Get Real Mum - Sample chapters
"Get Real Mum, everybody smokes cannabis" was written to help parents and families come to terms with the issues associated with tennage addiction to cannabis. To buy the book, click here...but before you do, we've selected a number of chapters here:
CHAPTER 1 - the knock
When the knock came, it was quieter than expected; a kind of ‘is anybody in? Just calling for a natter’ kind of knock. It wasn’t a loud bang of a knock to announce that my life was about to be torn apart. I’d known for a while that the knock was coming....I just didn’t know when.
Behind the front door, out in the street, the police officers’ faces were solemn, and my heart was pounding to the thoughts racing through my mind, ‘Oh God no, Let him be alive, please let him be alive’. The time was eleven thirty, so a call at this time of night meant one thing ... trouble.
“Mrs Swann?” said the taller of the two PCs.
“Yes... what is it?” I said, sensing the colour draining from my face as the words left my mouth.
“My name is PC McLellan and this is PC Taylor. We’ve been talking to Nathan. “Thank God, he’s alive” chanted my mind. The first hurdle was over, but I braced myself for what was to come.“We pulled him up earlier this evening. He had a quantity of cannabis in his car”. “Jesus Christ; the idiot” my brain was racing now, trying to pre-empt what the policeman was going to say.
“We believe there was rather more than for personal use, which was what he said it was, so he’s been taken down to the station for questioning. He’ll no doubt be charged later with ‘possession’, or more likely ‘possession with intent to supply’.”
I felt numb, struck dumb by the words I’d heard so often on TV but never expected to hear on my doorstep, applied to my family! I couldn’t take it in; my son supplying drugs? Never. The police officers’ faces gave nothing away. They were perfectly pleasant, their faces showed pseudo-compassion, but they had just delivered the blow that would change our family forever.
“Come inside, come inside please”, I pleaded, grasping back to the reality of the situation; two uniformed coppers standing on my porch with their dazzling white stripes accentuated by the evening streetlights. Behind them, on the roadside, a fully-liveried police van, all big and shiny for all to see. Too late to worry about that now; the curtains would have already twitched.
I was conscious that I was shaking, as if the temperature had dropped 20 degrees within the past few seconds while my child was transformed from a handsome, blonde, clear-skinned, polite, well-scrubbed teenager in high street stripes and denim, to a grimy grey vision of disgust; a dirty illegal drug dealer.
I could barely comprehend what was being said, yet I knew there was some truth in it. I’d had my suspicions for a while, but my accusations had been thrown back at me with such contempt that I’d chosen to accept the denial. I’d nagged and nagged Nathan for the past few months, taking any opportunity to push for the admission that I desperately didn’t want to hear. Each time I came away verbally battered by the yelling of disbelief that I’d accused him of anything so immoral!
“What! Are you serious? You’re saying I’m dealing? You sad bitch!” The rage that accompanied the denial and the door slams that followed kept me on a tightrope, not knowing which way to go. Had I massively offended my son’s feelings by suggesting he could be involved in something so sordid ...or had I just struck a nerve?
The overpowering pungent stench that came from his room from time to time, especially when he had mates over, gave me further opportunities to poke for a response that would put my mind at ease. It never came. Like a lion tamer prodding a beast in the ring, I got the roars and the verbal lashes. The more I poked and prodded, the louder and more vicious the reaction. Knowing when to retreat became a finely tuned skill; just push far enough to let him know I’m on his case, but not enough to rattle the cage and create carnage. With hindsight, I should have opted for carnage.
Radiating from a small locked bedside cabinet, the tell-tale aroma boasted of the contents locked inside. It was my son’s personal space, permanently locked, so I could usually only guess at the contents or deny their existence.
The constant showering; the mountains of dirty laundry; the endless cans of body spray, all combined to wash away the evidence that had been staring me in the face. Blinded by love of my son and yearning for his earlier years when he would never swear at me or lie to me or throw verbal abuse, I subconsciously locked away my concerns as though I had a cabinet of my own.
