I’ve no idea how it is elsewhere, but in our family the most stressful time of the day was just before supper. Possibly it was simply that five of us, in addition to Abi, all being together in the same place at the same time, while supper preparations were under way, was too much. The crises always seemed to errupt just before we were to sit down to eat. Mind you, these weren’t life-changing catastrophes, but they did have to be taken care of. Who took what from whom, or who did what to whom could become issues and had to be addressed. In our division of labor on discipline, Linda and I had decided that she was to deal with the small, every day kind of problems, while I would handle the big issues, when a “higher authority” was needed. What constituted minor and major issues was not discussed, as we thought we would be able to tell them apart when the problems came up. And so it was.
One particular late summer evening when things were rowdier than usual, something did happen; I don’t remember what it was, but Jennie announced that she was running away from home. She marched out of the kitchen, slammed the front door, and away she went. Linda and I quickly decided that our eight-year-old daughter running away from home was a major issue, and that I was to go after Jennie and bring her back. I wasn’t too thrilled about going out in the drizzle, but out I went, and saw her right away, about a hundred feet ahead, near Carlisle Terrace. Naturally, I tried to catch up to her, but no matter how rapidly I walked, the distance between us didn’t diminish. While she gave no sign that she had seen me, she obviously had, and was adjusting her pace to keep the distance between us the same. As we walked, the drizzle changed to rain, and now it was getting dark.
We walked down one block, made a right on Highwood, and then walked another block down Henry, and I finally decided I had to do something. So I called her, and she turned around and faced me, with still the same one hundred feet between us, with the rain now coming down harder. I asked her to come back home with me, water dripping down my face, but she didn’t want to. I wasn’t making any progress with bringing Jennie back home. What I needed was a different approach. So I asked her if I could run away with her. Somewhat suspicious of my turnabout, she thought about it for a moment, and then agreed to let me run away with her. It was a lovely walk for the two of us. Yes, it rained, but it was summer rain, and it was warm. We walked I don’t know where, but somehow found ourselves walking through the dark, leafy, unfamiliar streets of nearby Glen Rock. We splashed in recently formed pools of rain water. We played leapfrog with fire hydrants, while the rain kept coming down.
We had a great time!
And then Jennie announced that she was hungry. I admitted that I was also, and she suggested that we go home, that her mom was probably waiting for us with supper, and she thought going back home for supper a good idea. But we were lost in Glen Rock, and finding our way home was also part of the fun.
Many years have passed since then, and it is likely that I screwed up many times as a parent, but I believe to this day that “running away” with Jennie that warm summer evening was my masterpiece of fathering.