Running Away

I wasn’t a bad teenager. It’s true that I stopped going to church and commenced to regularly breaking 7 of the 10 commandments.  And, while I never got arrested, I did routinely break a couple of non-Moses laws as well.  But all in all my parents had very little trouble with me.

We had an unspoken “don’t ask – don’t tell” policy. They didn’t ask me anything about my life or what I was doing when I wasn’t under their noses and I only gave them  information on a need-to-know basis. It worked well for me and later, when my brothers were teenagers, it worked well for them, too.

My stupid sister, on the other hand, didn’t like this policy for some reason. When she was a teenager she made a point of telling my parents, in graphic detail, every last thing she was doing – and she was doing a lot more graphic stuff than I ever did as a teenager. She even made stuff up for added shock value. My parents just decided to believe that she was making all of it up and ignored her.

But that was all much later. When I was a teenager, the sister and brothers were still little kids. And I had to look after them a lot.

One spring a bunch of relatives came to stay with us from Germany – old relatives: a grandma and an uncle or two… maybe even an aunt. A few of them would come every once in a while, so I can’t exactly remember who was there at this particular time.

Anyway, whenever the old relatives came to visit, my parents would take them out and about to see the country, to wine and dine them and to have fun with their siblings. This meant that I was stuck looking after the kids day and night for weeks and weeks at a time.

This one particular time though, when I was in grade 12,  I desperately wanted one evening off so I could go to a party. It was going to be the first bush party[1] of the season and all my friends were going to be there and, Tom, who was in university had asked me to be his date!  

Well in advance, I told my parents that I wanted this night off because it was really important and they said sure, no problem. Then, on the night of the party, as I was getting ready, they suddenly decide they were going to take the old relatives visiting and disappeared without even telling me.

Twenty minutes before Tom was scheduled to pick me up, I realized my parents weren’t home. I was pissed.

I went to my room and threw everything I owned into two big shopping bags and heaved them into the back of Tom’s car when he came to pick me up.

“What’s all that?” asked Tom.

“My stuff,” I said. “I’m running away from home.”

“Cool,” said Tom. “Where are you going to live now?”

“I don’t know yet, “ I answered.

“Cool!” said Tom.

Tom told everyone at the party that I was at this very moment running away from home. They all thought it was cool. My running away from home was the highlight of the party. It was a great party. My best friend, wanting to get in on the coolness of it all,  insisted, in front of everyone, that I come home with her to live.

“Cool” I said.

So after the party, Tom drove both of us back to my friend’s house and I stayed with them a month or so until I finished my school year. And then I got a full-time job, bade them adieu and moved out on my own. (If I remember correctly, the friend’s parents dropped some pretty strong hints over the weeks that this would be a good thing to do).

It was more than a year later before I ever spoke to my parents again. Turns out it took them 2 days to notice that I had even left home.  Epic I’ll-show-them gesture fail — as the kids would say. Or maybe kids don’t even say that anymore since hip wannbe adults co-opted it.

Anyhooo — did you ever run away from home? Did anyone notice? Where did you go? What did you do?

[1] For those not from rural areas, a bush party is just what it sounds like. A bunch of kids drive out to the middle of nowhere into a bush and party. In our town there was a designated (by generations of teenagers) area for bush parties that had been painstakingly chosen for maximum privacy. A clearing had been made in the middle of this bush and the same spot had been used for decades by all accounts. So we’d all drive in with booze and whatnot. Someone would put their car speakers on top of their car and crank up the tunes. A fire would be built in the fire pit. Some food would be on hand for later when we all suddenly got really hungry. Bush parties were the best.


35 responses to “Running Away

  1. Not only did I never run away from home, but I never even understood it. I’ve had several friends (that I met as adults) that had run away and I questioned them at length about it and I never got a good answer. I can’t wait to read all the comments. I have to admit though, I had it very easy at home and that’s where everyone hung out to party. Going off to college felt like going to prison after my home life. They had actual rules there.

  2. I never did. I was the good one in the family plus I probably didn’t have the courage to do something like that. I never skipped school either. My sister, though, she did all the things I never even thought of. I guess there always has to be a black sheep in the family.

