I think what we were fighting about was school.
Shh, Don’t Tell! stories are meant to be heard – in the person’s own voice – as well as for the original music. Please click above and listen, if you can! The transcript is also below.
Narrator: Houston hates it when his kids are gone.
Houston: I worry and I miss them and I just want to be with them
Narrator: In this Shh, Don’t Tell story, Houston struggles after his teenage son runs away.
Houston: My son Max he was having a really hard time, you know, being a teenager. He didn’t want to be at home anymore. He, he left and that was so hard.
Narrator: It had also been hard having him home.
Houston: I think what we were fighting about was school. Because it was really hard to get him to go to school in the morning. He hated school. I mean it was it was to the point where he just didn’t want to be there, he didn’t feel like he belonged there, he didn’t enjoy any part of it.
He had had something really horrible happened to him at school where a teacher attacked him basically and slammed his head up against a wall and had a horrible concussion. We ended up having to you know to go through a mediation with the school district about it and the whole bit. And to be to be fair to the teacher who this who did this to Max. He had a reason. What he did was was was totally off base and horrible, but you know, basically Max had climbed up on the wall of the school and had jumped down and at the same time this teacher was walking through a doorway. And so he landed on him, on his shoulder. And the teacher’s reaction was, you know, you little fucker and he slammed him up against the wall a bunch of times.
Because of the head injury and some of the some of the recovery processes that he had going on he would have a hard time doing things like, you know, tying his shoes or getting a pair of socks on. And he would just sit on his bed and not be able to do it.It wasn’t, it wasn’t a matter that he didn’t want to. I don’t think it had anything to do with with desire. He just he just couldn’t put things in sequence to make to make it happen.
There were just conflicts. Basically it’s I got to go to work. Um, I’m gonna be late. I’m here helping you. I can give you a ride if we do this now, but if you’ve got to make your own way there, um, I don’t, I know what happened yesterday. You just stayed home all day and and you didn’t, you didn’t tell me that you stayed home all day. You lied to me about it. And the only reason I know you didn’t go to school because the school called me. You know, you know, what are we gonna do about this? And then then then what, all of a sudden you’re trying to solve all your problems before he gets his shoes on you know, um. It’s just a really frustrating, it was really frustrating time.
And it scared him. He would, he would retreat. He would be his room, but he would retreat you know, uh, um, not geographically but physically. He wouldn’t look you in the eye and he would not acknowledge that he had to go to school that day.
And finally Max just, he, he quit school.
The school wasn’t really being very helpful about it. And he wasn’t really applying himself and it seemed like a big waste of time. And all we did was fight about it.
I felt a little bit disconnected from from both my kids about their high school experience because I had a ball in high school. I loved it I went to a new school and a new neighborhood across town. And I got to totally reinvent myself. I changed my name and I got to really focus on the things that I wanted wanted to focus on. I always thought that you know going to school and graduating from high school, that’s like a minimum you got to do that. And um, I was I was really frustrated that Max wasn’t finding a way to make that work. And to have it become this thing where he wasn’t going to be home anymore was just, just heartbreaking. I mean it was it was one of the worst periods of my life ever to have him gone, you know and living 10 blocks away and um, not not being able, not being able to see him or talk to him.
You know, he didn’t tell me where he was going to be. He said he wasn’t coming home. And, and it was the kind of thing that I had to be really careful about not cutting off any kind of communication at all because that phone that he was carrying was like my last link to him in a way.
And it’s all a little bit hazy in my mind, but he left and he ended up staying in the basement of his girlfriend’s house. He came home when my wife and I were at work and took like the stuff he cared about. It was obvious that, based on what he had taken that he was planning on being there for a while. I think he took his Xbox. But he hadn’t been home for a while. So, and I didn’t really know where he was and he wasn’t telling me where he was and and um, he wasn’t always answering his phone.
So once he moved in with his girlfriend’s family, or her mom, then I started talking with her about it. And at first I was really angry with her because she was becoming a barrier to him coming home because she was providing him a place to stay. And her viewpoint on it was well, you know, sometimes kids just need a, just need a break from their parents and I didn’t really agree with that.
He wasn’t ready to take care of himself yet. So he was gonna be relying on somebody else to take care of him. And he would do things like, you know, eat pop tarts for breakfast and then you know Cocoa Puffs for lunch and then wonder why he didn’t feel good. You know that kind of stuff, where he, I still felt like there was stuff that I needed to teach him, you know, and I felt like he wasn’t cooked yet and I needed him to stick around for a little while longer.
He just wasn’t there. And I’d have to schedule appointments to go talk to him or meet him. It made me nervous because I didn’t, I didn’t know where he where he was and if, if he was in trouble I wasn’t there to help him
Never thought he was dead. I think, I think part of me thought that I, I would have known that. I mean, he’s more like me than anyone else in the world, so I feel like I would know. I would have known.
You have to break it down to little pieces. It’s like, I got to talk to Max today. Great, you know. We want to lunch. Great, you know. He talked about the future, you know, great, you know. He asked if his girlfriend could come live with us. Okay. Yeah, maybe we maybe that could work.
He was getting kicked out of where he was, the girlfriend’s house, because he adopted this new dog. And they already had lots of pets and they didn’t want another dog.And so he needed a place for his dog. And uh we have this log cabin in our backyard. It’s like a miniature log cabin. In the log cabin there’s a loft bed, but that wouldn’t be safe for this little puppy, you know. So Max wanted to know if there’s a way that we could make a bed that would be. He could sleep on that also the dog could sleep on. And I said, yeah, let’s do that. Let’s get some wood and we’ll make a bed. So we did that together. We like made a place for him there. And so that was kind of a bonding thing and it was kind of like a yeah, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make this happen.
I think he was 14 when he left and 15 when he came back.
So he stayed out there for a while and then ended up in his back in his room.
Special thanks to Baby Blues Connection for help with Shh, Don’t Tell! Stories, to Jenny Conlee of The Decemberists for our awesome theme and other music and to cellist Collin Oldham for his terrific compositions and scoring.