Last year in my mama support facebook group, I posted these words, “I’ve got a runner.” I was referring to my then two year old who had taken to sprinting away from me as soon as he saw an opening. “Can’t catch me!” he would shout. And I would think, “You are right! I am eight months pregnant with what must be a fifteen pound baby and I can barely waddle fast enough to catch a caterpillar!”
He thought running away was fun, hilarious, a game. I was panicked. I could not stop him from running and, being a slow-moving planet, I could not catch him. In my mind, as happens often in parenting, my sense of time collapsed and the phase we were in became an always/never situation. He will never stop when I ask him to. We will never be able to walk down a sidewalk together. I will always have this panic that he will run into the street.
He didn’t have a sense of danger at all: traffic, bikes, losing sight of each other in public places. These were all amusing to him- they had no consequences that he could see other than the consequences I created for him which mattered little to him.
Perceiving danger was my job. And I’m damn good at it because I tend to be an anxious person when it comes to my kids safety. (I cut blueberries not just in half, but into quarters for the baby, just to be safe.) But during this phase, unless I had him strapped into a stroller, shopping cart, or car seat, I could not keep him safe. He would almost always hit the ground running.
Below you will see pics of B in action during this phase:
Throwing down his best juke moves on Justin to get past him.
Justin is foiled again!
At last Braden listens to reason and comes back when we call him.
The advice given to me by my facebook group was outstanding, as usual. They recommended having consistent consequences and rules, and saying things like this:
You must hold my hand in the parking lot.
If you don’t stay where I can see you and you can see me, we are leaving.
But what I learned in this phase was that, despite our consistent warnings and consequences, there was no way to keep him safe other than strapping him into something. I wanted him to have the freedom to learn, but I couldn’t keep him out of danger if we did. So anytime we left the house, it was like we were flying through turbulence- because he was always buckled. He went directly from the car seat to the stroller and stayed locked in until we were done with our errand and I could put him back in the car seat. Same for shopping carts. I could not let him try and walk next to me on the sidewalk holding my hand because he could never resist the temptation to run, no matter what consequence I could offer. And given that I would not be able to catch him, I really had no choice.
This lasted for a few months. I would see other toddlers walking across a parking lot holding their mom’s hand and I would then want to cry. (Time collapses: We will never be able to hold hands in the parking lot.) But I am happy to report that we do now. He still really loves running, but usually not away from me. He listens when I ask him to stop (usually.) He even turns around to check in. “Is this too far?” he will yell if he’s run ahead of me on a path. And I am so glad to shout back, “That’s far enough! Just wait there for mama!” And he does.