Can you imagine your eleven year old doing something so bad you would throw them out of the house? Indefinitely? On a freezing day in the middle of winter? Without a coat? And when they phone late afternoon, you refuse to come to the phone but get their five year old sister to tell them mum doesn't want to speak to them and no, they can't come home?
I can't. I've wracked my brain for situations in which I might feel forced to take that kind of action and I've come up totally empty. There is nothing - literally nothing - I can think of that my children could do to justify that response. No crime so heinous, no rudeness so extreme, no deceipt so twisted that I would absolve myself from all responsibility for them, their welfare and future and chuck them out on the street to fend for themselves. I couldn't do it for an hour, let alone a whole day. A whole winter's day. Without a coat.
But that's what happened to a local boy I know. A phone call from a neighbour threatening to call Social Services eventually persuaded his mother - albeit reluctantly - to allow him home in the evening.
Every adult I've ever talked to about this lad has spoken of him with genuine affection. Yes, his behaviour is often disruptive. Yes, he gets into fights and can be outrageously rude. And yes, he sometimes truants. But he has a core of goodness that shines out from him. He's a special kid, with the potential to become an amazing adult. Then you hear the above story and you start to see what's going on behind the bad behaviour. You start to feel it's a miracle this child has hung onto his humanity and isn't a whole lot worse than he is.
Maybe his mother needs support of some kind herself. It's desperately sad to think of the future for this boy if help in some form is not forthcoming. And if something terrible does happen to him on the streets - with him either as victim or perpetrator - will his mother say it wasn't her fault? That no one has the right to tell her how to bring up her own child? And that it was her right to discipline her child in the way she saw fit?
I just don't get it ...