I Can Only Hope

Time for a check-in? Just a bit of measuring and evaluating, I guess. I AM FINE. What is it they say again? Frustrated, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional? Can’t remember but it’s anything but “fine”. But I am, honestly – fine, as in the traditional sense of the word. OK. Alright. Or “consistent pains and aches” as my dad would put it. I guess I’m somewhere in the middle and that’s fine by me. It’s a fine place to be, actually. My life really isn’t so extreme anymore, my emotions don’t quite reach the levels of a hurricane that often in sobriety. Sure, sometimes I hit a bump in the road and some weeks ago I really did work through some deep rooted stuff, but things just don’t seem to get so dramatic anymore. I deal with things now and I suppose that’s why nothing really gets amplified or catastrophic in the same way things used to. Oh, and not guzzling a depressant obviously helps. More than helps. It’s fair to say this is what’s made all the difference – if there was ever any doubt, I mean.

It’s actually half term here in the UK, so Bambino has been around the entire time. His dad’s a tutor, so he has cleverly been staying with him during the weeks when he has school, given dad can help him out much better than I can. So I have, during this pandemic, become the weekend parent.

Bambino and I seem to have trust. I’d say we always did, but I’m also aware that Bambino himself may carefully weigh up what he tells me. My own parents had NO CLUE WHATSOEVER what went on for me during my teenage years and they were most definitely not confidantes, but I suspect at least dad would claim I told him everything. And I bloody didn’t. I was uber-careful of sticking within limits of what I shared with him, always ensuring I’d score enough points for honesty but not accrue too many can’t-be-forgiven penalties. So I guess I have to at least consider the possibility that there is more to Bambino’s world than he lets me in on. But yes, I feel good about our relationship.

In particular, I feel good about our open conversations about drugs. I nearly wrote “drugs and alcohol”, but given I feel the distinction is inaccurate (and even dangerous), when I say “drugs” it includes all the things that alter our minds in a big way, from cannabis and alcohol all the way up (or down) to heroin and the other nasties.

Mum, are you glad I don’t hang out with [P] anymore?” Bambino asked as I took him over to his dad’s the other day to pick up some things he needed.

Uhm … I guess so, but I do feel sad for him and worry about him“, I answered truthfully. “I feel bad for him and know he’s in trouble that isn’t his fault, but I guess I would worry more about you if you were around those things he gets up to. So in a way I’m glad you’re not around him, but I’m also heartbroken for him“, I added.

P used to be Bambino’s best mate. I love the kid. I have a genuine soft spot for him and I really do adore him. I saw so many good things in him, and the rescuer in me came out in full force but P had (has) a tricky home life and it seems like everyone has failed him. We took him to Sweden with us a couple of summers back. Part of me really wanted P to feel welcome and wanted and it broke my heart when we dropped him back home with his parents and witnessed how they barely acknowledged him. His mum went to give me a hug, then Bambino, then just glanced at her son with a curt “hello“. Had it been me who hadn’t seen Bambino for over two weeks, I would have charged at him like a loon on amphetamines and thrown my arms around my baby. P’s dad didn’t say a word to him. It broke my heart. And it made me sad and angry. So I threw my arms around P where he stood with his bags outside the home where it seemed as though he hadn’t been missed at all.

Thanks for coming with us, I loved getting to look after you“, I said loud and clear more for P’s parents benefit than maybe P himself. “Come over this weekend, because I’ll miss you as soon as we get home“.

The anger was boiling in me. Why did I have to make a show of emphasising how loveable this boy is? And how valuable and important? But that was what I was attempting to do. Show these fucktards that what this kid needs is love and appreciation and attention. It angers and saddens me that not all children get treated in that way. It’s their right.

He’s dealing now“, Bambino continued.

And so my heart broke again. Bambino himself chose not to be around P much anymore outside of school out of worry about the people P hangs around with. Bambino calls them “work men“, which I believe is code for gang-related stuff. P smoked weed every day at that point, roughly two years ago, and Bambino had smoked with him on a number of occasions. According to Bambino, he was put off by how P was always “messed up”, that it was constant as opposed to the occasional giggle. And fast forward to today and it would now seem that my worry about P is materialising. I had some hope that things would come right, but there was a part of me that worried P would wind up as a headline in some form if he continued the way he was going. For all the wrong reasons. So it turns out he now deals drugs and according to Bambino it’s mostly weed, but a full time gig. Bambino went on to describe how P uses Instagram to also goad other dealers on his patch and how this behaviour in particular may end up getting him into really bad situations. Even I understand that it isn’t a good idea to jab people like that.

