Jett ran away.
Technically, he ran a 5k. Without me or any other adult he knew. Without permission. Sort of.
It was a parenting fail in a spectacular sense. Our neighborhood organized a pre-Christmas fun run. Just neighbors getting together to run/walk our neighborhood, see the lights, and enjoy each other during the holiday season. Awesome, right? Jett thought so too. He was so excited we forgot to lay out the rules. We forgot to explain how just such a thing works. And that he needed to stay with one of us.
He didn’t. And when I lost it on the street in front of God and everyone (screaming, yelling, holding him by the arm…one of my finer moments as a parent), he took off. And ran the course. Alone, in the dark. It took a neighbor taking my other two in their stroller and another neighbor driving me through the course to find him. He had only gone about half a mile and didn’t understand why I was upset. His plan? To ask someone for a ride home after he had run the race. We live in a nice neighborhood after all, he reasoned, and the people he was running with (who didn’t know he had adopted them as companions) would be more than happy to help him out.
Truth be told, they probably would have been happy to help him. But that wasn’t the point.
The next day at the grocery store, he got angry and disappeared into the bowels of the store.
We are now looking at purchasing a GPS locator with my phone number on it.
And what were his consequences you ask for such behavior? I still don’t know. I reached out to my community of other special needs kids to ask for advice. Regular parenting books just don’t cover this stuff. The best advice I got included the id/gps and setting up a safe place for him so if he needs to get away he knows where to go and be safe. We are also going to start some stranger danger education. We are well overdue for that, and ironically my mother in law gave us a great book for Christmas covering some of it.
I ended up, for better or worse, taking my parenting cues from a tv show. In the show Parenthood this past fall, Max, a boy who also has Asperger’s, goes to a museum by himself after his family tells him they can’t make the trip. They didn’t issue a consequence, and we didn’t either. We chose instead to fight the problem with education of the risks.
Is it the right answer? I don’t know.