Discerning life so early

It’s 9.20 on a Saturday night and I head for my bed. Some may say what a boring life I have, to be going to bed so early on a Saturday, but I work fulltime and have three children to look after so a social life isn’t something I try to fit in.

This Saturday night, a vibration in my pocket tickles into my hipbone. I realise it’s my phone and quickly pull it out. It’s a text from one of my boys.

‘Can you come and get me. I’ve had enough,’ it says.

He’s at his friend’s sixteenth birthday party and should be sleeping there after the party finishes. Warning bells ring. I immediately text back. ‘Of course I’ll pick you up. What time? Everything okay?’

He texts back quicker than I can type. ‘Yeah, cool. Just had enough and want to sleep in my own bed.’

‘Be there in ten minutes,’ I text back. I grab my keys and leave. I know something’s not right. What’s happened? He’s supposed to be at a party. It’s his good friend. Something’s happened.

My thoughts continue round and round while I drive across the railway tracks to pick him up, as though I’m caught in a thinking vortex that doesn’t release me or let me get anywhere.

I’m finally at his friend’s, and park the car. Two boys are outside, one with an arm over the other. I text my boy. ‘I’m outside.’

He texts back. ‘Be there in 2.’

While I wait in the darkness, another boy shoots out of the house and jogs a lap of the small patch of front lawn. He sees me and comes over to the car. Should I be nervous? No, don’t be silly I reason, he’s one of the friends. I hit the button beside me to wind the window half way down.

‘You want someone?’ he asks.

I don’t recognise him. ‘Yes, my boy.’

‘I’ll go get him for you,’ he says, smiling.

‘Thanks.’ Something’s not right, I know it. His eyes looked googly, cross-eyed, and his body seemed limpish.

Instantly, I see my boy in the rear vision mirror, bag in hand and talking to the boy with his arm over the other. He waves at the boys and walks over to the car. The door clicks open. A long leg folds in and down into the seat of the car, the rest of his body follows.

‘Hi Mum.’ My boy sits, shuts the door and leans over to kiss me hello. His breath smells fine thank goodness, but I need to hear him speak.

‘What’s happened?’ I ask. ‘You’ve never left a party early.’ I begin to drive, back to our home.

‘I’ve been working all day and I’m hungry and tired,’ he says.

‘Yeah,’ I say. I know there’s more.

‘And they’re drinking and I didn’t like the way they were carrying on,’ he says. ‘They act so stupid when they drink.’

And there it is. My beautiful boy is discerning and growing into a sensible, thinking young man. I feel my shoulders ease and my breath flow again.

‘And some of the older kids, the brother’s friends, went to the park and took some drugs.’

My thinking stops, my breath suspends, yet I continue driving. Drugs.

‘You okay,’ I ask.

‘Yeah, just don’t like it.’

‘Drugs are scary because they look so innocent,’ I say.

‘Yeah,’ says my boy, my warm, sensitive boy who at fifteen and a half, is understanding life’s dangers, of alcohol and drugs.

How did I get to be so blessed? Emotion chokes my throat. We drive home in silence, a comforting silence I feel in my boy and me.

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