Sunday, November 19, 2006

My 14 year old son was searched by the police for the first time this week. He was at school for a drama club that had been cancelled because it was a half day. Police turned up on the site in a van and immediately started to question him, searched his bag, then him. Is this a rite of passage for teenage boys nowadays? He was frightened and shaken. He was worried about walking home afterwards. I talked to him on my mobile until he arrived at a place where he felt safe. He needed someone with him.

I felt like a line had been crossed for him and for me as a parent. I'd been expecting this, I guess and now it has happened. I wish it hadn't. I wish those same police officers had taken some interest in how he was feeling after what they put him through. What it feels like when a stranger assumes the worst of you and is too lazy to question him or herself about their own motives.

Teenagers have always been seen as trouble. I remember getting on a bus at the bottom of my road when I was about the same age and an elderly woman I sat next to, tutting in disgust, muttering something about filthy hair. It wasn't actually. It was just long. I was on a bus in London the day that my son was searched. A group of schoolgirls got on, making loads of noise, but they weren't offensive, they were just young. A man, maybe in his late fifties, started shouting at them about the noise, then started taking photos of them with his phone. I wanted to confront him, but didn't have the courage.

Teenagers are still children. They are experiencing so much for the first time, feeling everything so intensely. Can't we try and remember how it was for us?

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