When I was about 3 years old, I ran away from home. Food allergies and lactose intolerance made me a very picky young eater (chimpunk-like, I used to masticate bits of meat and then spit them out later), so there was always war at mealtimes. I'd endured the "no leaving the table until you finish your meal" tactic by falling asleep on my plate several times, so my mother, in desperation, went for the "this is my house and if you want to stay here, you need to follow my rules" approach.
To my three-year old mind, it was made perfect sense. I didn't want to follow the rules by eating my dinner, so I had to get out. I got up from the table, went upstairs, and packed a small bag with my favourite pillow, some underwear and a toy. Then I walked downstairs and out the door.
My mum just stood at the upstairs window and watched me go. My grandparents lived next door, so she was sure I'd just go over to their house. When I walked past it and started to turn the corner, she panicked and chased after me.
I remember clearly that I was heading for the church a few blocks down the road. Whether that was because it was God's house and therefore somewhere else to live or because there was an adjacent school and the nuns might take me in, I really don't know. As my mother dragged me home, I argued that I couldn't go because I was not going to eat my dinner.
Last night, Little A followed in my footsteps. Six weeks shy of three years old and still not speaking, I have no doubt that he does understand most of what's going on, and that my three year old logic and his may have been along the same lines.
I explained that he would be punished briefly for something naughty he'd done, despite the fact that he'd been wearing his "I know I did something wrong and I'm sorry face" and kissed me by way of apology. I told him it was going to be a quick punishment because he needed to learn his lesson. In response, he walked to his room, picked up the toy cash register that had been mine as a child, and walked to the front door wearing nothing but his underwear.
He looked so determined to leave that I opened the door for him, whereupon he walked to the lifts and waited for one to open. I then said he couldn't leave home without a shirt, shorts and shoes at the very least, and this is when he started to scream. Nanny quickly came out with clothes and dressed him while he screamed bloody murder and no doubt made the neighbors wonder if I was a child abuser. One of them came out to go downstairs.
The man smiled down at my son, as if he knew exactly what I was going through. When the lift doors opened, he and Little A stepped in, followed by ever-reliable Nanny. I waved goodbye and went inside to wait.
A few minutes later, I heard the front door open and the sounds of Little A's crying. I went to the door and told him his punishment time was over. He walked into the bedroom and picked up the book he wanted read that night. I started to read and, just like that, we were friends again.