16 Year Old Son Ran Away 2 Weeks Ago

Updated on November 13, 2015
J.J. asks from New York, NY
8 answers

I found this site through a lonely move on my part, last week I put into a Google search box, "my 16 year old son ran away" and one of the threads here at mamapedia came up. It was really really helpful to hear the viewpoints on how to handle things, and it was the turning point for me to try to stop focusing on "how could he" and start thinking about “why did he and how can I help him.” It does hurt big time to know that he doesn’t see home as a haven, I would almost rather have an entitled, never-wants-to-leave kid than one who so readily gives up what I have tried to make a decent home.

I am still at a loss, though. I have re-read the posts. Folks seem to mainly fall into two camps, either go get the kid and drag him back (PINS warrant, cops, etc) or approach with openness, unconditional love, etc.

I have done a little of both. Here’s what happened, I’ll try to snip it down. My son just finished his junior year, and he is 16 years old, born late in the year, young for the class. On the last day of school, the day when the kids were just supposed to go get the report cards, nothing else, and also a day when he was supposed to go to an orientation for a college course he was taking this summer, I went to work as usual, and he went off to school, I thought. He texted throughout the day, or replied to my texts, lying that he was where he was supposed to be at each stage of the day, lied about being at school, seeing report card, getting grades, then lied about heading to the orientation, etc. Once he knew I was home he texted me to look at his computer. There was a note “I am leaving, I can’t live with you.” That was two weeks ago yesterday. I may sound calm here but I am losing my mind. I wish I had a husband around (and I am basically past that) so I could quit my job and just focus on my kid. I am walking around like a zombie, and in top of it, basically lying to everyone because I have told very few people. I told my boss because I did miss a week of work the first week.

Without rehashing the whole thing, and the horrible first few days (it is bad now but I am numb, coping), I filed a missing persons report to super reluctant police about 3am the first night. He had and has been texting me throughout this whole time so they were reluctant to take the report, but I spoke with many cops that first night, and one told me they have to take it, insist, so of I did.

Since he isn’t on meds or disabled, this is seen as a non-emergency, and I get that. I also don’t want him dragged home in cuffs, not because I can’t bear it, etc, but because he will just leave again. He said this in the note, and even if that is just bravado shouldn't he want to come home?

Up until a few days ago, he was answering almost every text and I have been beside myself and so have texted him a lot. (PS our plan is a “Go Phone;” I have no credit, so it is like a cash card. Talking is expensive; the texts are unlimited for a fee, so we go with that. So everything is texting, and I am way too old for this). Anyway he kept saying that he is keeping me informed so I won’t worry, so I will know he is okay (but this has dropped off and now I haven’t heard from him in 24 hours). A day or so ago he said he shouldn't have to answer each text.

His note said he couldn't live with me anymore. Things are not always hunky dory but they are generally calm. What I see as the big problem on my end is I am definitely an overbearing mother. I get really nuts if he doesn’t bathe, take care of his skin, and I bug him until he does. I am up his butt about schoolwork, which he lately lies and says is done when it isn’t anyway. He is “smart” but lazy. His grades have been bad this year. They are always about a B or C. Not living up to his potential, that whole thing. Maybe I was kidding myself, but he did seem to really enjoy his alone time as well, he is a musician and a writer and a dreamer of sorts. I always need to know where he is, and did not go out a lot, hang out a lot, he says because he hated that I would need to have the phone number. He is stubborn that way and I guess I should have seen that something like this might be coming.

He also, for the last year or so, has been very reluctant to have me buy him clothes, a new phone, or anything (not like I am rolling in dough, but even logical purchases he might need). He is a punk rocker type so that whole mindset is anti-establishment, etc, and he walks around in kind of run-down clothes, he hates Abercrombie, etc and likes to shop thrift, which works for me because I am a single mom and don’t have a lot of money. But he just seems to HATE to take any money from me, which seems admirable but it hurts. It is my job to support him. When he was saying way back when that he would attend college, he was fixated on how much it would be and wondering how he could pay for it; he didn’t want me to pay for it. He says he sees that my taking help from a parent for so long isn’t healthy and has led to my being a bad money manager (not nice to hear, this sentiment came out in a fight once, but it is true. Sucks, though, to have your kid sees these faults).