Thinking back, he didn’t lie; he admitted that his mates had smoked cannabis and that he’d joined in; he assured me that they all clubbed together to buy some in bulk and that they shared it out to save money; he enlightened me that ‘everybody’ smoked cannabis ....it isn’t so bad. “Get real mum, stop being so pathetic”.
I wasn’t happy at all, but the odd few people I quizzed nonchalantly about young people smoking cannabis seemed to think nothing of it. Some even bragged about how they used it when they were younger and the fun they’d had. Only one friend rang alarm bells when he blamed his current mental state on cannabis use when he was younger. He was an aspiring artist who experimented with cannabis to cope with the stresses of work. Twenty years on, he is unable to work due to psychological problems which leave dealing with demons. When voices in his head give him orders, he is prescribed medication to silence their demands.
Walking through the park at the end of the road, I knew that Nathan was partly right. Mid-afternoon, clumps of older kids scattered across the playground chatted and smoked and the unmistakably sweet pungent aroma was there, gently wafting its way across the toddlers playing on the roundabout and the elderly seated people-watchers, all blissfully unaware of its existence and its unhealthy grasp on the teenage population.
Unless you know about cannabis and have the fear unlocked in you that your child is involved in something so enormous, you wouldn’t even notice. That’s what’s so frightening; without that fear you are completely unaware of this ‘other world’ with all the deception, danger, and violence it entails. However, once thrown into the culture of the drug, even just sitting on the sidelines, everything changes. The worry is all-consuming; it takes over every waking moment and ensures that life will never be the same. Even if you never touch the stuff, it gets in your veins and drags you down.
Standing larger than life in my hallway, the uniformed invaders gradually engulfed my world with their words. It was like an horrendous dazed dream, half real, half fantasy but with sharp stabs of truth that jolted me back to consciousness.
“Nathan said he’s a heavy user“, said the senior police officer.
“No, no he isn’t” I babbled, in flat denial.
“He said he uses everyday.”
“Never, I see him every day, I’d know.”
“He said he’s been using for years”
“That can’t be true, I’d smell it, I’d know; you must be wrong”
“He said the cannabis he had on him was for personal use.”
“No, he shares it with friends, they’re always here. He’s the only one with a car. We keep telling him not to get used by them“.
“He told us that you know, but that you’ll be furious”
“Damn right I’m bloody furious!”
“We need to search the house.”
I nodded, like it was a perfectly reasonable request, yet my brain was racing with the acknowledgement “...Shit, they’ve got him. What the hell do we do now?”
“Nathan has been extremely cooperative at the station” said the senior police officer, stating the fact like he was a teacher delivering Nathan’s school report. “He’s answered all the questions we’ve thrown at him and he’s been very open with my colleagues. Because of this, I asked if he’d like the search to be confined to his room and he said yes. He said everything is in the bedside cabinet. Is his room upstairs?“ he said pointing.
“I haven’t got a key” I said shaking my head, faintly hoping this might delay the inevitable.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got that. Nathan gave it to me. We’ve got everything we need. Is it this way?” he said unnecessarily pointing up the stairs that would lead them to their ‘find’.
Suddenly I had a quick flash of panic. “Just before you go up, I need to tell you that I found a plastic bag in the road earlier as I parked my car. It was empty but it had a symbol on it. I put it on the unit in Nathan’s room because I wanted to ask him about it when he got in.”
With hindsight, I wished I’d left it well alone, in the gutter. But instead I’d put the bag in the most obvious place to see the reaction on Nathan’s face when he came home. But this day he didn’t.
PC McLellan, the senior police officer was the larger of the two; he had an air of authority and confidence that made me feel like he delivered this kind of blow to families in the area on a daily basis. It was just run-of-the-mill, bread and butter stuff for them. His soft Irish accent was soothing even though the words were sharp. The whole thing was surreal.
With a few heavy steps, they disappeared upstairs while I retreated to my lounge and waited...and waited, deciphering the sounds above me. Doors were opened, coat hangers rattled, drawers glided, the bed was tipped up and dismantled.
“You won’t find anything”, I wanted to shout, “Everything is in the cabinet”. I was sure of that. The number of times I’d done the same search! With the excuse of changing the bedding, I’d moved the bed and flipped the mattress, just to uncover sweet wrappers, worn underpants and empty condom packs, which had lain uncovered since the break up with his ex-girlfriend Amy a few months previous.
