Ricky is upstairs in his room, laying on his bed listening to music when he hears his dad’s car pull up on the driveway. His stomach flips, he instantly feels nauseous as he anticipates the shouting and screaming to start once he walks through the front door. Ricky turns his music up in the hope to drown out the impending commotion but it starts, as it always does. Dad shouts “What the hell have you been buying Meg, I couldn’t even get petrol as the card declined again” Mum slams down the saucepan yelling back defensively, “Dan, where do you think this food comes from, it doesn’t grow on trees in our backyard you know!”. “I’m sick of being embarrassed at the cash register. Everyone looks at me and gets so annoyed because I’m holding up the queue because I have to hand things back because we can’t afford it. How do you think that makes me feel?” Dan raises his voice even louder shouting “Well if you weren’t so lazy and got a job, it would be easier on all of us!” Meg threw the saucepan across the floor in sheer frustration splattering its contents everywhere. Since her car accident 12 months ago, losing mobility in her right leg, it has been hard for Meg to secure work as she can no longer drive nor stand for very long without severe pain. The shouting continued and the insults fly. Ricky can’t stand it anymore, ripping his bedroom door open he stomps down the stairs toward the front door. His mum diverts her tirade to Ricky shouting “and where do you think you’re going? dinner is almost ready” Ricky pulls the front door open shouting back “I’m not hungry” and slams the door behind him.
As he hurriedly walks down the street, hood on and hands in his pockets, his heart is pounding and his mind is racing. He is so angry, wishing his parents would get divorced as his life sucks living like this. Day in and day out it’s constant fighting, he is so sick of it. He turns the corner into Thompson Road and heads to Billy’s place, this is his safe haven when times are tough at home. He knocks on the door and Billy answers it seeing Ricky enraged he says “Parents fighting again?” And without waiting for an answer opens the door wide to let Ricky storm through. Billy’s mum Carol shouts “Hi Ricky, we are just about to eat, come and join us”. Ricky walks towards the dining table and wishes his home was as calm and relaxed as Billy’s house. Everyone sits around the table talking about their day, laughing at odd things that they saw along the way, even talking about the weather and how hot it has been causing the roses to wilt in the garden, albeit boring but a welcome relief for Ricky. Billy’s mum can see Ricky is still shaken by trouble at home and thinks to herself how sad it is for a 13-year-old boy to feel he has to escape his home for some peace and quiet. Ricky can feel Billy’s mum looking at him and as he looks across at her she gives him a warm reassuring smile and then starts to collect up the plates to take to the kitchen to start washing up.
Billy and Ricky head out to the games room and start playing a game on the PlayStation which takes Ricky’s mind off his reality. Escaping into another world collecting treasure and points along the virtual journey trying to beat each other’s scores, enables Ricky to leave his world of conflict behind for at least an hour before Billy’s mum reminds Billy it’s time to do his homework. Billy says “5 more minute’s mum, we have to get to the next level”. Billy’s mum says “OK boys, 5 minutes” and walks back to the kitchen. The boys hurriedly get to the next level and shut down the PlayStation. Ricky stands up and says “ I better go home as mum would be worried”.
As Ricky walks towards his house, he can feel that his relaxed state of mind from Billy’s house is now turning into tension as he is anxious about what awaits him at home. His palms start to get sweaty and his breathing starts to labour. He feels almost like he is panicking, as though he is anticipating an ambush like someone is about to jump out from behind a bush or a dog leap up against a gate to bark and startle him. Ricky walks up the driveway and reaches the front door. Before he could grab the handle, it is wrenched out of his hand as his dad throws the door open shouting “where the hell have you been, your mother cooked your dinner, gone to waste. Do you think we are made of money? Get inside” Ricky ducks under his dad’s arm which is holding the door open half expecting to be clipped across the head as he enters, but thankfully he slips through fast enough and hurries to his room. Ricky shuts his bedroom door and puts his headphones on to drown out any sound from downstairs. There is a knock on the door, Ricky yells out “yeah”. His mum walks in tentatively and sits on his bed. ‘It makes me upset that I cooked dinner and you weren’t here to eat with us like a family. Poor Jess had a fight with your dad at the table and stormed up to her room and didn’t finish her dinner either.” Ricky angrily said “Everyone is always fighting in this house; I can’t stand living here. Billy’s family don’t fight”. Before Ricky could continue his mum stood up and walked to the door and said “All families fight Ricky, they just don’t do it when you’re there” Ricky sighed and turned over on the bed putting his head into the pillow, he just wanted to escape, whenever he tries to talk about things he is shut down by his parents. They never listen or care about how he feels or how they make him feel.
