The children are now off school for the summer holidays. I remember years ago how I used to dread those 6 weeks living with an argumentative, hyperactive son. Every morning at five thirty Leon was up and about, and bored by six o’clock. I would have to spend a small fortune on him and his younger brother Marcus, a quiet, musical child, in order to keep them entertained enough not to try and kill each other.
There would be trips to the seaside, to the local roller skating rink, and to the Go-Kart track. I’d sit and play Chess with Leon for as long as he could concentrate, or we’d all play Monopoly or Snakes & Ladders. I didn’t believe in too much TV (the flickering images were not good for Leon’s concentration) and it was the days before the boys had mobile phones or computers in their bedrooms. Sometimes Leon would be out on his bike with his friends, and I’d wonder what they were all up to. However, I couldn’t keep a 12 year old at home all the time, and most of the time he was out of sight I knew he’d be sitting on the roof of the bus shelter in the village with three or four other boys. I reasoned he couldn’t get up to much trouble while he was up there, and I was right.
However, it was while he was down on the ground that the doorbell would often ring. One day the mother of Richard, a friend of Leon’s, was distraught and informed me that Leon and some others had trashed her house while she was at work. When I asked Leon what Richard was doing at the time, he gaily told me that it was Richard who had done most of the trashing. Who did what I do not know, but I made Leon spend all his pocket money on a bunch of flowers for the lady, and I stood over him as he apologised to her.
It was after the airgun incident and the policeman knocking on the door to give Leon a caution that I decided enough was enough and that the leash had to be reined in a bit. Apparently he had used a friend’s airgun to shoot a hole in the door of the local ‘flasher’ (the flasher had previously exposed himself to the mother of one of Leon’s friends) to teach him a lesson. This misguided ‘punishment’ earned him 3 months ‘grounding’. As soon as he came home from school he was confined to the house, and Sam and I made sure that he never went further than the garden gate unless we were with him.
After a while the friends who had been less than a good influence on Leon stopped coming around. When the 3 months were up to our delight he took up with some new friends who did not trash houses or own airguns. I found him work as an apprentice air-conditioning engineer with day release to college when he was 15, and he loved it. He grew up overnight and revelled in the pranks that the older guys would play on him, eager to get his own back on them. I had the most wonderful phone call after he and his fiancée had moved into their new flat when he thanked me for all I had done for him.
Now Leon is a qualified air-conditioning engineer but has moved off the tools and instead is on the first rung of the management level of a national company. He married his fiancé and they have 2 daughters. He barks out orders all day to his underlings at work, and he loves every minute of it. He is a born leader, but it took us 35 years to find this out.
Good luck to all you mothers tearing your hair out over the next 6 weeks. I remember how hard it was, but hey – there is light at the end of the tunnel!