Before the storm, now looking back, was a naive time in our lives. Actually we, the parents, had blinders on. I think we innately knew that all was not well, but we did not know what we were looking at.
Before the storm looked like this. Our son did well in school and continued to excel on swim team and enjoy Boy Scouts. We made it through the huffing incident or so we thought.
Friends began to change. The life-long friend had disappeared from our son’s life. We tried to believe that this was a normal growing apart. The new friends were a group of boys who enjoyed skateboarding. Some of the boys, my son had known since kindergarten. For the most part, they were and are today a great group of guys.
One boy does stand out to me though, in hindsight. This boy was a child of divorce living in a home with a step father. The boy had communicated to my son that the step father physically abused him. Red flags went up, looking back this was a friendship that I should have watched more closely. So although red flags indicated a possible problem here, I did not request my son to halt this friendship. Besides, forcing a child to end a friendship in and of itself can cause problems.
So I watched this friendship, carefully. Several incidents stand out to me. The first was that we learned that the boy smoked. The boy was 14 years old at the time and as parents we were not happy about this boys choices. Little did we know, our son was doing the same. The boy would runaway or leave his home for several hours when he had difficulties with his stepfather. My son told me the boy had spent the night in a local park after an argument with the stepfather, then rode the school bus in the morning. Initially I did not want to believe the boy had spent the night alone in a park. But our own experience would soon show me that this was possible.
During this time, 8th grade, our son continued to have erratic behavior at times, as well. He actually ran away himself, one night, after an argument involving not wearing his helmet while skateboarding. Hindsight is 20/20, this argument that caused our son to run away escalated out of control very quickly. I actually remember thinking at the time, something is wrong, why is our son reacting in this manner?
We called the police and reported him as a runaway. That is a heartbreaking thing to do. We had to give a photo and description to the police. Several hours later our phone rang. Our son was at a church where his Boy Scout meeting met. My husband picked him up and brought him home. The police waited at our home to speak with our son. They wanted to make sure he felt safe in our house. This was a scary moment, with our son’s erratic behavior, he could have told the police anything, but he told them he wanted to be home with his parents.
After this event, we still lived in this quasi-limbo period, knowing something was not right but not knowing what that was. Before the storm….
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