  3. No, I never ran away. Though, my six siblings often made me want to. I was too goody-two-shoes. The most dramatic thing to happen to me in those days was the time I got lost in the big bad city when visiting my grandparents. I think I was only 12 at the time, with no real city experience, and they let me go blocks away on my own to shop. When I turned around to go home, all the streets looked the same, and I couldn’t remember the name of the one I was supposed to turn down. I didn’t know their phone number either, so I wandered around for hours and hours scared to death. Eventually, I picked the right street and somehow found my way to their house. Shame cell phones weren’t invented back then. Would’ve alleviated a lot of worry on both our parts.

  4. I didn’t but my sister did. She left a long note and told my parents to listen to some Whitesnake song that explained everything. 3 days later she was back home.

  5. I ran away from home. I was 5. My little brother was bugging me. I took a box of Froot Loops and ran away to the other end of town [a town of 2000 people with 15 streets and no stoplights]. The nice people at the other end of town saw me sitting on the curb eating Froot Loops and called my mother. I returned home. My brother continued to bug me. To this day, when he does, I crave cereal.

  6. I ran away when I was 15 and never went back. I went to Montreal, and then Ottawa. I ended up as a ward of the Children’s Aid Society and lived in a series of foster homes, mental hospitals and rooming houses. My only regret is that I waited so long before running away from home.

  7. i have a funny one. when i was six i ate some aspirin, thinking it was candy. i was “punished” (spoken harshly to) by my dad and being the sensitive child i was, i decided to run away from home. we just happened to live near a stripper joint and i thought the ladies coming and going from there were so nice and pretty looking so that’s where i headed. imagine my parents shock when a couple of strippers knocked on their door returning their wayward daughter.

    i have a couple of not so funny runaway stories from my teenage years, but i feel like sticking with cute for today.

    haha, sean’s comment made me laugh. i love that at some point in someone’s life, a whitesnake song captured everything they were feeling 🙂

  8. Geewits – You were a smart girl. I think I did it mostly because I wanted my parents to come after me and say they wanted me to come home and that they were sorry they took me for granted. But of course that never happened. I think once the other kids got to be teenagers, then they finally realized how easy they’d had it with me.

    Linda – Ah, but you made up for it by running far, far away as an adult, didn’t you? I think moving to a completely new country as an adult takes a lot more guts than running to your friend’s house as a teenager.

    Skyetrueheart – Cell phones would have changed the course of history in so many ways. I always think, for instance, if the gang on Seinfeld had had cell phones the entire show would have been a bomb – because so much of the plot depended on misinformation and information arriving too late and people missing each other by seconds…okay I know that’s not the course of history, but I always think of that when I watch Seinfeld.

    Sean – Meanwhile your parents were scarred for life from listening to Whitesnake, right? I don’t think I left a note. I don’t think I had time. And you, like Linda, have made up for not running away as a kid by going to the other side of the world as an adult.

    Fuzzpedals – Thanks for visiting fuzz. That’s truly a heartbreaking and yet heartwarming story. Maybe you ought to write to the Fruitloops people and see if you can do a Hallmarkesque commercial for them based on your true life adventures?

    Zoom – Ya, your story isn’t anywhere near as whimsical as mine. And in the grand scheme of things I really had no reason to run away except that I was feeling hard done by. When I lived in Toronto I volunteered with Covenant House and I don’t know how a lot of those kids managed to stay in their homes as long as they did. And the crazy thing to me always was that no one seemed to know what to do with all these homeless kids so they just wandered the streets and got into drugs and other illegal stuff. Of course a lot of the kids had no interest in being taken care of by yet another insane adult.

    Meanie – I wondered if you were going to relate to Sean’s sister’s story. Maybe an upcoming blog post on the new Stackomatic blog? That’s a very cool idea for a blog, by the way. Also, ummmm..what sort of neighbourhood did ya’ll live that there was a strip joint down the street?

  9. I ran away when I was 8 yrs old. I had decided that being a hobo would be a great way to live. No orders from the parents no schoolwork no sisters to boss me around and beat me up. So I packed some clothes and a sleeping bag on my bike, took all of about $5 i had in the world from my bank and set out. I made it about 20 miles west of town to Winona before running out of money buying candy and pop. The guy at the gas station where I asked for work was nice enough to talk to me till he figured out where I came from and then called home.
    Dad came and got me and the next year I got a kid brother so it evened up the sibling problems.

  10. “Epic fail”! I can’t believe they didn’t notice for 2 days and then let you stay away. Omigod.

