This week we were reminded about the potential for dangerous situations for our men-children. Not surprisingly, as teenagers they are often out on weekends, generally hanging with a couple of friends, attending parties or gatherings, and travelling on public transport or by taxi if (their) funds permit, preferably in a group for safety.
We always like to know where they are going, who they will be out with, what time they are coming home, or if they are staying out for the night, etc. Sometimes this frustrates the hell out of them, but as we explain, if something happens to you and you somehow lose your mobile phone, we really need to have some idea where to start looking for you or tracking you down.
Both of the men-children were out last weekend, having come back from kayaking camp (where they had a fabulous time), showered (I’m sure that felt good) and then headed straight back out the door. When one of the boys eventually got up the next morning, he was fuming. He told me about an incident outside a party where two older boys had confronted him and a mate. They had pinned his mate against a wall, threatened him with a bottle (not broken I’m glad to say), and demanded money. My son eventually offered them $20 and they took off, thankfully without stealing their mobile phones and any more money.
Over the next few days we had an interesting debate about how to handle a situation like this if it was ever repeated. I actually think he did the right thing – stay with your friend, handover money (who cares) and stay safe. I also asked if he knew who the boys were, or what school they attended, as I was more than happy to phone the said school and let them know there was some delightful behaviour going on. What are the chances it’s not the first time they’ve bullied other boys?
We agreed personal threats to the offenders would get you nowhere, unless you wanted your head beaten in! In truth, our son even baulked at the thought of us contacting the school, lest it be known he was the “dobber” and there were repercussions. A discussion then ensued about the rights and wrongs of naming and shaming, so that the collective good defeats the bad seeds of society. As a teenager, he really didn’t have the same global view of his parents, and frankly, didn’t seem to want to hear it. Would it surprise you to know one of the boys had apparently been expelled from a very expensive private school? No wonder! So the matter was put to bed, there really wasn’t much we could do, but we do hope we gave our son food for thought.
Whilst the above events were unfolding, our other son was also out for the night, at a mates. Since the men-children had been at camp all week, they were both under strict instructions to come home to sleep, and not stay out. As is usual however, at 11pm the text messages started (no thought for slumbering parents of course).
“Mum, can I stay at xxx house please? I’ve missed the last tram.” “Bullshit. You have not. We agreed you would come home.”
He then calls me (most unusual in itself) to explain it’s a long walk to the tram, and that the timetable has changed due to school holidays (yeah sure) and that his Tram Tracker is showing no further trams. Really I say, that’s frog shit, the tram timetable doesn’t change in school holidays, and they always run up until midnight. And then I check my own Tram Tracker and see THREE trams coming to our suburb from his friend’s house in the next 50 minutes!!!!!
Suffice to say, I gave up arguing, told him I thought he should come home, but that I really didn’t care what he did, said I looked forward to the screen grab showing his faulty Tram Tracker, and by the way, thanks for waking me up, and would he like me to text and ring him at 6.30am when I got up for a run the next morning? Of course not!!
Late next morning, up turns man-child #2 looking like he’s been beaten up by the same thugs that our other son encountered. He’s got a massive bump and cut on his forehead, a cut under his eye some initial bruising, and another cut across his nose. He can see the alarm on my face, and quickly tells me it’s not what it looks like. Apparently he got up at his mate’s house in the morning, went to the bathroom, slipped on the wet floor and wacked his face on the vanity. He’s lucky something isn’t broken. He then tells me he wishes he came home after all (good) and has spent the morning icing his wounds and worrying how it will look tomorrow for his girlfriend.
Now for those who are thinking we just bought the oldest lie in the book, I have to admit the same thought crossed my mind. However, having actually spoken to my son, who sounded completely sober the night before, I did believe his story. Then again, I could shoot holes in it – an unusual call, a last-minute request to stay out, lies about tram timetables (do they think we came down in the last shower?). Bottom line, he really had no need to lie about it. Like his brother, I think he would tell us if something worse had happened.
So whilst the events of the weekend could have been far more fraught, it did bring home the ever-present threat of danger for our men-children when they are out at night. You just have to read the paper and watch the news on any given day to see constant reminders of the randomness of violence on our streets. And you just have to be a parent (like mine before me) to know the feeling when you lie in bed at night waiting to hear the squeak of the gate, or the sound of the front door opening, letting your children in to the warmth and safety of their home. I can only hope this is the worst we will ever have to deal with in the lives of our men-children.