This morning our son curled up next to me in bed and held my hand and warmed my heart.
Yesterday, it was a different story:
Sometimes, as a parent you feel like your heart has been broken into a thousand and one tiny little pieces and the worst part about it is that it is your child, your own flesh and blood, who is the culprit. They’ve done it. That gorgeously cute little baby face which has clearly grown up into someone, or something , else has hurt you in ways you never thought possible.
Of course, although we all had issues (at least at times) with our own parents, we all knew we were going to be different. We weren’t going to make the same mistakes. We were going to be Super Parents even though we shared their genetic heritage and grew up in the same environment. That didn’t bode for good tidings.
I also have to mention a phrase his pre-school teacher used to say: “tomorrow is another day” but I never really believed her. I never really believed that such radical, overnight change was actually possible. I just expected more of the same and perhaps that’s where the problem lay. I didn’t expect change. I didn’t believe it was possible, not that I would have said as much or acknowledged that at a conscious level. These were my subconscious, deeply held beliefs and the chains which were holding me back.
Part of me feels like I am betraying my son by posting his antics on my blog but at the same time, his behavioris more extreme at times, it is not all that unusual and sometimes we parents need some support instead of just maintaining the code of silence and the stiff upper lip.
Right now, my upper lip is anything but stiff. It’s quivering.
This post started out as a recount of last Wednesday when Mister did what we in Australia refer to as “the Harold Holt” after our illustrious Prime Minister Harold Holt who went for a swim at Cheviot Beach in Victoria in 1967 and disappeared. His body was never found. His was the ultimate vanishing act and all sorts of rumours abounded, including that he had escaped on board a Chinese submarine. You can read about the story here: http://www.abc.net.au/gnt/history/Transcripts/s951005.htm
Anyway, last Wednesday Mister did the Harold Holt and despite getting into trouble and not quite getting the whole prodigal son treatment, he took off again on Monday morning. This time I notified the school and a friend joined me in the search. Monday’s escapade fortunately turned into an anticlimax because after dropping Miss at school and raising the alert, he’d come home and was standing disconsolately behind our side gate by the time we’d returned. My friend had a good chat with him very much like an aunty and slowly he came round while I rang the school. We managed to get him in the car and in the school gate. Fortunately, they’d had a long assembly so he managed to blend in with the rest of the kids going into class. The ordeal was over. Over in a sense but it had just begun. I started making phone calls. I needed HELP!
When Mister went missing again this morning, the post I had been working on about the prodigal son became a lot more serious and I didn’t know if I should post it. These disappearances are serious. They’re not a joke and while we live in a pretty safe area and so far we have experienced the benefits of the village stepping in and helping with our child, there are no guarantees that his antics won’t result in tragedy. We are doing everything we can to protect our son at the heat of the moment and to try to keep him calm. 95% of the time he is a cheerful , very warm affectionate little boy and I would hate that 5% to have devastating consequences.
He has now been told that he is not to bolt out the front door but to have space in his room to calm down. We just have to keep reminding him of this and hopefully this will work!
I am also trying to spend more time doing things with him. We play Old Maid together, for example, during our daughter’s swimming lesson and do the same with her while he is at football.
Anyway, I decided to post my original post because we as parents need to share our struggles and offer each other support and encouragement. There will always be someone who has been down the same road and it’s really encouraging to share that journey.
The Original Post
Last Wednesday, our son went missing. He vanished without a trace and was gone in a proverbial flash.
It was the moment every parent dreads. Your heart stops. You can barely breathe. Your legs turn to jelly.
What has happened to my boy?
Before I drag you down into the emotional depths, I’ll let you know at the outset that this story has a happy ending. No doubt, you already knew that because I wouldn’t be blogging about it if the worst had happened. You’d be hearing about it on the news instead.
Our son wasn’t kidnapped, abducted or anything like that. He ran off. I had picked him up from school. We had successfully made it to the car without any kind of mishap but before I drove off, then all hell broke loose. He got into some kind of huff with his sister and stormed out of the car and took off down the lane way. I say “the” laneway because this wasn’t the first time our son has taken off down there. I now view this laneway as some kind of runway with our son taking flight.
As annoying as these flights down the lane way have been, the laneway is usually very quiet. It’s not exactly safe but not dangerous either. Once, he took off bolting down the footpath after school heading towards a busy road. That was terrifying. I had no idea whether he would stop and with my muscle disease, I couldn’t really run after him. I had to jump in the car instead. He was spoken to at school and at home after that and he calmed down for a bit but this running off business seems to be a part of his psyche…his “modus operandi” and somehow has to stop.
Last Wednesday, what had been a routine flight became serious when he vanished. I couldn’t see him anywhere. I’ve never been very good at “Where’s Wally?” and even though he was wearing his bright yellow school shirt, I couldn’t see him. I drove around to the other end of the laneway intending to intercept him but he wasn’t there. I looked up and down the street and couldn’t see him anywhere. He’d vanished just like magic. Poof!
The pressure was on. Not just to find Mister but also to get to the kids’ after school music lessons. You know how things always go wrong at a bad time. I know that in the overall scheme of things and especially when it comes to the life and death safety of our one and only son, the cost of the music lessons is nothing. Yet, this wasn’t what was going through my head at the time. I can be a bit of a train stuck on a railroad track and was quite averse to missing music. The music lessons aren’t cheap at $30.00 a pop and I really don’t like the thought of flushing $60.00 down the toilet just because Mister was in a bad mood. The kids have to be dying to miss music and I mean having a real, actual physical death – not some bunged on melodrama! Aside from the money, the kids need to learn to stick to something…those all important lessons of perseverance and persistence! Besides, despite his protests, I know Mister loves his guitar. He just needs to get over beginner’s hump. Believe in himself!