    I announced that I was leaving home when I was about 7. I had packed a kerchief with I don’t know what, like hobos in cartoons used to have – I must have found a stick to hang it on too. I told my parents I wanted to go live in the woods with a dog and a horse. According to them, there was no animosity but I would bet that always having to share a room with one or the other of my sisters was behind it. They sat me down and talked me out of it using logic – where would I get something to eat, how would I carry my teddy bear (he didn’t fit into the kerchief). To this day, a solid logical argument with lots of evidence can persuade me.

    I left home at 17, never to return, but that was because I went to Queen’s. I was ready to go then and I have never been homesick, except for things like a decent bed, a quiet room, and a clean bathroom.

  11. Yeah, I did run away once. I was in grade 10 I believe. But I came back with my tail between my legs two days later because I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how I would make enough money to pay for my own apartment. It was a terrible feeling to want out so bad but to feel so trapped. Looking back, I can see that I lucked out in the parent department in many ways. But I can remember vividly the despair I felt as a teenager.

  12. No, I never ran away. But the situation at home was complicated and being “responsible” I figured that complicating things further wouldn’t be a good idea. And it wouldn’t have been. But damn, responsible sucks when you’re a kid…

  13. I never ran away but I did leave a few times when I was a teenager. I phoned my parents to let them know where I was though. And they seemed ok with it.

  14. I ran away at 17 for good (I was in grade 11). No one noticed on my first few lame attempts.

    Like Zoom no regrets,

    Wish first of all that the psychiatrist had listened to her when she told them I’d be better off in foster care, and second of all that I’d had the guts to do it much earlier.

    For those of you who mentioned never getting a good answer about why from friends who ran away – it took a long time for me to stop being terrified of my parent’s retribution for talking about it.

  15. As a teen, I snuck out one night around 1 a.m. and got caught; also, I broke a grounding, snuck away and got caught, both within hours of sneaking. I covered my tracks really well (trust me!) but my parents got tipped off by bizarre coincidences. The humiliation of getting caught (2X) in front of my cool-sneaking-out friends just wasn’t worth the effort for further attempts.

  16. Yeah, I did, but by that point I was already an adult. Felt like I was being treated like a child, though, and when the last implicit incarnation of the “if you want to live in our house, you live by our rules” threat came out, I decided the “if” was no longer worth it.

    Builds character.

    – RG>

  17. never ran away, but had no reason to. my parents were often not home and thought my older sister was taking care of me. but she was off doing crazy bad stuff. so i basically raised myself and figured a warm bed and lots of food in the fridge was not easy to come by on the streets so why bother. i don’t know how i was so rational about it, but there you have it.

  18. Dave – You tried to get a job at a gas station? Ha ha – that’s pretty funny. Good thing it was the olden days before all strangers were perverts and killers.

    Julia – Well, we did have a big house and under the don’t ask, don’t tell policy I came and went a lot without notification. Also, I reckon they thought it was high time I was on my own anyway.

    Meanie – All those naughty farmers!

    TMM- Hi! Thanks for the comment. I wouldn’t have gone back for anything and like you, my parents weren’t horrible or anything, I just couldn’t stand being there anymore. I was lucky my friend’s parents were so obliging.

    Jazz – Yes it does. And you’re still there being responsible when you’d much rather be living elsewhere.

    Glen – What do you mean you left a few times? Like to go to a movie or to a friend’s house for a sleepover? Or just out riding the rails and stuff?

    Mudmama – Same reasoning as to why a wife will stay with an abusive husband. Not every teenager who runs away has it as bad as you and Zoom and some others though – I think that’s what Geewits was getting at. Her home life suited her perfectly. Kids run away for reasons that are dumb – like they don’t want to do chores all the time and just want to be out having fun – to kids having no choice but to run away for their own safety and sanity. And everything in between.

    Nylonthread – Some kids just aren’t meant to run away, I guess. When you say you were sneaking out, were you just going out for the night or were you planning on staying away for a long time?

    Grouchy – I’ve vowed never to say that to my child. That’s just one step from actually kicking them out – daring them to leave. When you say you were an adult, do you mean you were like 30 or something?

    Smothermother – That was probably smart of you. I guess it’s a matter of the good stuff outweighing the bad stuff at home and the bad stuff outweighing the good stuff out on the streets.

  19. I was too old to call it running away (age 20) My Dad kicked me out/disowned me and my Mom did not get involved. Dad was pissed I was dating a guy of a different religion. I ran all the way to Banff with my boyfriend for a year. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I worked and travelled all over the west coast, met interesting people, came back and found some great room mates and put myself through university. I even ended up marrying the guy too. Like Grouchy says…it builds character.