My point saying all this is that he isn’t a kid who is going to be stressing without his car (no car), privileges (he had plenty of freedom to pursue things he wanted but not ones involving lots of money or THINGS). He has said he needs to do this; he will make it on his own or die trying, etc.

He wrote in his note that with two of his friends leaving for the summer he felt he might as well do this now. I think transitions are very hard for him, always have been, he has been a troubled kid (it has lessened, or changed into different things, over the years). We see a family therapist, I told him what was going on; he has tried reaching out to no avail. He keeps asking me if I passed on his message, as if he is wondering why my kid isn’t getting back to him.

PS My son also announced a few months ago that he is not going to college, I got very upset, etc, but the long and short of that was that I have not mentioned college since then, I am trying to back off. When I asked him about the college course this summer, he said, I’ll still go. Now I don't think he ever planned to go.

He is a sensitive and caring kid, let me stress, when he did call and we actually spoke (this happened just twice since he has been gone, after I kept texting that I needed to speak with him, it took like 30 requests) he said mom you have to admit this is the first real selfish thing I have done, and while this isn’t true, hello, as far as a lot of kids go, he just does not ask for much, and maybe that is because of the up and down finances in the home. Who knows. So while this is true, that he is usually pretty considerate, I told him that it doesn’t excuse what he is putting people through. The first week, the first days, I was LIVID and could not believe the selfishness of this kid. I am not young and I and my friend were running all over the city looking for him.

Sorry to go on so long, I just want to give the main pieces of this: I have not told anyone in my family except one of my brothers who I really don't get along with but with whom my son has a nice over-the-phone relationship (he lives in another state). I asked him to reach out, he did; has only received one reply early on. I can’t tell the rest of my family. In the beginning it was because I definitely felt humiliated and didn’t want to be judged, but now over these days that have passed, I realize that they will be so worried, and while I still don't want to be judged, and still feel humiliated and wonder how I screwed it up so badly, that is fading and I realize folks will really be worried and I have no answers for them and it is trying to rehash it over and over, even with the few people I have told who are helping me.

If what my son says is true (who knows), after the first night which he says he spent on a subway bench, which kills me, he seems to be on the couch of someone who is over 18. I can’t believe he still has money but he says he does. I am afraid of a million things, but I am most immediately afraid that he will run out of money and perhaps jump a turnstile to get on the subway or shoplift to eat and get arrested, and I am afraid once that situation is done he will go to a worse one.

There is a detective who called. He said he had to close it out officially since my son is keeping in touch and they know he is “okay” but he will keep helping. Anyway he has a list of phone numbers my son has been texting or receiving texts from and is calling them. I provided these to him. I texted my son that I have to do this by law, I guess I was making excuses but I really don’t think he realize that whether he likes it or not he can’t just leave and be on his own and no one will pay attention unless he is emancipated. If I can use the detective more as the bad guy in this scenario this is fine. Lots of parents do this, a good cop/bad cop approach and as any single parent can tell you, we miss this as a possibility! Sometimes it gets very intense just you and your kid with no buffers. The detective seems to lose patience at times, he says he has kids, I asked him what would you do, he said, take him by the throat. I said; well okay what if that isn’t an option? He thinks I am being too soft.

My son has texted that he won’t meet me, he can't see me, not until he has a job or a place to live; these seem to be markers he has set for himself. He also may think I am trying to trick him because I have done a pretty much about-face, I am not telling him he is wrong or ungrateful, etc, now I am just asking if we can meet somewhere neutral so I can see him and hear how things are going and make sure he is alright. He says now that the detective is calling his friends that he doesn’t trust me, etc. I told him what a PINS warrant is and said if I was going to have you dragged home I would have done that already.

That was Sunday evening, I haven’t heard from him since late that evening. It is now Tuesday morning. Any advice would be appreciated.

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So What Happened?

