be very helpful,” Dean replied seriously. “I can’t reach the counter, and I might get hungry out there in the world all by myself.”
“Alright,” Mary stood up and went to the kitchen to pack Dean up a nice snack. She took the carrots from lunch along with the animal crackers and pretzels he requested and two juice boxes. She put them in a lunch box and handed it to Dean. “There you go.”
“Thank you,” Dean smiled. “I will really miss you.” Dean hugged his mother’s legs tightly. “I love you very much.”
“I love you, too,” Mary said playing with Dean’s hair. “Be careful. If you ever feel like coming home, you know what you gotta do.”
“I will not be eating carrots,” Dean protested. “Goodbye, forever, Momma.”
With that Dean walked to the back door. Mary quietly followed him and watched as Dean made his way across the yard to the garden shed. He unrolled his sleeping bag and set up his toys. She sighed and went back to what she was doing before, checking back every five to ten minutes to make sure he didn’t run farther away. She gave him until dinner to get bored and ask to move back home.
Dean thought that this was going to work out real well. If he lived in the shed, then he wouldn’t have to eat vegetables. He could do whatever he wanted and no one could tell him what to do. He set up his sleeping bag next to the lawn mower and spread out his toys and coloring books on the floor. He didn’t have to take and after lunch nap now that he lived on his own. He would have a nice life out there. He knew he would miss his mom and dad, but maybe he could visit every once and while.
“John?” Mary called from the back window when she heard the front door closed at six thirty.
“Yeah,” John called back.
“Dean ran away and I need you to get him and bring him back,” Mary said. “It’s starting to get dark and I’m worried about him.
“Wait, what?” John asked walking to the kitchen to put down his lunch box. “He ran away? You let him just run off?”
“He’s in the shed,” Mary explained. “If he went any further I would have gotten him myself, but he thinks he’s proving a point, but I don’t want him to starve to death so I need you to go get him and convince him to come back home.”
“Why did he run away?” John asked joining Mary at the window where they could see Dean playing with his Batman.
“He doesn’t like carrots,” Mary sighed. “I told him he had to eat them or he had to sit in time out and then eat them. So he ran away.”
“Wow,” John chuckled. “You’re the meanest mom in the world.”
“That’s what he told me,” Mary shook her head. “Then he said he had no other choice and ran away to live in the shed. He hasn’t even taken a nap. He’s going to be obnoxious. And he’s still not going to eat vegetables because he’s going to fall asleep at the table.”
“He’s three, Mary,” John reassured her. “He’ll figure out that it’s better to just do what you say than live outside. He’ll probably come back when he’s hungry.”
“I packed him a snack,” Mary confessed.
John tried to hold back a laugh as he shook his head.
“He asked for one,” Mary sighed. “He was really committed to running away but he wanted a snack. He can’t reach the snack cabinet. I did that on purpose now that he’s big enough to get into things. John, he said he was going to move away forever, and I really don’t want him to be out there over night.”
“That’s adorable,” John said shaking his head.
“He’s not going to sleep in the shed,” Mary replied. “And we’re losing light. He’s afraid of the dark and he’s going to be scared and I don’t want to him to cry. He said he was never gonna come back. You know how stubborn he is. Just go talk to him and convince him to come home. He’ll listen to you. No compromising on the vegetables though. He has to eat them.”
“I’ll see what I can do, no promises,” John said smiling. “You were really mean to him; trying to make him eat vegetables. How could you do something so horrible?”
Mary rolled her eyes. “Watch yourself, or you’ll end up sleeping in the shed. Just go bring him inside, please.”
John smiled and kissed her on the cheek. “Have you been crying?”
“You have your son tell you that he hates you and that you’re the meanest mom ever,” Mary replied. “I mean I know he didn’t mean it, but it still hurt. I was just trying to do the right thing, and he flipped out and told me I was horrible. I’ve been watching him live out there all day thinking about how he thinks I’m a bad mom.”
“He didn’t mean it,” John reassured her, his thumb across her cheek. “He loves you. He loves you more than anything else in the world. You’re a great mom, Mary. He’s just being a brat.”
“I know,” Mary mumbled. “Just, go get him, please.”
John kissed he wife softly before heading out. He knocked on the shed door before stepping in. Dean was smiling up at him happily from his place on the floor.
“You came to visit!” Dean squealed. “This is my new house.”
“I heard,” John replied sitting on the floor next to him. “I heard you said some really mean things to your mom.”
“No I didn’t,” Dean shook his head.
“You didn’t call her the meanest mom ever?”
“I did,” Dean nodded. “But it is true. That’s why I had to run away.”
“You made your mom really upset,” John explained. “I think she might have cried a little.”
“I didn’t mean to make her cry,” Dean said looking down at the floor. “I just wanted her to not be mean and make me eat carrots. I have to teach her a lesson. That’s why I ran away.”
“Have you ever eaten carrots before?” John asked.
“Yeah,” Dean nodded. “They were very mushy. And I didn’t like it. I telled Momma but she didn’t listen and she made me eat them at lunch and I didn’t want to.”
“Raw carrots and cooked carrots are very different,” John explained. “I bet mom wanted you to eat carrot sticks with your sandwich, right?” Dean nodded. “Did you try them?”
“No,” Dean whined and spoke with a tightly clenched jaw. “I don’t like carrots. You’re being just like Momma. You’re being very mean. I don’t like it. You can get out of my house if you’re gonna be mean. This is a mean free zone.” He huffed and crossed his arms across his chest.
“Buddy,” John said seriously. “I’m gonna talk to you like you’re a grown up for a minute. You’re being a little bit of a brat.”
“No I’m not!” Dean protested.
“Yeah ya are kiddo,” John said calmly. “You’re mom told you do something and you threw a fit. That’s being a brat, and what happens when you act like a brat?”
