Sunday, October 22, 2006

Troublesome teens

Last night Hayley picked up some friends from the airport. When she came home she immediately burst into tears.

On turning the penultimate corner before our house she had been met by a bunch of teenagers standning in the road. Most of them moved out of the way, but one remained there there with his arms outstretched in a "come on then" fashion.

She wound down the window and (polite as ever) asked if there was a problem. She was met with foul mouthed abuse (too foul to re-produce here). She was told by one of the other kids that the boy was deaf (as if this was en explanation). She drove home.

I'm not a confrontational sort of person. I'm more a peacemaker by nature. But this incensed me. I got Hayley to point out the group who were still sitting at the top of the road and went over to speak to them. In brief I told them in no uncertain terms that they had better stay away from partner or there'd be trouble for them. Several of them protested their innnocence at this point (unsurprisingly) pointing the finger at one boy in the group who was indeed deaf. I was ready to leave it at this point but the boy then stood up and started to be aggressive, standing right in front of me with his arms out saying "come on!".

Obviously I wasn't about to respond to this. He was only a 14 year old boy and I was acutely aware that if he attacked me, even if I only laid the slightest hand on him in self defence there was the danger of being accused of some sort of improper behaviour afterwards. So I told him to calm down and tried to talk to his friends as he was unclear in his speech and under the streetlights I had no idea whether he could even lip-read what I might be saying.

But he kept coming towards me, intervening between me and his friends. The said friends then started to explain that he had been fighting with all of them all evening and it started to become clear that really there was only one troublemaker in the group and he was persistently trying to get in my face.

Eventually as I talked to one of his friends he stood within inches of me and tried to (or made as if to) head butt me. As he was so close I discovered the real underlying trouble here: he was drunk. I could smell it on him.

By this point Hayley had come over and we managed to get his address from a girl in the group while I kept the boy at arms reach (literally). She told us his Mum couldn't handle him and he would probably be sent to his Dad who would beat him.

So we returned to our house and faced a dilemna. Should we go round to see the boy's Mum and so perhaps place him in danger of a beating? Or should we let the incident pass and possibly fail him by not letting his Mum know what a state he was in? (Not to mention the fact that doing nothing might give the impression he could get away with it and invite further misbehaviour - and he knew where we lived now).

As we mulled this over and tried to settle down to enjoy the rest of our evening, there was a knock at the door and there he was, his friends 10 feet behind him on the road. Oh great!

But to our surprise on opening the door he immediately said simply "sorry" and held out his hand which we each shook and said OK. He truly cut a sorry figure. No doubt his friends told him we were off to see his Mum next day and reality kicked in.

The only thing that bothers me now is the thought that his Mum either didn't know what he was doing, or worse, she knew and had no control. Either way it's a situation I hope to God that we as parents never face.