“WAA WAA WAA” the alarm is going off and Ricky still dressed in his clothes on the bed rolls over to turn it off. He feels like he has been hit by a truck, so exhausted, emotionally drained. He slowly gets up and stumbles into the bathroom. He is standing over the toilet arm up on the wall holding himself up when there is a loud banging on the door and Jess his sister shouting “Hurry up Ricky I am running late for school” Ricky jumps out of his skin and shouts back “OK OK, geez I can’t even pee in peace”. He zips up his jeans, flushes the toilet and washes his face and hands. He looks in the mirror and sees that he looks as bad as he feels. He wets down the rogue hair that is standing on end after sleeping awkwardly and opens up the door to see Jess standing there with hands on hips shouting “about time, move”. Ricky moves out of her way as she was on a mission to get into the bathroom and didn’t care who she was shoving aside. Ricky went back to his room, picked up his backpack and headed off to school.
As Ricky walked along the road, his mind was distracted, thinking about how he could escape the constant conflict at home. He often daydreamed about running away but never did, where would he go? He just hoped one day his parents would divorce so the fighting would stop!
“Hey, watch where you’re going buddy” shouted a van driver who was turning left in front of Ricky. He was thinking about the shouting at home and had stepped out onto the road without looking. Ricky thought what is wrong with everyone, they are all so angry. He continued on his way to school and entered the school gate when a young girl pushed past him crying and shouting “get out of my way”. Ricky was shocked and jumped out of the way with his bag swinging off his shoulder. He was starting to think there must be something wrong with him to be surrounded by all these angry people. Throwing his bag back over his shoulder he headed to the classroom.
Sitting in class, Ricky just couldn't concentrate. His mind often drifted to thinking about his parents fighting and feeling anxious about what would happen when he went home this afternoon. Ricky's teacher said "Ricky, what was the key message you took from the reading homework last night?" Ricky quickly looked up, dazed, scrambling in his mind for an answer knowing full well he didn't do the reading homework as he had to escape the family fighting. "Um, I didn't do the reading sir" replied Ricky. The teacher looked disappointed and said "stay after class, so we can discuss it" Ricky slumped his head down feeling lousy.
After class, when all the kids left for recess, the teacher walked over to Ricky and sat next to him. "I'm worried about you Ricky, is everything alright at home?" Ricky could feel his eyes sting as the tears started to well up and his chin started to tremble. He couldn't speak. School was a safe haven from the troubles at home and they had followed him here. The teacher put his hand on Ricky's shoulder and said "Maybe you should talk to Miss Jenkins, the school counsellor, she has helped many students". Ricky nodded his head. The teacher said "Come on Ricky, I will walk with you to her office". They both stood up and walked silently to Miss Jenkins office.
Ricky felt relieved after talking to Miss Jenkins about the problems at home. It seemed all his feelings just came flooding out and she didn't judge him, get angry with him or ignore him. He actually felt like his voice had been heard. Miss Jenkins recommended some coping strategies, an empowering teens program and suggested he come back in a couple of days to talk some more.
Whilst Ricky was walking home, he felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders, he felt calmer and stronger. Ricky realised he didn't have to go through this alone and that help was available.
Author – Cheryl Duffy, Divorce Coach, Mediator & Author