Christmas Day seems far more than a week ago and the New Year hangover has faded but, in the midst of the back-to-work to-do lists and the annual battle to return the tree to the loft, I spy a significant date on the calendar.
Two years ago today OT returned home after absconding since New Year's Eve. An optimistic trio of magistrates had granted him conditional bail on the 31st itself, the condition being that he remain at home from 8pm each night, including that particularly tricky night. Fat chance, what were they thinking? I managed to keep him in the house just long enough for a shower and change of clothes before he disappeared again.
But on the 2nd of January the Prodigal Teen returned: tired, grubby, fed up with sleeping on floors and sofas, sick of hiding from police. He had decided to face the music, and the warrant out for his arrest, and we called 101 together to let them know that he was back. The paperwork hadn't kicked in yet, the police were in no rush, so we had some waiting time on our hands and we hatched a plan. December 25th had been a bit of a wash-out (for reasons described here - Ghosts of Christmases Past) and the turkey was still in the fridge with 24 hours left on its expiry date. With the pressure now off, why not do Christmas now? What followed was possibly the best and then worst memory of OT's placement with me.
The food preparation was relaxed and laid-back, we would eat when it was ready as there was no need for a schedule. The part of my role description that mentions helping the young person develop independent life skills had been somewhat redundant during this turbulent placement. It's hard to teach a young man to cook and clean when he is more often in a cell than in his bedroom, so OT's training began with sprout peeling and turkey basting. At about 5pm we sat down to share the result of our work...and it was good! After our late turkey dinner we took our pudding into the living room and watched his favourite film which I had bought him on DVD for Christmas. It is Titanic in case you were wondering. My hardened, challenging, persistent young offender's favourite film is Titanic: you couldn't make it up.
Shortly afterwards OT went to bed and while I was having a sneaky, late Yuletide glass of Bailey's the knock at the door came. Two police response officers stand outside, surprised to be told that OT is exactly where he is supposed to be and is already asleep in bed at 11pm. I ask if I can wake him up rather than them, they lurk behind me on the landing in case he tries to escape but there's really no need. He gets dressed in three layers of clothes he wants to have with him in prison, grabs his book of stamps and list of phone numbers, gives me a hug and then walks downstairs to wait with me and the officers for the police van.
This was the arrest that began the custodial sentence he is still serving, which will end exactly a month from now.
When you agree to a Supported Living placement for a young person with a history of offending and challenging behaviour, you realise quite early on that you are going to have to be flexible. I don't think I imagined that this would mean Christmas Day on the second of January but I am very glad it did. What a fantastic memory for us both to have of his last evening at home.