I am new to this, so I don't know how many times I am supposed to update, but I just want to say thanks for the replies,
i need them, i am really benefiting from the diff viewpoints. he is still not home. i think perhaps a turning point yesterday in communication,he hadn't contacted in a day and a half i panicked and called numbers from his cell log. THAT got him to call, I guess his friends txtd him, he was so upset "how dare i" but i told him nicely, really, to get a grip i have to hear from him once a day as he promised. while this is the deal he has to stick to it or else i really get worried, etc. he swears he still has money, i just doubt it. he sounds ragged, upset (well, he was upset at me at first, but in general). i think he knows i am on his side. says he cant see me because i will cry and he will cry. thanks for all advice, keep it coming pls. He is a good kid.
i want to help him find his way, even if it is leaving at a young age, but geez i want him home in his own bed, at least for now.
i have wanted to check off "this was helpful" on replies
but dont know how to do it. thanks so much ladies.

More Answers


answers from New York on

Hello J.:

I am very sorry that you are going through this........sounds like a good kid regardless of what he is going through right now.....It will take some time but eventually he will realize that there is no place like home.....I ran away and I was miserable......continue to do your moral and legal obligations by trying to obtain help......teenage years are tricky years and no psychobabble in the world can really predict what is going on in your son's head.....I don't know if you can afford this option but offer to wire him money to a western union with no strings attached; tell him its not from you but from your brothers....when you wire it just ask for a confirmation notice.....at least this way you know that he is still OK......my parents tried many things and eventually I developed a cooler head at the age of 20....also tell him that he should find out about job corp......they can help by giving him training and finding him a job.....http://www.jobcorps.gov/Home.aspx.....also, I know that getting a college education is a very important goal in a young person's life but to all the mommies reading my short paragraph; if my son or daughter becomes an ultrasound technician, or a mechanic, or a carpenter, or an electrician, these are in demand job and trades and I will be more than happy for him or her........good luck J........