I was already stressed with trying to get Mister to his guitar lesson and trying to find him but if he wasn’t going to turn up, I didn’t want to waste the opportunity either. I’d had a very productive song writing session with his guitar teacher a few weeks ago and I would love to have some more sessions. I’m already having violin lessons and can’t quite justify the cost and to think Mister was just wasting that valuable resource, really annoyed me. If Mister was just going to waste his guitar lessons, work on my songs instead. But that would be too easy. Mister needs to learn his guitar. Stick with it. As I said, get over this discouraging beginner’s hump to a point where he could play songs and really enjoy it. I could really see him getting into it if he didn’t shoot himself in the foot first.
So you could just imagine my inner turmoil. I was going round and round in so many, many circles while still trying to keep the car on the road and actually drive in a straight line, which was becoming increasingly difficult!
By this stage, I was feeling pretty lost myself. What was I supposed to do? I’d driven around the school block a few times and had even driven back home retracing our steps back to the school, driving round and around and around. I still hadn’t found him and had no idea what to do. I was so completely lost and out of my depth. I am just his mother. I have no professional training whatsoever when it comes to looking for lost kids. I’m not a psychologist, a detective or some kind of a psychic. I’m a writer. All I can do, is write about things after the event, which is a lot of use when your child is missing, angry and you have no idea how to find them, get them home or in this instance, take them off to their guitar lesson. I was feeling so powerless…completely and utterly powerless.
Just to add to the whole pathos of the situation, I’d forgotten to charge my mobile phone so I couldn’t call anybody and they couldn’t call me. My phone was as flat as a tack. I was on my own.
Well, I wasn’t on my own because our daughter was in the car.
Moreover, I wasn’t as alone as I’d thought. We had a guardian angel.
We were driving along and Miss is looking out one side of the car while I’m driving along trying to look out my side. I see people walking passed and I feel like a crazed maniac. That person crossing the road in front of my car has no idea what I’m going through. That they are standing in between a desperate mother and her lost child. Their life isn’t in danger and yet in a strange way it is. Everyone knows you don’t stand between a mother and her child.
Where is he? Where has he gone? He isn’t in any of the usual places. I’m concerned that he’s gone back to school and am wondering whether I should stop in and have a look. If the teachers find him playing on the equipment without any sign of a parent, I’ll get busted. Well, actually, he’d be the one in trouble but I’d still feel guilty.
I keep driving. I decide that my daughter and I will go to music. That’s only half an hour. Then, we’ll go looking for him again afterwards. It’s a tough call as a Mum. You don’t know whether everything’s going to be alright or whether your very worst fears are about to eventuate. A white van has approached a number of kids in the area recently and virtually every Australian has heard Daniel Morcombe’s story and how he went missing. How his body was found many, many years later. We have seen his face plastered on the side of buses, in magazines, newspapers, the internet. That could be my child and yet I know he knows the way home from school. He’s walked home before. He’s quite capable of getting home but I don’t like him being out there when he’s in a mood and potentially not so conscious of his safety.
There’s another part of me that’s also very much into tough love. He can jolly well go home and wait for us. Suffer just like we are suffering now trying to find him. This is what the child training people call “consequences”. Yes, he can sit there and wait if only I could be sure that he would sit still. He’s never sat still before!
By this stage, I’m starting to think about calling the school, calling the Police but as I said, my mobile is flat and I’m not really sure how long you have to wait until you can turn to the Police. Surely not the proverbial 24 hours?!!
We’re almost at music when my daughter suggests that Mister might already be there. She’s trying to be helpful. Trying to keep her own hopes up, I guess. As much as they might fight, the kids are particularly close. My illness has drawn them together. They’ve had to support each other. She is noticeably concerned about her brother.
I’m still not sure what I’m going to do. Whether I should drop Miss off and keep looking or whether to squeeze in that song writing lesson with his guitar teacher and make him wait. How am I supposed to know what to do? Nothing prepares you for these moments as a parent…except perhaps yourself. You see, the seed doesn’t fall far from the tree. I used to storm off as a kid myself. I was always wanting to run away and I hear echoes of my own voice in Mister’s tones.
He will calm down and he will come home.
We arrive at music and you know whose standing triumphantly out the front, don’t you?!! Yes, it’s the prodigal son. He beat us there. A friend had found him wandering the streets and had kindly dropped him off…our beautiful guardian angel.
I am so relieved!!
I suppose you are wondering how I greeted the boy? Did I rush up and put a ring on his finger and kill the fattened calf or was I the older brother in the story and punished the boy?
Well, I can tell you that he was marched straight into his guitar lesson, which was remarkably productive. He is now learning “We are the Champions”.
I didn’t feel like much of a champion but I was pleased and relieved to have our son back.
His ipod is now in time out and he is on notice. We’ve warned him that we’ll reset the child locks in the car and even use the wrist-strap to get him to and from school safely if that’s what it takes.
That was before he took off again on Monday.
We now have a pretty rock solid communication system with the school and I think that by working together, we will have a better chance of containing these issues. He does feel like he’s being teased a bit and is a sensitive soul. I will be trying to spend some more time together and next term, he’ll be joining cubs.
It is sometimes hard to let our guards down when we’ve been hurt or had troubles but that’s what I’ve done with him this week. Every morning, he’s come in for a cuddle in bed before breakfast and held my hand and that has certainly helped to bridge the gap. We are taking some baby steps and hopefully walking towards a brighter future.