Parenting Dilemma

A couple of weeks ago something horrible happened to my son and I still don’t know how I feel about it. It isn’t easy being a parent and sometimes the hardest thing to find is the courage needed, to let your children take risks. But I keep worrying that I might be wrong and my son could pay for my mistakes. I guess I should explain…

Two nights a week, after school, my son becomes an Army Cadet – because I encouraged him to join. He is almost 15 and I thought he should be doing more with his free time than playing Xbox, watching TV, or updating his Facebook. Joining Army Cadets gives young lads a chance to do some exciting and energetic things, whilst also teaching them discipline and making them iron their own trousers. Perfect.

So Brandon joined cadets, looked brilliant in his uniform, settled happily into the group and picked up loads of new skills (map work, first aid and shooting guns!). He also walked the 15 min route to cadets (and back) on his own, getting some fresh air and being independent. It all seemed to be working out well for him.

Then one night, when he was on his way there, somebody threatened to kill him.

Actually, it was two men, who looked as though they were in their 20s and looked Arab, Indian, or Pakistani (according to my son). They drove past Brandon, blowing the car horn and sticking their fingers up. He ignored them but then they stopped and waited for him to catch up. The driver wound down the window and said,

“If I see you walking around this area in that uniform again, I’ll f*cking kill you!”.  Brandon just carried on walking and they drove off. He didn’t tell anyone about it, until he got home that night and told us. I was freaked out, to say the least.

The area we live in is home to a real mix of ethnicities and is at least one third Muslim. I suppose a young white male, in a British Army uniform, may be an unwelcome sight to some of the disaffected young men around here, who are not white and not happy with Britain’s current foreign policies. Or maybe the two guys in question were just bullies, who would have picked on any random stranger, without really having an idea why. I don’t know what faith (if any) they were brought up in, but I’m sure that local Muslims would be horrified if their sons behaved like these young men.

The thing is (having reported this to the authorities) we (myself and Brandon’s step-father) have now had to decide whether to let Brandon walk alone to cadets and whether he should wear his uniform on the way there. After talking to Brandon, and to the Army, we have decided that he can still walk there alone, that an officer who lives nearby might give him the odd lift home (he gets home by about 10pm), and that he should still wear his uniform but with a dark hoodie over the jacket and his beret in his bag.

The risks are all too obvious but I don’t want Brandon to live in fear because of bullies and I don’t want him to feel forced to back down, because of intimidation. Obviously, it isn’t a good idea for a guy his age to be tied to his Mummy and unable to go to cadets without her tagging along.

But it is very hard to let him go off to cadets, all the same. I hope we are right and he is OK…

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38 responses to “Parenting Dilemma

  1. Oh my gosh! I’d be terrified! But I think in the end, I’d handle it just as you have.

    I guess my question would be – knowing that the cadets program is really only responsible for his safety while he’s actually there, do you feel you received an adequate response from them? In other words, do they seem to be taking it as seriously as you do? I would agree that it’s 99% certain to be a case of common bullying, and Brandon should be commended for even wanting to go back after a scare like that. It would be very easy for him to just bail out.

    Just stay watchful – being concerned and looking out for his safety is a far cry from smothering him. He’s one of the lucky ones – he picked a good mom!!

    • Oh, they took it VERY seriously. The lady officer in charge of him (the one who gives him a lift home) is married to a policeman and she was keen to report it. She also said he could change when he got there – but he didn’t want to, as he has his little routine here and polishes his boots at the last moment etc. Bless him.

      He has been to cadets about four times since it happened and so far, so good. It isn’t far to walk but some of the journey isn’t very overlooked by houses (which is a worry). The road is busy though, so plenty of passing witnesses.

      This is quite a rough, inner city area. I DO worry about him (every day, not just at cadets) but my b/f was born and bred here and he says that Brandon needs to keep his head up and not become a timid victim, because he LIVES here.

      I’m mindful of his safety though. And thanks, I try to be a good Mother (apart from all the swearing and showing off).

  2. Good for Brandon!

    I think you’ve taken a common sense approach to this by alerting authorities and having him take reasonable precautions.

    It’s all well and good to stand up for what one believes in, but when you’re walking alone and could potentially be shot or knifed by extremists, common sense means you’ll live to walk another day.

    There are a lot of crazy whack jobs out there.

    I feel so bad that he has to deal with this at all.

    • Thanks. I think I am more scared than he is but I do know that there are a lot of people around here who pretend to be “gangsta”- when really they are just full of it.

      He is off to Company Camp next weekend – more nice healthy outdoor fun, for a couple of days. I’m absolutely ceratin that going to cadets is a good thing – I just wish I could walk him there without turning him into an over-protected baby.

      (In the news recently – some British parents are now not letting their 15 year olds catch busses, in case something bad happens. We are creating a generation of kids who cannot deal with even catching a bus alone. WTF?)

  3. Good grief, how awful for all of you. I understand your concern for the obviously great son you have raised. It’s so hard to see the dirty side of the world, no matter what your age. Blessings x a million.

    • Thank you. x

      I don’t like seeing the dirty side of life either and I have always encouraged my children to respect other people and other cultures. Still, every section of society includes some idiots, I guess.

  4. Oh my! How scary for you. And I’m sure for Brandon though he was quite brave and did the right thing to just keep on walking.

    I don’t blame you for worrying. I would worry but you know there is something to the whole idea of keeping your head up etc because that is where he lives and he will go on living there for some time. I have a friend who lives in the Old City in Jerusalem and that’s very much the tact she takes.

    • I think that sometimes (not always though) victims “choose themselves”. That said, if Bran’s uniform attracts the wrong kind of attention, there is only so much he can do.