While putting away the laundry I took the opportunity to ‘innocently’ feel through drawers, and rummage through the wardrobe, my hands slipping nonchalantly into pockets of jackets, desperately hoping to find nothing and feeling strangely elated when I came away empty handed. It was as if confining the problem to such a tiny area of the room made it better. Crazy, but knowing that all the toxic contraband was in one spot made it easier to cope with.
I also knew the contents of the cabinet. It was my house; it was my business. Whilst collecting the array of filthy mugs and plates that adorned my son’s room, I always tugged at the cabinet handle. Usually it just rattled, securely protecting the treasure within. But just occasionally, the drawer glided open to reveal a mass of teenage rubbish...cigarette boxes, money, mobile phones long since defunct, wallets, sweets and a screwed up bag containing mossy green buds that stunk!
Snooping became a habit. I wasn’t proud of it, but I needed to know. I needed to be one step ahead. Sometimes the search revealed nothing, just a feint whiff of past contents, but sometimes it uncovered far more than I wanted to see.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, I could hear keys jangle, and I could sense the movement as the cabinet drawer was unlocked in the room above me. I remember feeling strangely proud that it was a well made cabinet, well worth the money I’d paid for it. Cheaper cabinets would have jolted and stuck, but not this one, it innocently and confidently uncovered its contents in one smooth glide.
“Mrs Swann?” PC McLellan summoned me to the hallway to witness the ‘haul’. He needn’t have bothered, after mentally tracing their steps over the past hour or so, my ears were so attuned to their movements, I knew exactly where they were. “We’ve completed the search. Everything was as Nathan said.
“We’re taking a few things away with us, which I’ll show you now, but I’ve left a list on his bed so you’ve got a record."
Slowly, with an air of authority and pride, he went through the bags of evidence. They’d uncovered another empty plastic bag with ‘O’ written on it in marker pen; some tiny self seal bags, cigarette lighters and a stash of flash drives and technical paraphernalia which, every mother of a teenage boy would agree, goes with the territory. Some of this stuff had been around for years and I could predict that the flash drives would contain essays on ‘the role of the respiratory system in athletics’; ‘Ninpo and the art of Japanese self-defence’ and ‘involvement in sports can cut crime – discuss’. There was nothing sinister with them, and it was strangely amusing (afterwards) to imagine the drugs team back at the station, scouring them for intelligence on regional dealers and customer data to fill in the gaps in their narcotics investigations.
“We’ve also found this” he said, holding up a BB gun which had been part of my son’s room for years. The gun had provided innocent entertainment for his mates while they waited for him to shower after football matches or training, or for himself, as he practised his aim on cats and pigeons out of the bedroom window so they would flee the garden to leave our pet rabbits at peace.
“These cause havoc on the streets because they look so real, and it often ends up with the search helicopters being employed. They’re trouble, and shouldn’t be allowed“
“It’s never left the house, he’s had it for years, they just do target practice with it when they’re in his room” I said remembering the annoying little yellow plastic pellets that I vacuumed up every week, or picked out of the grass. “But yes, take it if you want.”
“I’ll show it Nathan at the station and he can have it back if he wants, but I need to take it now.“ He gave the box to his understudy and carried on with his performance. The box was in pristine condition, as was the gun, just like it had been years before when Nathan had spent a ridiculous amount of pocket money buying it. I remember being shocked at the time; I had no idea they cost such a lot of money, well over eighty pounds, but the weight of the gun and the beautifully engineered design gave justification for the price.
“We also found this” he said more solemnly, holding up another clear bag with a few green mossy clumps stuck to the sides. “This is cannabis, just like we seized from the car.”
I stared back blankly, not really shocked, as my amateur searches had uncovered much more of a yield. Shaking my head, it took a second or two to find the right response. “How much is that? I said, displaying my naivety in this ‘other world’ of which I’d just become part. “It’s about a tenner’s worth; they mix it with tobacco to make it last longer”.
