Things that keep me awake at night

In the small hours of the morning my mind seems to work with unaccustomed clarity. The house was quiet when I went to bed around midnight and it looked as if the children were all asleep. I was woken about 3am by the sounds of Billy moving around in his room directly above ours. He must have been turning in from an X Box session in Edgar’s room next door. Eventually he settled down, but by then my thoughts were running away with me. Yesterday Billy had arranged for a couple of friends from college to come over with a car. One of them, Mark, at 17, is the proud possessor of his own set of wheels. The plan was for Billy, Edgar and two col2004_Proton-GEN-2_2004-06lege friends, Mark and James, to go off together to a nearby town to hang out, or shop, or do whatever teenagers do. Billy was keen to show off his new friends to Edgar and having someone with a car obviously carries prestige. They should have been at our house about 2pm, but then it was delayed till 3.00, and then delayed again, and again. Eventually a car arrived about 6.30pm, by which time it was pitch dark and too late to have an outing. Billy’s friend James, who had stayed with us before, came into the house but Mark, the driver, who we have never met, stayed in the car. Then they all disappeared to visit Ewan, Billy’s one remaining  friend from primary school who lives locally. They were back about 10 minutes later as apparently Ewan was about to have supper. The car and its passengers left. Billy seemed a bit deflated. I asked whether his friends had got lost, but apparently James and Mark had detoured to pick up another lad, Ellis, who we hadn’t met or heard of before. They had to leave to drop him home, wherever that was. Billy had been anxious about how much money he had in his account, and said he had to pay for the petrol. He had £30 as I had transferred it as contingency money for his trip to his birth mother’s last week. The only reason the money was unspent was that Billy had lost his bank card, which I found in the pocket of a pair of jeans as I was about to stuff them into the washing machine.

imagesLast night Tony and I just felt bad for Billy that his social plans hadn’t worked out. The lads were disorganised, as teenage boys can be, and Billy’s chance to display his new life to Edgar had fallen rather flat. But in the clarity of the night my mind was racing, putting two and two together, and perhaps making five. The anxiety about money made me uneasy as I’m usually picking up Billy’s nervousness about it. I remember in primary school when he kept saying he needed £1, but wouldn’t say what for. It eventually emerged that he had kicked or thrown a ball belonging to another child into a hedge, and the boy was demanding that he pay for it. We told the school staff who had a word with the child about extorting money from other children. In Year 9 I remember a parents’ evening when Billy kept nagging me for £20. It turned out he owed money to some Russian kid who had probably been supplying him with alcohol or drugs. We never go to the bottom of it, but the anxiety about needing money and the sense that he could be in trouble was familiar.

So as I lay there in bed it seemed possible that the unknown third person in the car, Ellis, had been supplying drugs, which Billy needed the money for. The visit was less about going out together than gaining access to a supply of ‘weed’. I asked Billy this morning whether he had paid for petrol, and he told me he had given James £20, or they couldn’t have got home. This seemed totally unreasonable for a 5-minute car ride, and an afternoon kept waiting. I said as much, and checked with Edgar whether the third lad in the car was also at college with Billy, but I didn’t want to put Edgar in a spot by asking him to split on his friend, the worse crime a child that age can commit apparently.

Billy admits to smoking weed, but we have never found it on him or learnt where he gets it. I’ve no doubt it is easy enough to get a supply. It was in our day, growing up in the 70s, and things don’t seem to have changed in that respect.

I had wanted to go out and see the boys (I didn’t know at that point that two of them had remained in the car). Tony persuaded me not to, that the last thing a teenage boy wants is to introduce his friends to his mother. I wish I’d listed to my instincts. I feel much safer if I know who comes and goes, and can make my own judgment as to the kind of people Billy is mixing with. I was still going round in what seemed like increasingly probable circles in my mind when the remaining little Barbu d’Anver bantam cockerel decided to start crowing at 5.18. Fortunately he only made about half a dozen strangled cries, otherwise he would have been despatched like his even noisier brother. I eventually got to sleep after 6am, shortly before Tony got up and the dogs started barking, but dozed till about 10.00.

On a happier note, I had a good evening with Jo last night. She had wanted me to watch a film with her on the iPad the day before, and I’d suggested we watch it together yesterday. We settled down in front of the TV, and with numerous stoppages to cook meals for people, we did laugh our way through Tammy. I though it was being streamed for free, but Jo did admit she’d just gone to Box Office, so we will be billed for it. At least we enjoyed the film, as there are generally long lists of Box Office downloads that they haven’t even bothered to watch, many of which we have anyway on DVD. It will be good when both children are earning their own money and are a little less profligate when it comes to spending ours. I just hope tonight is more restful. At the end of the day Billy is growing up and there are limits to what we can do other than be here, and try to put some sort of rules and values in place. He is a mixture of secrecy, deception, dependence and naïve vulnerability, which I find makes it hard for me to detach from him. There’s not much relevance to this last photo – other than that its pretty high on the cute scale and I love animals.


1 thought on “Things that keep me awake at night

  1. Ann Neville Post author

    I got back from taking one of the dogs to the vet’s this evening. I reported back that I would have take her to the main surgery in another town tomorrow morning to fit her with a kind of doggy babygrow to stop her licking her very sore bottom, as it will be more comfortable than wearing a hard plastic collar. It confirmed to Edgar, our visitor, that we really are completely crazy as a family. I think his words as he stuffed his dirty plate in the dishwasher (not an action our two have ever performed) was a kind of triumphant, “there, you’re not at all a normal family!” I will choose to take it a a compliment.



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