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Dear J., wow. I live in NY too and I think it is more scary for us because this town is too big and dangerous. That said first of all you are not an overbearing parent. Wanting to know where your kid is, making sure he does his homework, stressing good grades?? That's good parenting so take it easy on yourself. The plus here is your son is pretty much keeping you in the loop, although now he has laid off because the cops are calling his friends. He'll get over that. All you can do is keep txt'ing him and telling him he is welcome home when he wants. I'm getting that your his only parent and dad not in the pic? Boys rebel when they feel they are being "mothered" and want to be men. Since he seems more responsible than most runaways let him search for a job. The problem is he'll probably get a minimum wage job and where in NY could he find a place to live? SRO's are at least $150 a week. Can you speak to his friends would they have an idea where he is or how he is? I think your son is "punishing" you, by no contact, to let you know he is serious. Not that I would be able to either but stay calm, stay positive and be as supportive as you can till you feel a) he is coming home or b) you have to send the cops to get him. A coworker of mine had a similar situation with her 16 year old. She is pretty tough to get a long with and a single parent who thinks the world owes her. Not saying that is you but after a back and forth of 6 months her son came home. He realized sleeping on park benches, and going from couch to couch was too much for him. Hopefully the same will happen with your son. I'm sorry you are going through this but remember you raised your son so your common sense must have sunk in somewhere and hopefully all will pan out in the end. I wish you luck, stay positive and be good to yourself.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Hi J.,
I am really sorry what you and your kid are going through. When I was around his age I run away too. At that point I thought it was because my mom didn't understand me, because she just was too this or too that. I can look back and tell you honestly, it wasn't so much my mom (of course we didn't get along as we do now but it wasn't totally that) it was more just me...and my boyfriend back then.
I was a stupid teen that I thought life was going to be easer without my mom constant vigilance. I was living a Disney story on my own head where my prince and I couldn't live together,etc.
So first thing, DON"T BLAME YOUR SELF, you may have been overwhelming but I really don't think that is why he left.
Second: You NEED to know where is he, I am not even commenting about bring him back or not, it doesn't matter, you MUST know where he is.
Thrid: Once my whole Disney fantasy fall down I wanted to come back home but I was afraid that my mom would just take what I have done against me (she probably would have keep a closer eye on me, plus I told you so's) so make sure to let your son that your door is open and you are willing to hear him and find a solution.
I really don't know what to tell you after this.
I think if my daughter did the same at that age, I would have bring her home by the hair and keep bring her back over and over until she is 18, and just hope that one day she understand me when she have her own kids.
But you are right, I am very lucky to have a partner, so I can be home and keep a close eye on her.
Also I agree with your fear, you can bring him back but he can leave again, and as a single mom how you are going to quit your job to keep an eye on him?
I know you don't want to hear this but at 16 he is available to life alone, IF he is smart and do it right. I am not saying that is the ideal, but many have done it. I am also not telling you to let him do it, I am just trying to calm you if there is not way for him to go back.
In your situation, what I would do is to talk to him, ask him EXACTLY why he leave?
I will say:
There always will rules in home, it have to, in any home. But I hear your need for more independence. I got it, I agree some changes must be done.
You have a home where you are loved, where you don't have to be worry to be kick and to have money to pay bills or being through out. Would you think that that is wort for you to come back go school and keep a time for when you can go out or not (or what ever is important for you) I would not bother him about his own hygienic or his room.
If he still doesn't want to come back, I would have to decide if to take my chances and bring him back as many times as I need or let him try.
Like I say, I would bring him back, but I don't work, and I have a hubby that could help me to play good cop bad cop, etc.
The only thing I know is that no matter what I really thing that you have to find out where is
Have you try calling all his friends?Maybe a girlfriend?
PS: Let him know how much you appreciate that he text you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Stay strong!! Maybe since you haven't heard from him, you should contact the police officer who said he would help. How is he able to eat, travel, etc.? Is there an ATM card or bank account he has access to? They can check the location of withdrawals. On Friday at 8:00am tune in to 710 WOR Radio. Mayor Bloomberg is always on and takes calls and has helped callers with problems/situations when they have no where else to turn. Even if you don't want to go on the air, you can ask the call screener to take your info and request his (mayor's) advice. I will say a prayer for you and your son. Also, does he or his friends have a facebook or myspace page? Maybe a post or entry can give a clue to his whereabouts.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Just a warning. My 15 year old ran away under the same idea as your son. To be independent, follow her own rules, etc. etc. I called DCFS for help. DO NOT DO THIS!! They turned the whole thing around on me. I was reprimended for being an admittedly overbearing mother (sorry for caring!). I just wanted to warn you. She has been put into a residential facility for runaways in Chicago after many, many foster homes and care facilities, when she could have just come home. Now they won't allow it because they say she is a danger to my other 2 children (5 and 8) and have taken her out of my home permanently. She is very sad and confused. So do not let the government agencies even know what you are dealing with!! Just be loving and available for when/if he does decide to come home. It's all you can really do. I know it is awful, believe me I know. I was beside myself and full of many emotions, from "how could she?" to "please just come home and we'll fix it" but I never once wanted anything bad to come of it like so many people said I should feel. They thought I should let her 'suffer the consequences'. But I feel there are way too many things out there that could hurt them. I hope he does see the light and come home or at least finds a job and a decent place to call home and is safe either way. Lots of prayers to you. Sincerely, a mom who understands your grief

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Dear J., I really feel your pain and so sorry about it. I think that Elizabeth M gave you excellent advice, although I am sure it is very hard to let go as a mom.
I was a rebellious teen too, at a time when cell phones and text messages were not available. I remember my Mom saying to me: "you are almost an adult now and can make your own mistakes." That made a whole lot of difference in the way we related to each other from then on. Knowing that she would be there for me even if I was (obviously) making my own mistakes made me return home. I now realize how much pain I caused my Mom and having a daughter of my own now I pray that she doesn't do the same things I did. But then again, I will probably repeat the same advice my Mom gave me and hopefully I will let her make her own mistakes.
Best wishes for your son's safe return.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

My initial reaction is tough love. Do not text or call him. Worked for
me but situation really not the same. First priority would be to get him
home and go from there and then choose your battles. Wish I had more
advice, but it is a tough situation. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Clarksville on

Im so sry im going thou bout the same my son an his 2 frds ran away wensday morning my son17 an frds 16 lives with his ant [long story]but i get him all the time he blocked her on fb an took his sim card out of his phone so they cant trackthem we live in tn an wen nite we seen were he used his creit card hasnt used it since im going crazy over this so worried praying so hard his ant didnt even tell me i found out on fb everybody saying reggie u just need to come home...like i said im sry it just feels good to talk to someone that is going thou the same w/b if u wish id love to here from u i dont kw how this site works but my email is ____@____.com thank you an god bless pls pray for the boys an ill shore pray for your

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