“£10!” I thought, “You’re going to ruin my son’s life for ten pounds. Why don’t you go after the real criminals?” But I knew that in their eyes, and in the eyes of the world, that’s just what he was. But he was also easy pickings while the main criminals, the dealers higher up the food chain, went unchallenged. They were harder to catch, and were more streetwise than the kids lower down who they’d targeted years before and were feeding off. The kids were just fodder for the beast, and were expendable. The main dealers were useful to the police, they helped them reach their targets by tipping them off, so the police in just turned a blind eye to a lot of what went on.
“Is there any other part of the house that the lads use? The garage? A shed?” the policeman quizzed in a final attempt to embellish the arrest.
“No no, just his room. Search wherever you want, it’s fine” I bluffed, internally panicking that they might venture into the garden shed outside.
“that’s not necessary. Nathan assured us that everything was in his room, so we’re satisfied. I must warn you though that the drugs squad may search the property again, if they’re suspicious. And they won’t be polite about it like we were; they won’t knock like we’ve just done, they’ll just barge through the door and search wherever they want, whenever they want. Just so you know.”
After painting the picture of future intrusion so vividly, they left, with the words ‘Nathan might be let out in an hour or so, or it might be tomorrow when you see him. Goodbye”.
Like saying goodbye after a dinner party, I closed the door in the early hours of the morning and retreated to the lounge. But instead of reflecting on the gossip and banter of the evening, and the warm glow of friendship, I sat in stunned silence, stone cold with the hard facts of the past couple of hours.
I was drained, but I couldn’t even think of sleep. Nathan would be back in an hour.
CHAPTER 15 – a marked man
The situation, whichever way you looked at it, was dreadful; my son was going to be on trial at Crown Court. Apart from the stigma of it being a higher profile venue than a Magistrates Court and the inference that the case was much more serious than originally thought, I was worried about how Nathan would speak in court. He’d be frightened to open his mouth and would be sure to stammer. The thought of Crown Court was the absolute worst prospect we could have been given.
In the weeks since the Magistrates Court hearing it became obvious that Nathan was a marked man in our home town. On three occasions in as many weeks he was pulled up and searched. Once when he nipped to the local paper shop, he was stopped and searched by uniformed police on the pavement, in front of all the local shoppers. He had nothing on him, so the policeman just let him go with the lame excuse that he fitted the description of somebody they were after.
On another occasion he was walking to his girlfriends flat, when he was stopped and asked to take off his shoes and socks in the street. Again they said that he fitted the description of a burglar, so they wanted to make sure the trainer prints weren’t the same as the crime scene. Obviously they didn’t so he was allowed to go, but not till the local residents had seen the performance and got a good look at the ‘villain’.
The worst event was one Friday night when Nathan and Ben had gone to the local pub. They purposely didn’t take much money so they couldn’t spend it, but they had enough between them for three pints each and a kebab on the way home. During the course of the evening a couple of pound coins had fallen out of Ben’s pocket and down the back of the upholstered seating, so Ben used his fingers to try and locate the coins and prize them out again. It took a while but the result was worth it; that was the kebab money.
Flushed with success, they made their way through the crowd in the pub and reached the entrance. Ben pushed through no problem and was almost at the kerbside when suddenly a couple of uniformed police ran around the side of the building and grabbed Nathan roughly. They pushed him up against the wall and did a full body search in front of scores of customers sitting outside, and many more who were watching the fracas through the glazed facade. The excuse the police used this time? That they’d had a tip off that Nathan was dealing drugs on the premises. There was nothing to find; his pockets were empty but once again he’d been put on show to the community. It really smacked of victimisation, and I hoped that this wasn’t going to become the norm for him now.
Just the thought of Crown Court dredged up memories of four years previously when I’d been a juror on a high profile murder trial, when youths were charged with the murder of a young woman and attempted murder of her boyfriend. The defendant on trial was just 15, but every day he was behind a glass screen like a monster, which to the world he was. He’d been drunk with his mates and had decided it would be fun to kick the hell out of a teenage couple who they’d taken a dislike to because they were dressed as Goths, with piercings, dyed hair and black alternative clothing. The couple were harmless, totally in love and had actually befriended the lads as they were lured into the park, to have their heads savagely kicked in.
