The worst 24 hours of my parenting life started with a short, simple phone call on a dark November night five years ago. I was driving home from a football match and fast-flowing southbound M1 traffic was sharking into a dark, wet London jam when my girlfriend’s voice came on the carphone speakers. Her news concerned my then 15-year-old son, whom she calls “MB”. I was used to receiving calls from school about his behaviour, but this was a Saturday. Even so, I was too busy studying red brake lights cutting me up to catch her slightly concerned tone.
“James, Katy has just called round with MB because the police brought him and Luke back to her house after they found them on a building site.”
“Is he OK?”
“Yes. The site security guard had called the police after he caught them 15 feet up some scaffolding. The police said there’ll be no charges because the boys said they were taking photographs for a school art project and were apparently very polite and apologetic. I think he’s more concerned about when you get home than the police.”
And so it began: a…