  20. I was just sneaking out for the night. That’s the closest I ever got to running away. My mom, however, threatened loudly (with bags packed) to run away very often, but I digress.

  21. Lynn – while that comment probably wasn’t directed at me, I should point out that one of the contributing factors was that the person effectively in charge of the household wasn’t exactly *my* parent.

    – RG>

  22. Left my parents house one early morning many years ago and caught a flight to Vancouver (I was 17). Left a note on my pillow saying I would be in touch later.
    back home two months later.

  23. I never ran away from home because I was the boring, responsible, nice sibling. My older sister was the wild one who skipped school and drank and did all kinds of wild teen things. I never felt like I had anything to run away from because my parents weren’t mean or abusive or anything. Of course, I went to college when I was 17 several states away, which for my area was a bit like running away since everyone else went to the state colleges in the area.

    I had a couple of friends that didn’t run away, but should have. They probably weren’t brave enough to take that step. It takes a lot of courage at a young age to extricate yourself from a bad situation, I think, and not everyone has it in them to do that.

  24. Grouchy – Oh. Well. I guess that makes you and adult. I guess.

    MM – I assume you’ve reconciled with your parents now? What a terrible thing to disown your own child.

    Nylonthread – Did she ever go?

    Lynn – Yup, that’s me – rebel without a clause.

    Sassy – Well. Did you talk to them in between? Did you leave in an angry huff? How did you have enough money at 17 for a flight to Vancouver and to live there for 2 months?

    Kimberly – Sometimes kids stay out of fear, as Mudmama said. They’re afraid of what their abusive parents will do if they defy them to that degree. Lucky you to have a reasonably good couple of parents. It’s always handy to have a rebellious sibling, too – takes the pressure off you to be rebellious and you can be the good one.

  25. This was a really interesting topic. I did spend an inordinate amount of time as a teenager dreaming about running away from my parents who were more strict that those of my friends.

    But in reading the comments, I am amazed at the courage, fortitude and strength of you all! It must have been so tough survive out in the world without a soft net to fall into if you fell. Or maybe that is precisely why you survived – because you knew there was no net?

  26. I was 14 and annoyed at the step-dad for some additional inconsiderate thing he had subjected me too. I packed 2 little Buxton hard sided makeup-cases of the 60’d variety, then headed out the window. I walked 26 miles with a suitcase in each hand . The sky was clear and the road was hot, I wore the soles through on my old yellow Keds.

    I was on my way to Vancouver Island to hid out with my boy cousins who slept in the attic ( I was young enough to believe my Aunt *never* went up there) I finally made it to the ferry terminal causeway blistered and sunburnt. The ferry was in sight just a single mile to go when a police car pulled over.

    He asked my name and said my mother had said they would find me on the way to the ferry. He took me to the police station and my mother picked me up. She askedif I had any money and then looked at the two small cases and asked if I had all my clothes in there, and when I answered “yes” she said perhaps we need to do some shopping. She said Daddy was very angry and it would be best if I didn’t go home. She dropped me with family friends who lived at the beach. I had a wonderful 10 day holiday free from the “little kids,” and their father.
    I went home with tons of new summer clothes after being taken shopping several times by Auntie Jean. The incident was never mentioned again.
    I like to think that maybe I did show them! He and I did the avoidance dance for another two years before he left my mother and siblings for a women with 2 kids and a motor cycle .

  27. Julie – I don’t know how or why the others survived but I survived out of sheer stubborness.

    Jay – Thanks for visiting the blog and sharing your adventure. Interesting that your mother would choose to reward you with a holiday and a lot of new clothes for running away. She must have known what was in the cards vis a vis your stepfather??

  28. There were, at that point, 5 kids younger than I and I was an incredibly responsible child- often jokingly called the “built in baby sitter.”

    I don’t know what went on while I was gone because as I mentioned my adventure was never spoken of again. I think perhaps when she saw how little I had an those two tiny cases, make- up cases actually, she was a little embarassed. I was definately playing the role of the poor step sister in the household at the time.
    I don’t know if she knew what he was up to at that time but I know now that she was struggling to keep the house which was in her name.

  29. Zup, I called my parents after a few days just to say I was OK and staying with friends. I also called them when I decided I would be better off at home for the time being, you know just to clear the way.

    Before I left I found a summer job to earn money for airfare and spending (in those days you could travel last minute standby fare for 1/2 price . . . if memory serves right, I think you had to be under 25 or 21 to get that deal.)