Developmentally Doug was behind most the kids his age. Potty training was near impossible. He never could figure out how to jump rope. He was clumsy and unsure of himself through elementary school. Socially he never could figure out how to make and keep friends.
We lived only a few blocks away from his elementary school so when, in the fifth grade, he asked if he could quit going to after school day care and just walk home after school, Craig and I gave it serious consideration. We told Doug that we would let him try it on a trial basis. It went well for a few weeks. Then we started notices things missing from the house.
One week-end Craig had band practice and realized that his guitar amplifier and a few speakers were missing. We questioned Doug about this and he admitted to giving them to some “friends” that lived down the street. He said the boys just wanted to borrow them. We took Doug to the boys’ house and made him go to the door and ask for the equipment back. We retrieved everything and lectured Doug about not giving other people’s things away. The next time it happened Doug said that the reason he gives the things away is to keep us safe. He said the boys pound on the door and tell Doug if he doesn’t let them in they will kill him and kill his family. These boys, the Skidmore brothers, really were pre teen horrors from hell.
After confronting the boys and warning them not to come into our home again the Skidmores and a few of their friends waged a war on our property. They’d throw rocks at our house, breaking a window on more than one occasion. When I’d pull out of my drive, both boys would stand in the middle of the road, I’d watch them in my rear view mirror as they’d grab their crotch with one hand and shoot me the bird with the other.
One evening after hearing some rocks hit the house and seeing the boys dash into the surrounding woods, Craig went outside and chased them, catching one by our back door. He held the kid by the arm and fussed at him, telling him not to come back on our property. Later, in the middle of that night, the police came and arrested Craig for assault on a minor. When Craig presented his own defense in court judge told the boys and their family that he suspects he will see them in court again but guessed that the next time it would be a case against them. He told the boys they were not allowed back in our yard and told the parents to get a better handle on raising their children. The case against Craig was dismissed.
A few weeks later they came to the house and threatened Doug again. Doug told us about it as soon as we came home from work. There were some items missing. Craig and I drove down the street to the Skidmores house, where Mr. Skidmore was working in his yard. Craig was very polite and explained that the camping lantern hanging in their carport was ours and we’d like to have it back. Mr. Skidmore looked to one of his sons and told him to go “fetch my rifle.” We were dumbfounded. I sat in the car in disbelief as the boy came out the door with his daddy’s gun. His mother stepped out onto their porch and began yelling profanities at me while I’m sitting in the car. The man pointed his rifle at Craig and demanded he get off his property. Craig said “Not without my camping lantern.” I can’t remember how we got the lantern without getting shot. But, as we were pulling away Mrs. Skidmore was standing in the road still screaming obscenities. Craig told me to stop the car. When I braked, Craig jumped out, grabbed his crotch, and shot Mrs. Skidmore the bird. She screamed in horror and ran in her house. It was an immature gesture, but it gave both Craig and I some sort of satisfaction.
I looked into after school day care again. Having trouble finding one that seemed a good fit for Doug, I turned to a counselor at his school for suggestions. She The Girls and Boys Club. The Girls and Boys Club offered an after school program that included pick up from school, homework time, snacks, a game room , and a basketball gym. It was actually more affordable than an after school day care and seemed more age appropriate for my rising 6th grader. It was here that Doug formed his love for basketball.
He joined the basketball team at the Club and although he struggled with his coordination and his inability to run very fast, the coaches there seemed patient enough. They worked with Doug every afternoon, trying to help him improve his shot, and his self esteem. Most of the kids on the team would laugh at Doug as he’d run slowly down the court. But once he became a sure shooter, the running became less of an issue. Doug was making friends and had found something he could do that made him feel good about himself.
The Skidmores moved out of the neighborhood and our lives seemed to settle into a nice, peaceful routine, for a while.