It was 3.30pm on Christmas Eve and I arrived home earlier than usual from work. On my front verandah was a strange woman, young and beautiful, and I had no idea who she was.
I got out of the car and walked up the front steps, key in hand, puzzled look on my face.
‘Hi. Can I help you?’
‘Are you Charlie’s Mum? Could we have a word please?’
My puzzled look must have changed to a mixture of fear and resignation.
‘You’d better come in then. What has he done?’
My 13 year old son is a difficult child. He was brought home by the police at 3am 3 months ago (I told you so). He had crept out of the house in the middle of the night to meet a friend (who was a girl) to ‘talk’ in the local park.
I have grave concerns for Charlie. His father and I split up 6 years ago and Charlie has always found that difficult. Worse than that though, I believe his father has a personality disorder (likely Narcisstic or a mixture of Cluster B Personality Disorders), and I see signs of it in Charlie.
He is just like his father in many ways, and so different from his older brother who has always been an easy-going, generous, kind boy.
So I waited to hear what this stranger had to tell me this time.
‘I’m Josh’s Mum. Your son, and another boy Noah, tricked Josh into sending a nude photo of himself to them on Snapchat and they spread it around the school. Josh is devastated. I wanted to let you know what had happened.’
‘I am so sorry. I didn’t know anything about this. That’s an awful thing to do. Charlie isn’t here, he is with his Dad at the moment, but I will see if I can get him on the phone.’
It is normally difficult to get hold of my son when he is with his Dad. There is no home phone, but they move around a lot anyway, so I usually text his Dad and ask for the boys to call me ‘when convenient’. I often don’t hear back until the next day. This time though I got straight through and Charlie answered the phone.
‘Hi Charlie. I have Josh’s Mum here to see me. Do you know what that might be about?’
‘Yes’ said in a sheepish voice.
‘Well she wants to talk to you’
I handed the phone over. I had said I would like her to speak to Charlie directly and tell her how upset Josh was – I thought it was better coming from his friend’s Mum than me.
She told him how angry she was, how devastated Josh was, that it was the wrong thing to do.
I got back on the phone with him and told him I would discuss it with him as soon as Josh’s Mum had left.
I felt truly awful. I had brought Charlie up to be better than this, to know that actions such as these are wrong, I have tried to teach him empathy. But maybe it was all in vain as he is just going to turn out like his Dad anyway. It might be that whatever I do nature will be stronger than nurture.
I have spoken to Charlie about this quite often since then, always on the phone, as he is still with his Dad. He seems to know it was the wrong thing but did try and blame Noah and all the others.
One of the symptoms of a personality disorder is not to accept blame for anything and always point the finger at someone else. Is this what Charlie is doing, or is it genuinely that he followed someone else’s lead? Not that that exonerates him of course. He should have told them it was the wrong thing to do and then walked away if he couldn’t persuade them not to trick their friend.
Charlie comes back in a few days. I have been thinking hard how to deal with this.
I am scared that it doesn’t matter what I do or say and that I am raising a narcissist who will go out and wreak havoc in other people’s lives because he has no empathy or conscience.
Can his genetic inheritance really have that much power over the choices he will make in his life?
Or is this just a naughty 13 year old boy, easily led by his mates, in the wrong crowd of friends?
I won’t know the answer until his hormones settle down, his brain matures and he becomes a young adult.
Until then I can only do my best. I just hope my best is good enough.