Runaway Days

by Michele Bolton

Originally published in July of 2005 in the Sentinel

"Some days are like that. Even in Australia."

Have you ever felt like poor Alexander in Judith Viorst's Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No- Good, Very-Bad Day? You know the kind of day I'm talking about: A previous night's-worth of insufficient sleep, accompanied by bags under the eyes that seem to stretch your whole body down to your knees? The kind of day that finds some perfumed, painted and pompadoured neighbor/friend/Relief Society sister (pick one, I've had 'em all) at your door while you stand in your holey jeans and two- day-old t-shirt with wet hair (hey, I give you credit, at least you're clean) surrounded by your darlin' little monkeys in various stages of mood and dress? The kind where your bed isn't made and all the rooms are declared National Disaster Areas, where one child won't do his math while another won't stop following you around the house asking "Why?" and the baby is sitting on the dining table cheerfully consuming an open jar of peanut butter whilst wearing a diaper you're sure no HAZMAT team would touch? Where your mother calls "just to let you know" how Dad is so worried your kids will be backwards troglodytes in Plato's cave because you don't put them in public school? You feel flat as a pancake without baking powder, life seems a bleak, barren desert of unending chores filled with restless little natives who make "Mom!" sound like a swear word, and no end in sight.

So what's a rational woman to do? I don't know. Rational is the last word I'd use to describe me, even on my most "with it" days. This mad woman, after clonking her head against the wall a couple of times to clear out the fog, stands up straight, and in her most decisive tone possible declares, "Runaway Day!"

Now, you say, responsible people don't run away. They stick it out, come what may. (Ooh, a cute little rhyme!) But, when you're at the end of your rope on your very last nerve, something has to happen. And our solution is away.

I am not saying, "throw in the towel, chuck it all," well, at least, not forever. Just for a day, or two. We work hard, really, most of the time, sitting down and doing our "lessons" (we hate to say "school") so I think it's okay to say "We've had enough. Let's take a break." It gives us permission to step back, take the load off for a while and regroup. It doesn't tell my kids to be lazy or quitters or to not face their problems. It says that a strategic retreat every once in a while can actually help win a war.

Our first runaway day was in the late spring, early summer of our first year in a new home, new area, having moved further from family and friends. Boy was slogging along at his lessons, baby Girl was glued to my leg. I was lonely, depressed and feeling a little housebound. Inspiration struck, we packed up and headed to the lake where I sat and watched my kids play in the sand and test the waters (we even spotted a fish!). We went home tired, sandy and altogether satisfied. Hubby asked, "What did you do today?" My response? "We ran away for the day." He shrugged his shoulders, being by-now accustomed to my weird ideas and dialog, totally trusting in me as a wife and mother to keep everyone safe and happy.

And you know what? We were. The next day we still had to face mathematics and dirty dishes and the awesome task of carving a niche in a new land, but we'd had a break, and were stronger now to face what had to be done, lessons, housework, et. al. Call it escapism, call it what you will, running away now and then is good for the soul.