That can’t be a good idea“, I said and glanced over at Bambino.

No!” he exclaimed. “He’s going to get himself stabbed. I don’t know why he does it. He seems to think it’s funny“.

So. What? He deals all the time? Like this is his job now?

Yeah. He uses his Insta-stories to sell“, Bambino went on and then went on to describe how the set-up works. “So you have the people who grow it out in the countryside. They get young kids and pay them lots of money to get on a train and pick up a supply. Then they deliver it to the level above P. P buys a monthly stash and then makes a profit from selling it on to people like me“.

OK, at this point the voice in my head is asking me why it is that Bambino understands and knows the operation so well. Is he part of it? That question does poke at me, but I force it back into the dark corners of my conscious.

People like you?

Well, yeah. The people who smoke now and again“.

And do you?

Not very often. But I was stoned that time last month when you asked me, it was [O]’s birthday and we got stoned“.

It’s your eyes. It’s quite obvious with you“.

I know“, Bambino conceded and chuckled.

He has huge eyes and they are a startlingly light ice blue, so it’s really obvious when his pupils don’t look like you’d expect. Plus he gets quite obviously zonked too. He’s naturally quite an energetic and alert creature, so when he’s stoned it’s quite a contrast and, as I said, pretty damn obvious. And thank God, I don’t often see him that way. When he gets in after seeing friends we always chat for a while so I always have a good take on how he appears to be, anxiously looking for signs of booze or whatever else.

Well, you know where I stand, right?” I asked, with my heart in my throat as usual.

Mum, I hardly ever smoke. I don’t want to mess up school. And I’m not going to mess up my life“.

I don’t know how reassured I feel, but I do trust Bambino. And as crazy as it may sound, if it’s a matter of once in a blue moon in a typical teenage way, then I’ll rest somewhat easy I guess. Maybe I’m deluded, but I feel I can’t shield Bambino from it all. We’ve had enough conversations around the odd giggle vs regular use, and I can only hope that he makes good choices. But yes, there is also a big part of me that is horrified at the idea that my 16-yearold does this, even if it’s within what might be considered what can be expected or what ‘reasonable limits’ may be.

As for P, the sad story seems to continue. I don’t imagine that underworld of drug dealing is every bit as sinister as I imagine or believe it to be, but I do think he is now in the pocket of the wrong people. And I don’t believe it’s all that easy to get out of that pocket. I mean, to begin with, you’d know enough to be a risk, right? And I am under the impression that in these circles, you end up doing things that ensnare you to the point where you can’t walk away and will be implicated.

And there we have it. A boy so loveable, genuine and kind. Who just hasn’t received the love he was worthy of. Who had difficulties no one cared to deal with.

Another dilemma. Do I do anything? I had to swear of course to Bambino – as always – that I will keep what he tells me to myself. But what if this was my kid? And another mum knew the trouble he was in. And never told me. I guess the main thing is I don’t believe P’s parents would help him. I’ve seen them in action. What do you do? What can you do? Part of me wants to directly reach out to P and let him know he can always talk to me, but there is so much the boy needs. He needs someone to invest effort in his journey towards adulthood and building a worthwhile life for himself. No one seems to have ever done that, and now he’s found a way for himself that he has happened upon due to the lack of care and guidance.

It breaks my heart and I keep imagining his face, how sad he looked when we dropped him back with his parents after that summer holiday and no one ran to hug and welcome him home. When I threw my arms around him in the vain hope he’d feel a tiny bit of love, a tiny bit loved.

It’s a cruel world. No, I can’t rescue P. I don’t see how. I don’t know what I can do that wouldn’t make it worse for him. To step in and shake things up would also need an on-going effort to help him find a better way, and I don’t have the power to do that.

So that’s been on my mind a lot this week.

Other than that, I am … fine. The studies are steadily progressing, as is the client work on my placement. I wouldn’t say I’m a kickass counsellor yet, but it feels like things are definitely going in the right direction and I feel less of the ol’ impostor syndrome now. I suppose I’m beginning to really find my feet.