Day after day for over three weeks we, the jury, had to attend court to hear different variations of the same story, over and over again. I knew from experience how jurors read the faces of the defendant’s family; read into what they wore; which seats they selected and the expressions on their faces.
I remember vividly my first vision of the defendant behind the glass; standing upright and resolute, every so often glancing at the woman in the spectators’ gallery; his mother. I remember thinking at the time how similar to my own son he was; the same age; same physique; same innocent look. It was very emotional for a woman my age with a son the same age as the defendant, to see a boy that age branded as a criminal.
I imagined what it must be like for her to sit there day after day, week after week, supporting her child accused of such a heinous crime. The father was nowhere to be seen, but the mother was there for every minute of the proceedings. Although the crime was sick and brutal, I still felt for his mum, sitting in the gallery, on show to everybody. She must have been as embarrassed and ashamed as physically possible watching her precious son behind the glass screen, and then to go home each evening to read the write-ups in the national press and see it all again on TV at the end of every day. To have to walk past the reporters on her way into the court building, knowing that her son was guilty, but supporting him regardless. Every so often she looked up at him and smiled. He just gave the slightest nod. It was as though he was in a school play; yet he was up for murder and facing a lifetime in prison.
Although by no means in the same category, little did I know that I’d be in that role, supporting my son as he stood behind a glass panel in front of a judge. Through my eyes, he’s my child but in the eyes of the law he’s a drug dealer who needs to be sentenced.
On the last day of the trial, after the judge had done his summing up, the jury were locked away in the recess room to decide the verdict. Although we had to remain there for hours, to show that we’d given the evidence serious consideration and to allow the media frenzy outside to build, the decision was almost unanimous immediately.
There was just one stumbling block; one of the jury was a social worker by occupation, who trawled through the case notes again and again, determined to find something; anything. “What are you looking for?” I remember saying to her. “Bev, he’s guilty, no doubt about it!”
But now I understand. Through her professional trainingshe was looking for something good; she couldn’t believe that he was 100% bad like the rest of us could. At the time I thought she was a nutter; a bloody annoying nutter. But now, I really hoped that if they were pulling together a jury for my son’s case, one or two would be from her background.
CHAPTER 18 – depression looms low
Nathan’s depression seemed to set in straight after Christmas. The festivities had taken the focus away from the impending court case and had given Nathan a chance to be a carefree teenager again. Yet I was always on his case; always watching for any sign of a relapse. I know that it must have been a strain, but it had to be done, so that Nathan remained aware of just how much trouble he was in. I’m sure deep down he knew, but was trying to put a brave face on it. To the outside world he was calm and collected, but inside he was just plain frightened – any mother could see it.
He was seriously considering giving up his place at university, which would mean that he’d have even less job opportunities when he finally came out of this state. I had to try and keep him focussed on that, and get him to buy in to the value that a degree would hold for his future.
I remembered back to the beginning of his school days, to one of the best memories of my life. The back entrance door to the infant school suddenly burst open, spouting forth dozens of tiny schoolchildren in miniature uniforms holding bunches of yellow daffodils and waving finger-painted cards. “Happy Mother’s Day” they all squealed as dozens of mums, myself included, burst into tears on the spot! It was a magical time, when every day was pure delight.
To me back then, Nathan was perfection. A little golden boy, with the face of an angel and a cheeky character that made my heart melt with every moment. Togged up in a padded anorak with a bobble hat and mittens, he would play for hours kicking a football or just running as fast as he could screaming with laughter. I know every parent thinks their child is the best in the world, but mine really was!
As he got older, his school reports were always the same, “a delight to teach”, “a credit to his parents”, “very quiet, but joins in and works hard”. His sporty nature and innate ability for anything physical made up for his “quiet disposition” and whenever the school put a team together, be it for football, cricket or athletics, Nathan was one of the first to be asked. He was popular with everybody.