  5. Wow – that is so scary! I don’t even know what to say about it, but I hope your son will be safe.

  6. That IS scary! I would have him change out of his uniform before walking the streets, also perhaps notifying the cadets 0f this. Also, maybe there is a neighborhood watch or something that can help to monitor the neighborhoods… I would be sooo afraid. Perhaps your son should carry some mace or pepper spray as well.

    • Well, as I said, he is covering up part of his uniform and not wearing his beret. The cadets and police know what went on. Mace and pepper spray are illegal here, so he can’t carry them to cadets!

      I think those guys would have got on with it and beaten him up, if they were going to. I think their real hatred was for the uniform. I hope so.

  7. There’s really no right answer, is there?

    I went to a rough school in what was becoming a rough neighborhood when I was his age and had a similar problem. Fortunately, nothing came of it. I hope Brandon’s situation also fizzles out, too.

  8. He’s beating his “macho wings”. Every man child does it in a different way. My son tried to beat up his Step Dad, (whom he considers his Real Dad). Support him! (He knows how far he can push it!) ((HUGS)) to both of you!

  9. Brandon is about as Macho as Tinkerbell, hahaha! But yeah, I’ll stick by him. And thanks.

  10. I don’t know what to say. In my small area, threats like that are taken seriously and it’s not hard to find the bullies. I’m guessing you live in a much larger area.

    I would be terrified to let him go alone, but I’m an over-protector since I wouldn’t be able to deal with an ugly alternative.

    It’s a terrible thing that there is so much hate in the world.

    • If anything happened to Brandon, I’d be absolutely destroyed. The chances are though that these are just losers mouthing off and if I start taking him to cadets because of that – it isn’t really letting him become a man. He has cvovered up his uniform a bit, so hopefully that will give him a less provocative look.

      And yeah, we are in a huge city.

      As for hate – it is awful and very unfair, since we (my family) are all hippie liberals who embrace cultural diversity.

  11. That sucks. At least it wasn’t gay bashing.

    I don’t know about in the UK but in France you can buy these things look like a metal handle, but when you push a button they expand into a long steel baton that can easily put a bad hurt on anyone trying to mess with you.

    Might be worth it.

    • We have one (don’t ask how) but carrying them is illegal here. In any case, like all weapons, they’d probably grab it off you and beat you with it. Heh.

      I think his best option, if at all possible, is to run.

  12. Does cadet training by any chance include self-defence lessons? If not, I suggest getting him some. Other than that, it sounds as if you and the cadet force are handling this as well as you can. If it happens again, or if he sees them again, get the car registration number – the police can do a lot more if they can identify them.

    • Bran did a couple of years of Kung Fu training, quite a while ago. Sadly we moved and he couldn’t find teachers he was as close to as his old ones. He was good at it though and he gained confidence. He was also brought up with brothers who were 15 and 12 years older than him, hehehe, so he got some self-defence lessons from them. Plus, he is 5′ 9″ tall and weighs almost 170lbs, so he is quite big and strong.

      And you’re absolutely right – we have drummed into him that although he may be nervous and shocked if somebody threatens him, he really must try to get their car registration number.

  13. Oh, my dear! How dreadful for both Brandon and you.
    It is so sad that some people seem to have an irrepressible need to make themselves feel big by picking on others.
    trust me, been there- done that–as the recipient.
    And you’ve taken the right approach by reporting the incident and having him wear a hoodie over his uniform.
    Still, it’s sad that even this concession is necessary.
    *Puts a golden circle of protection around dear Brandon and calls upon angels and spirit friends to protect him.*

  14. LGB is almost 15?? WOAH! That is horrible he had to deal with that :(

  15. What a frightening situation to have to deal with! There really isn’t a right answer, all you can do as a parent is your best to keep your child safe without getting in the way of their learning how to manage situations themselves.

    I hope you all stay safe. *hug*

  16. Wow. I don’t even know what to say. Reading this just put a pit in my stomach. It’s so sad that people can be so awful to each other.

    I’ve just said a prayer for your son, that he be safe, because God promises a hedge of protection, and for the people who threatened him, that their humanity and hearts of compassion return to them, swiftly.

    I’ll pray for you as well, that you have peace of mind.

    When I hear about meanies, I go all soft and preachy. When confronted with meanies I go all hard and stabby.

    • Thanks, Kelly. I’m angry with the people that threatened him, but I’m mindful of how hard it is for them to live in a country where they might feel unwanted. Even if they were born here, I’m sure they have faced insults and threats regularly.

      The thing is, Brandon would never have insulted, or threatened them, because we have taught him otherwise.

  17. Others have said more, and better- so just know that I wish you the very best, and that some solution will present itself.

  18. I think you are doing everything right in this situation and taking the proper steps. It’s hard to understand why some people do the things they do while driven with hate, especially when your brain isn’t wired that way.

    I’ve never understood hate, and I don’t think I’ve ever hated anyone for more than a minute. I can’t hold a grudge, which ticks me off on occasion. I’ve never be able to stop talking to someone because they are a twat or being polite to them.

    I hope this is the worst thing that Brandon ever has to face. We all seem to run into these types at least once in our lives.

    • We do and sadly he will probably have worse things happen – but I hope not. He is such a nice kid, even though he is verbally as cheeky as me!

      I can hold a grudge forever but I can still be decent and polite, if I need to. You’re always nice though – that why you know you’ve always got an invite to the UK!

  19. Wow, if that had happened here in the US, anyone even slightly pigmented would be hanging from tree-branches! And the media would be frantically wanking away 24 hours a day.

    • Hahaha! Yeah, we tend to have a “stiff upper lip” about things – unless somebody mentions paedophiles (and then we’re all about grabbing the pitchforks and hunting them down).

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