A neighbor helped me identify the boy and, armed with this information, I went home to consider my options. Call the cops? Call the school? Call his parents? I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, but I knew the behavior could not be ignored.
Did I want to bring the cops down on a neighbor, a kid? No. Should I have? Maybe. I also had some interest in addressing the issue somewhat anonymously. Who knows what else the boy is capable of--A brick through my window? A baseball bat to my mailbox?
So, here's what I decided to do and what happened next . . .
I called his parents. After several unsuccessful attempts to reach them by phone in the morning or in the evening, my husband and I ended up on their doorstep. The boy's mother, a petite, friendly woman, answered the door.
The first order of business was to confirm that we had the right house--that this woman did indeed have a teenage son that liked to ride a skateboard, who had in fact been out riding that very morning.
An array of emotions played across her face--from concern (when two strangers appear on your doorstep asking if you have a son) to confusion, to dismay (when my husband began to explain, a bit heatedly, why we were there.)
"My wife had a very disturbing experience with your son today."
"What do you mean? What happened?"
"Your son followed her and behaved completely inappropriately."
"What do you mean inappropriate? What did he do?"
At this point, I jumped in, somehow finding the words to accurately describe, in detail, what happened.
"Are you sure it was my son?" she asked, shocked. "I've never heard anything like this." (To which I had my doubts; the neighbor who identified the boy said he'd been known as a troublemaker when he was younger, but seemed to have gotten better as he'd gotten older. I was about to shatter that myth to pieces).
"Is your son here?" I asked.
"No, but I can call him." And so she did. Turns out, he was in the neighborhood, just down the street, on his bike, hanging out with some friends.
As he approached the house, the mom asked, "Is this him?"
"Oh yeah. That's him." He looked even smaller without the extra inches the skateboard had given him. I would love to have known what was going through his head when he saw me standing there . . . at his house . . . talking to his mother.
"Did you follow this lady today?" The mother asked. Moment of truth: Would he lie? Would he try to deny it?
"Yes," he finally said.
"I don't know."
"What were you doing?"
"What kind of weird stuff?"
All the while, the kid is furiously plucking at the bushes in front of his house.
"Do you know how serious this is? They are here talking to us but they could have gone to the police."
"I know, Mom."
"They could have called the police!"
"Mom, I know!" I didn't care for the slightly defiant edge to his voice. I hoped it was due to utter embarrassment then another display of disrespect.
"You can't do that. You can't do that to a woman, or a girl, or even a boy."
"Mom, that's sick." (Look who's talking!)
"You owe this lady an apology."
To me: "I'm sorry." This was my cue. He'd had his say, now it was my turn. Here are the main points I addressed to the little punk:
1) It was not cool, it was entirely unacceptable, I was not impressed, and I don't know what the hell you were thinking.
2) I should not have to deal with that kind of behavior. I should be able to go out for a run and not have to worry about some jerk acting the way you did. It's called harassment and I absolutely could have called the cops.
3) You are 16. You will be an adult in two years. Do you want something like this on your record? Do you want to have to register as some sort of offender for the rest of your life?
4) You need to think about what kind of man you want to grow up to be.
"I'm really sorry, m'am." I was not impressed by the apology or the "m'am." Nor was I entirely convinced of his sincerity. It was hard to tell if he was mortified beyond belief (one can only hope) or was just saying the words he knew he had to say to make this whole thing end (more likely true.)
His mom then told the kid to head inside, that they were going to have a little talk. And that was pretty much it.
So, having a few days to think about it, I'm not all that satisfied with the outcome. I wish the father had been there. I wish I knew what the boy's consequences were going to be. I wish the mother would call to follow up or make the boy write a note of apology, but I know neither will happen because we didn't identify ourselves beyond being "neighbors." I wish I could know what the boy was thinking--is he truly just a confused, misguided kid? Is he frustrated that no girls his own age are interested? Is he teased at school? Or is he just disturbed? I guess I will never know the answer to these questions and will have to have faith that his parents will handle the situation. I hope he gets the help and guidance he needs.
I do know that I've been out for two or three more runs in the neighborhood since then and I've not seen the kid out and about, nor on his skateboard. I can tell you one thing--if I see him out on his board anytime in the near future, I'll be bringing a can of whoop-ass to that doorstep next time.
I will never have all the answers I want, but at least I know I did something and I will just have to hope that it's enough.