Yes, I’m fine.

Today I’m not going to drink.

8 thoughts on “I Can Only Hope

  1. My heart was deeply touched by this post, Anna. Growing up, not that I’m there yet, I had a lot in common with P. When you do see him just be sure to “see” him. Make sure he feels seen and accepted….. loved. Believed in. And not judged.🙏

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  2. This was a fascinating and heartfelt post Anna. It sounds to me like you have a very open relationship with your son. I’m not sure my 16 year old is as honest with me. It’s made me rethink how I interact with him and his younger brother. We have to change the communication style in our household. How easily we form habits and how much harder they are to break. Parenting is a tough gig for sure. I am glad you are doing ‘fine’, it’s a good place to be. Took me a while to understand that. Xxx

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  3. When I began straying down the wrong path, a neighborhood mom pulled me aside and gave me a heads up that what I do with myself is fine, but ‘keep it away from her children.’ It’s funny, at the time, it felt very mature to be talked to like that, but looking back at the event as a parent, I kind of wonder why she didn’t do more (like actually care for my well being), and if she had, what would have been the impact. I think frequently about interventions. There were so many opportunities for people to step in and give me guidance, but they never did. Would it have worked? No idea, I was an extremely head-strong kid. Intervening with P would be a very big deal in your life, but it could be in his life too. I say talk with him and find out if he wants help. (Just like a guy to give unsolicited advice, huh?)

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  4. I absolutely love the relationship you have with your son. It made me think of my relationship with my 16 year old daughter. She has a lifelong friend I adore however her friend is smoking weed daily and making choices to hang with a certain friend mostly that smokes weed too. My daughter feels upset that her friend is choosing weed over her. I know her friend is a sweet natured girl and hopefully sometime will realize what she’s doing but right now they aren’t hanging out like they used to. I was happy my daughter came to me with her feelings. My parents were very strict and I could have never came to them with any conversation like you and your son had. My parents loved me but were totally unapproachable. I think being open, asking here and there how things are going at a good time, trying to show we will never judge them is a good foundation on what to do in minor situations.
    Also-glad you’re doing “fine”, that’s about where I am at but I’m feeling a sense of boredom. Maybe I need a new goal or something….

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  5. I have heard that just having one trusted stable adult in a kid’s life, even if not a parent, can make all the difference. I think it would be ok to reach out to P if that’s what you feel is right. Just to say you are there for him if he needs someone to talk to. Certainly couldn’t hurt!

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  6. Sorry, this has been rattling around in my head all day. I was fifteen. I was using pot and alcohol regularly. Why didn’t my neighbor intervene? As the adult entrusted with this knowledge, I think you have a responsibility to check in with P. To offer help, maybe relate some of your own experiences. You’re not speaking from a vacuum, this isn’t alien to you. At a minimum, P should know that a dealing conviction will at a minimum affect the type of job he’ll be able to get the rest of his life. Personally, I think you should get the Bambino on board first. Maybe let him read all this stuff.

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  7. Ugh it’s such a hard spot to be in, there’s a limit to what we can actually do, a bigger limit to what will make any difference at all. If the opportunity arises to talk to P it’s worth a shot but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t. There’s a huge chance he wouldn’t listen but it might make a difference somewhere deep down.

    I have been in a similar situation with my niece and it cuts me so deeply that I can no longer ‘fix’ her situations or influence her choices and instead have to hold onto the hope that she makes it through alive. I know when I have been there for her in the past, shown her love that nobody else could, that that counts for something in her heart.
    I firmly P will always remember your kindness, your love – you have him a gift when you were able to, things are different now we can’t save everyone from everything no matter how desperately we want to.
    Your son is lucky to have you, teenagers are hard but you clearly have a good relationship, the fact that he will talk to you at all, turn to you means he is thinking about things and about consequences even if he doesn’t tell you everything, if he’s chosen to omit it then he’s thought about it long and hard.
    The fact you want to talk to him about this stuff is already so much more than P had.
    You are a good mum.

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    1. Wow, what a lovely and kind comment – I doubt myself so much and your words just made me well up. In a good way. Thank you. ❤️ As for P, thank you on that too, I think (and hope) you are right. 🙏

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