But Nathan never liked standing up in class, or shouting out answers. At parents’ evenings, the teachers would tell us how they could tell he knew the answers, but he wouldn’t volunteer to give them up verbally. He’d tell them the answer in private, or he’d give up the information in class if he was put on the spot, which he hated. He’d write and write till the cows came home; as long as he didn’t have to speak. I wonder now whether it was one of these episodes that caused the stammer. It’s heartbreaking to think that something so simple could have traumatised him so much that he’s carried it through life with him.
I used to give him money for lunches and bus fare, but he was always hungry when he got home. He walked everywhere because if he were on his own he wouldn’t be able to say his stop. When he was with his mates, he could just say ‘same’.
I thought I knew everything about my son; we were really close. We’ve always brought him up to know that he should always tell the truth, whatever the situation. He knew he’d get in less trouble owning up to something, than if he lied and got found out. I could always rely on the truth from him – of that I was always 100% certain.
When friends and colleagues talk about their idyllic children, and their angelic antics, I feel like screaming a big warning “Be careful, it can all go wrong. Watch them like a hawk!” But that might spoil the magical time they are having now, when everything their child does is wonderful. Those memories are precious and, if it all does go wrong, they are what gives you the strength to see it all through.
I loved that part of Nathan’s life; when he was learning, discovering, growing. But I wish I’d known more about the problems, the deceit and the secrecy that teenagers build into their lives. I wish the school had sent information home, invited us in for talks or contacted us if they had any concerns.
In the months leading up to Nathan’s A level exams, I did receive regular calls from the pastoral care tutor. He asked if there were problems; why Nathan hadn’t attended various classes, and whether there were health issues. This teacher was also a counsellor, who was mentoring Nathan’s current girlfriend Amy, who had issues to deal with regarding witnessing her mother being raped by an aggressive partner. The ordeal had traumatised her so badly that, eight years later, she was still badly affected.
I remember one evening in particular. It was getting late so I texted Nathan to get an idea of when he’d be back home after a night out. He was with Amy and they were going to a mate’s party. Although it was a school night, I didn’t have much option as they were both 18, so I said they could go as long as they were back at a reasonable time and didn’t drink much. At the time booze was my only worry; I’d no idea they were into anything else.
As usual I clock-watched and, as midnight approached, I sent a message requesting an ETA. I got the reply, “At Ben’s, will be walking back soon.”
I quickly replied “I’m still up, do you want me to pick you up?” and was amazed to get the reponse, “Yes OK, is 1am OK? We’ll be at Ben’s.”
I reluctantly agreed but really would have preferred to have gone straightaway. I had work the next day too and needed sleep. But I’d rather have them home than be lying awake all night worried sick.
As agreed, at 1am precisely I pulled up outside Ben’s house, but the house was in darkness. I texted “I’m outside” and put the radio on low to fill the minutes as I waited. After 10 minutes I re-sent the message....nothing. I rang the number.
“When are you coming out? I’m outside now”
“Outside Ben’s like to asked me to be”
“You’re not serious! What the fuck are you doing there? You fucking slag! How fuckin’ embarrassing!”
“Nathan, you asked me to pick you up at 1am! Where are you? You’ve got college in the morning!”
“Oh fuck off you bitch” and then the phone went dead.
I rang again but there was no response. I knew I couldn’t leave them out roaming the streets so I started up the engine and began to comb the area. I was furious; they’d either lied from the start or they were drunk and didn’t know where the hell they were.
I drove up and down the dark streets, the only car on the road. Everything was static and strangely beautiful, with streetlights washing the puddles with a golden glow. There was no sign of life, just the odd house lit up with a hall light comforting sleeping children who were afraid of the dark.
Suddenly, as I turned the next corner I saw a very thin figure staggering in the distance. “Could it be Amy? It must be. But why was she on her own?” As I got nearer I could see that it was Amy, she looked absolutely plastered swaying from side to side. I pulled up and lowered the window. Luckily she recognised me through her drunken haze. “What are you doing wandering round in that state? Where’s Nathan? Just get in the car!”
She just obeyed without saying a word and I could see that she’d been crying; her black mascara was dried in ugly drips and grey smudges around her eyes, her eyes glossy.
“We’ve had a row; a massive row.” she almost whispered, sniffing as she spoke. She looked dreadful.
