There is a magazine having an essay contest on the topic of "When did you realize you were a grown up?", or something to that effect. I like this question. It took me several weeks of thinking about it to come up with a decent response. Whether I submit my thoughts on the matter remain to be seen. I guess we'll see how this rambling comes together.
When my 3-year old son receives discipline in the form of a "time out", there is often a moment between submission and movement towards the designated spot where he considers the possibility of running away. Sometimes he goes for it, little legs pounding in the opposite direction of mom. Sometimes he just mentally considers flight, and then concludes it's in his best interests to go quietly. He's not so different from any of us, really. Don't we all have moments of conflict or pain where this urge to run away is visceral?
I remember one of my early fights with my husband. It was when we were living in our cute condo in Colorado that we bought together when we were first married and still in the "playing house" mode of life. I have no idea what sparked it, but I remember my childish response of walking out of the bedroom and slamming the door. I may have even gone walking on my favorite creek-side path nearby. Whatever I did, it was running away. I reflect on this as the moment where I failed to grow up. It was the 20-something version of kicking and screaming from your time out spot. At the time, it felt so mature. I was angry and this was what angry adults did. Doors were supposed to slam, emotional barriers were supposed to form a granite consistency until the penitant pain inflicter rubbed his hands raw trying to climb back into my good graces. Run away, far away and make him miss me. Stay and reconcile? Certainly not.
Now that I am a mother of two, the urge to run away is a bit more refined. Now it takes the form of wistful thoughts of a beach in Mexico while I am feeding an infant and subsequently getting covered with mashed something. It is the 3am verbal declaration of "I'm done", after waking for the 4th time in the last 2 hours to respond to sleepless children. It is the part of me that searches job postings when I know that my place is at home, for now. Oh yes, I'd like to run away sometimes.
But growing up is learning to stay. Stay and work it out when I'd rather just stop talking through a conflict. Stay and take the consequence for bad choices. Stay and learn the value of being in one place for longer than a year. Stay in a job past the 3-year mark when the restlessness starts to beckon me elsewhere. Stay and begin to heal. Stay and experience the grace of the post time out hugs and kisses. Stay and watch seeds grow, and fruit result. Stay and be present in the life I've been given. Stay and see what happens at the end of the story.
So, to answer the question poised by those magazine editors. I grew up when I learned to stay.