I could actually cry… Yesterday we had a little breakthrough with H. To anyone else, this probably will not seem like a big deal in the slightest. But for us it was kinda huge. I managed to do a short walk (literally two minutes) from the car to a local softplay, and back again after, with no buggy AND NO REINS. And no twins – ha just kidding. To most other parents, even those with twins of a similar age, this is probably just normal. But when your toddler is a runner, it’s a huge deal.
If you follow me on Instagram you’ll no doubt have read/heard me banging on before about the fact that H is a runner. I don’t just mean he runs fast (which he does – it’s frickin ridiculous, he’s like a chubby lil cheetah). But more that he runs away. And doesn’t stop.
Usually, no amount of calling after him will deter him from his mission to get the f**k away as fast as he possibly can. Occasionally, pretending to turn around and walk in the other direction, ie pretending to leave him behind, works and he will run back. I doubt whether it is the best parenting strategy to be using though. More often than not though, he just laughs his head off, waves and runs even faster.
Why is it so stressful when your toddler is a runner?
As H starts to get further away from me, I invariably begin to panic. If I only had him to chase after and keep track of, it might be manageable. It would probably still be a bit stressful but at least I could maybe cope without a buggy and would just be able to focus on keeping up with him.
However, with another child and a buggy (which, ironically, is mainly only needed so that I have the option to strap him down and contain him if he’s being too crazy) it becomes a whole other level of anxiety. It gets to a point where H will be getting too far away for comfort and showing no signs of stopping, not responding to me shouting after him etc. And I’m then forced to suddenly abandon the buggy and C, in order to put on a sprint so that I can catch up with him and bring him back.
What worries me the most, along with having to leave C behind for a minute, is that H seems to have no real concept of danger. He would blindly run full-pelt towards a road given half a chance. He’s not bothered if he runs out of sight of me. It’s only happened on a couple of occasions that he’s actually gone out of my sight. But that feeling of bubbling panic rising up inside me so I feel almost sick, is just the absolute worst.
I’m so utterly paranoid now about it that I find things like going to softplays a source of huge anxiety. I can only cope if it’s basically one room, completely enclosed, and I know exactly where the exits are and know for sure that he can’t escape. Because if there is any way to escape, Houdini H will bloody well find it.
How do we deal with H being a runner?
The upshot is that H spends probably 90% of his time either in the buggy or on reins, especially when I’m on my own with them. We have our Adventure Belt which is fab because he’s attached to me but a bit more independent and I have my hands free. You can read my Adventure Belt review here. We also have some Little Life backpack reins. These are useful if I’m letting him on and off them as I can quickly and easily tuck the ‘lead’ into the backpack.
H is generally pretty good with reins these days as he’s so used to them and understands that the alternative is that he has to stay in the buggy. However, there are times when he gets really frustrated and will lash out/lie on the floor etc – basically go nowhere fast 🙈 So that’s fun… 🤔
How I feel about H being on reins/in the buggy most of the time
It makes me a bit sad to have H on reins all the time though, as I would much prefer to be able to give him a bit more freedom when we’re out walking in a park or something for example. (Obviously not anywhere too busy or crowded like a shopping centre.) But I love letting the twiglets explore nature and discover things and just wander. Most times I try to let him off them though, he just legs it and gets put straight back on. I find it so frustrating and always feel guilty about it.
When I do let him off, I’m paranoid about him not going more than a metre or two away from me. This is because I know that if he’s much further than that, and makes a break for it, I’ll have to ditch everything and run to catch him. I’m sure it must seem to other people like I’m super uptight and/or overly cautious. But I think if you have children who can wander off a certain distance but you can trust that they will come back when you call them, if you haven’t felt that abject panic of seeing your child running off and knowing they’re just not going to stop, it’s probably quite hard to understand.
Treating twins differently
I’ve never met a child of his age who has such an apparent lack of awareness about danger as he does, or the willingness to run so far from his parents. It just seems like most kids by the age of almost three, are generally pretty sensible and can be trusted a bit more – like C, to be fair. I feel so much more relaxed letting her out of the buggy as I just know that the vast majority of the time, she will listen and be careful. Similarly, in cafes or restaurants, I will happily let her sit on a ‘big seat’ or even get down and walk around a little. But I always strap H into a highchair and wouldn’t dream of letting him get down because I know he’ll just be gone.
I feel bad for treating them so differently, but if it’s a question of safety there’s just no other way. I know they’re two individual children so sometimes it is appropriate to treat them differently anyway but I just hate having to baby him so much more and not give him as much independence. But I guess until he’s ready for it, there’s not much else I can do.
Breakthrough or fluke?
So, that is why a simple two-minute, buggyless, reinless walk yesterday felt like a monumental breakthrough. H walked sensibly, he didn’t go too far ahead, he came back when I called him and when we were near the carpark, he waited and held my hand until we got back to the car. It was like being with a different child and made me realise how much easier and less stressful trips out would be if he was always like that.
And to add to my joy, we had the loveliest afternoon today with friends at a local National Trust place, and again, Henry mostly listened, didn’t go off too far and actually played with the other children instead of just constantly running off. I can’t tell you how amazing it was to be able to let him explore with no reins on yet also to feel fairly relaxed about doing so.
We all know toddlers are the most random, unpredictable creatures ever so I’m not allowing myself to think that maybe, just maybe, we’ve turned a corner but oh my goodness, it would be incredible if we had. It would certainly save me a lot of heart attacks!
Do you have a toddler who is a runner? How do you cope with it? And when did/will they grow out of it?
Thanks for reading! Til next time,