“I go to time out,” Dean mumbled.
“And you thought moving out to the shed would stop you from having to sit in time out, didn’t ya?” John asked; Dean nodded solemnly. “You can’t live in the shed. It’s just not a good idea.”
“Yes I can,” Dean protested. “I’ve been living here all day.”
“What about food?”
“Momma packed me a snack,” Dean replied.
“What are you going to do when you run out of snacks?” John asked. “You can’t just go back and ask for more snacks and come back out to the shed. That will make your mom very upset.”
“I can get a job,” Dean nodded. “I can have a lemonade stand like the people by the grocery store.”
“Where are you going to get the lemonade?” John asked. “Mom’s not going to make if for you if you’re living out here all on your own.”
“I don’t know,” Dean mumbled.
“What about when it gets cold out?” John asked. “This shed isn’t very warm in the winter. There’s no lights. It gets very dark out here at night, and I know you’re afraid of the dark.”
“I didn’t think of that,” Dean pouted. “I think I want to go home.”
“Okay,” John smiled. “I think you can work something out with your mom if you talk to her and apologize.”
“Momma said to go back home I have to eat a carrot,” Dean said softly. “I really want to.”
“I’ll tell you what,” John said looking down at his son’s big green eyes. “I bet your mom packed you some carrot sticks in your lunch box there. I’ll eat one with ya. And after that if you really don’t like it, we’ll work with your mom to find vegetables that you do like. Cuz you gotta eat your vegetables Buddy. It’s real important.”
“You don’t eat vegetables,” Dean mumbled.
“I know,” John nodded. “You and me have got to work on that. We can start eating green beans and corn and beets and whatever your mom’s cooks for us. We’ll find something we both like and have mom cook that for dinner. Would you like that?”
Dean nodded and crawled over to his lunch box. He pulled out the plastic bag of carrots and crawled back to the sleeping bag here his dad was sitting. He sighed deeply before pulling out one of the carrot sticks and then handing the bag to his dad.
“Let’s do this so I can go home.”
John smiled and ruffled his son’s hair before taking a bite, watching as Dean struggled to stomach the food.
“Whatcha think?” John asked when they’d both finished chewing.
“It’s not too bad,” Dean mumbled. “I guess I can have more carrots for snacks, but not all the time, and not cooked ones.”
John pulled Dean close to his side. “How about we go apologize to your mom? See if she’ll let you move back in.”
“What if she doesn’t?” Dean asked softly. “You said I maked her cry. I maked her real sad.”
“You just gotta say you’re sorry,” John told him. “Tell her why you’re sorry and give her a big kiss.”
John watched Dean gather up his stuff and pack it back into his bag and roll up his sleeping his bag. “I’ll leave my stuff here incase Momma doesn’t let me move back in.”
“Alright, go see her.”
Dean nodded and walked back up toward the house. John shook his head and sighed. That little boy was never going to stop being a handful.
Dean opened the sliding glass door slowly and stepped inside to the smell of dinner cooking. Suddenly, he was very hungry but he knew if his mom didn’t accept his apology for being a brat he’d have to go back out to the shed and eat pretzels. He walked into the kitchen and saw his mom stirring something in a big pot on the stove.
“Momma,” Dean whispered as he walked up to her. “Can I talk to you for one minute?”
“Sure,” Mary said turning and squatting down on the floor in front of him. “What’s up kiddo?”
“I would like to move back home,” Dean said, looking down at the floor.
“I don’t know,” Mary replied. “You seemed to have quite a life out there. Are you sure?”
Dean nodded and smiled up at her. “Me and Daddy ate a carrot,” Dean explained. “It wasn’t too bad. I guess I can learn to eat them sometimes, but not all the time. Me and Daddy are gonna start to eat new vegetables. And I’ll be real good and not throw a fit about carrots no more.”
“Alright,” Mary nodded. “That sounds real good.”
“And I’m really sorry I called you the meanest mom ever,” Dean said sincerely. “You are not the meanest mom, but you are the prettiest.”
“Thank you kiddo,” Mary smiled. “That’s very sweet.”
“I was just mad, and I’m really sorry,” Dean said. “I really want to move back home, if it’s okay.”
Mary grabbed Dean on both sides of his face and smiled at him. “Are you going to be a better listener?” Dean nodded the best he could. “Alright, I guess it’s okay for you to move back. But you gotta eat all the vegetables I made for dinner.”
“What did you make?” Dean asked.
“I made corn and green beans to go with the chicken,” Mary told him.
“I don’t know about green beans,” Dean mumbled.
“You gotta at least try them,” Mary explained. “That’s the rule if you want to move back.”
“Okay,” Dean nodded. “I’ll try.”
“Come here and give me a hug,” Mary smiled, pulling the boy into her arms and lifting him up.
She watched as John placed Dean stuff next to the sliding door over her son’s head, she mouthed “thank you,” as Dean squeezed as tight as he could.
“I missed you a real lot,” Dean said into her shoulder. “I’m glad to move back home. I don’t to be away from you no more.”
“You won’t buddy,” Mary replied. “I won’t ever leave you. Not even when you’re all grown up and don’t want me around anymore.”
“Good,” Dean smiled. He leaned back and kissed wetly on the cheek. Mary placed him back down on the ground.
“I love you, Momma,” Dean said. “I love you as much as the world.”
“I love you more, sweetheart,” Mary replied. “Go get washed up for dinner. I’m sure you’re starving.”
Dean ran off to the other room. Mary went back to finishing dinner. She hoped there wouldn’t be any more days like that, but she knew that it was probably the first of many days. She knew it was all a part of growing up, throwing fits and outbursts. But if those days ended with a hug and telling her that he loved her, it would make it all worth it.