Frantically I tried Nathan’s mobile number; nothing, it was completely dead.
“Where is he? Where did you leave him?”
“I don’t know. I hit him and he just walked the other way.”
“Why on earth did you hit him?”
“Because he’s been messing about with somebody else. “
“How do you know?” I couldn’t believe Nathan could be so cruel. I thought they were besotted with each other, although at times Amy was extremely clingy and he hated that.
“He told me. He said he was sorry, but he had to tell me. I couldn’t believe it. I was torn.”
“Where do you think he’ll be?”
“He went off that way” she said pointing.
I tried his number again, but the line was dead.
I drove in silence, pleased to have got one of them but worried sick about the main one. She was stupid wandering around dressed like that, out of her head and out of control. She could have been picked up by a nutter, or by a gang, and she wouldn’t have been able to defend herself at all.
Eventually we came to a crossroads and I could see a tiny figure in the distance, swaying. It had to be Nathan. As we got closer, I could see that it was.
He looked wild with feral eyes and blood splattered on his T-shirt and around his nose. “Get in the car now!” I shouted. And he did, no messing.
“What the bloody hell has been going on?” I yelled at them and like naughty children, they just looked down. They both looked vacant.
“Why didn’t you answer your phone?”
“How?” but I knew the answer before he even opened his mouth.
“I smashed it in the road.”
“Not another one; how many is that now?” I sighed in utter despair.
Over the past 6 months he’d smashed about eight mobile phones. Whenever there was a big row, a phone got smashed. In the early days when things calmed down again, I’d buy him a replacement, as without a phone I couldn’t keep in touch with him. But it was costing me a fortune and didn’t have any effect, so I soon left him to suffer the consequences and buy his own.
As soon as we reached home, I went to bed and left them to continue their argument in the safety of our house and out of the way of prying eyes and ears. They were beginning to sober up or come down from whatever they were on, so they would hopefully see the ridiculous situation they were in. They were eighteen but they were acting like toddlers, having tantrums in the street and giving no thought to the impression they were giving to the outside world.
A day or two later I received a call from the school. The teacher asked if everything was OK with Nathan and hinted at the ‘problem’ they’d had. I naively thought he was referring to the row with Amy, so I made light of it, played it down and put it down to their age, hormones etc.
The teacher never spelt out exactly why he was ringing me. He never mentioned drugs; he never mentioned that Nathan’s falling grades were probably due to smoking cannabis; he never told me that Nathan had been cautioned for possession at school after Amy shopped him to the police after the row!
With hindsight and a bit more knowledge, I now know that the teacher was actually ringing me to follow up on the issue of Nathan being searched and cautioned for cannabis possession at school. After the row, they’d decided to split, so Amy had shopped him to the police because he’d slept with another girl. The police had been called, they’d searched Nathan’s car, found a spliff, and gave him a caution.
Nathan never told me, and neither did the school, so I didn’t get to know, until it was too late. I understand now that it would be because Nathan was 18, the magic number that means their secrets are safe; that nobody can tell, even if it’s in their best interests and could save their life.
The school knew all the details, but I knew nothing. If I’d been told then, I could have stepped in and sorted it before it got out of hand! It makes me so angry!
If I’d been told I could have dealt with it. I could have sorted my son out before it went as far as it did! As a parent I could cross boundaries that schoolteachers couldn’t because of professional restrictions. I could yell and scream at him to make him listen; I could say whatever was needed, no matter how close to the bone; I could go through his drawers; I could monitor his movements ; I could watch for the signs because I would have been told what they were. The school had known what was going on all along, but we didn’t have a clue.
Continuing his education was going to be a major trauma for Nathan, but it would give him a focus and a reason to get up in the morning and it would be a bloody big gold star on the court papers. Reluctantly he agreed to go back in January but it was with no enthusiasm, no verve, just a wish to stop me and his dad nagging...
The vacant expression reappeared along with the mindset that there was just no point to anything; there was no future worth having; that he was just an embarrassment to the family and we’d all be better off without him. That was absolutely the last thing we all wanted, but he couldn’t see it.
I knew something had to be done and quickly. I had to make him care; about himself, about the family, about something – anything!
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