The Boy

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I think we have all had a moment in our life that affected us so profoundly, that we replay it in our minds trying to understand it better. I have had my share, but before last Friday those moments never had me questioning my parenting skills, and my values.

It was in the afternoon. I was in one of the company vehicles being driven back to our building. We passed a large group of kids. I didn’t really pay attention. Schools get out early here on Friday afternoons. I texted Anthony (who we lovingly refer to as The Boy) to ask how his day was.

What followed in the next brief passage of time has forever changed me as a parent.

“Ok.” Was his reply followed by “I tried to FaceTime you.”

This was extremely odd. I texted him that I had been out of cell service range and asked what was up.

“There’s a big fight going on behind McDonald’s.” Was his immediate reply.
Still travelling in the company vehicle with all eyes on me my reaction was anger. It must have been what we had passed. Why oh why was he over at McDonald’s.

He phoned. What followed was a pouring out of himself. His voice unsteady, tears threatening. He was at home. He had learned of the fight at school like everyone else. His friends had wanted to go. He had tried and tried to talk them out of it, but they wouldn’t listen. They were on there way there now, maybe they had already gotten there. He stopped to breathe. My question was fast. “Why are you telling me?”
His answer was faster. “I thought you could call the police, or get some help….I don’t want my friends to get hurt.”

And that was it. That was all it took for my heart to skip a beat, and my stomach to jump into my chest.

I told him I would call, but people looked to be scattering when we were driving past. His response was “Oh, it’s too late.” Then he hung up.

When I got home that night I hugged him and hugged him. We told him how proud we were of him, not to go, how he did everything right. I apologized for thinking he was there, for reacting too quickly.
It has been a few days. By some miracle, no one was badly injured, but there was police involvement, and one of his close friends is going to be charged (as a minor).

This is the first event of its kind to leave a mark on Anthony. We live in a small, peaceful little town. I know that he is still questioning himself. Why couldn’t he talk them out of going, things of that nature. He and I have talked too. He is 13, and like any child that age he is mostly amazing with a little bit of “pull your hair out”. He could have easily gone last Friday. So easily that that was my first assumption. But he didn’t. Which leaves me questioning too. How, when we have faltered with other pieces of parenting, how could we have possibly managed to get this right.