I am sorry this post has taken so long to materialise. I would love to cite pressure of work, involvement in charity projects or intellectual (hah) activities but the truth is closer to lazing around in the sunshine, watching a future King marry for love and going to parties.
However, I mentioned in my previous post that I was constructing a guide to the minefield that is the parenting of teenagers, following on from the String Bag and Octopus Guide to rearing babies that I offered you last time. For those of you whose children are under 10 (because we would be naive to imagine that the teenage years actually begin at thirteen – that’s just one of the ways they set out to trap you) I can offer no better introduction to the stygian nightmare that awaits you than this:-
You may think it is far-fetched. Those of us who have been there or who (like my good self) are in the thick of it, believe that it is but a flight of humorous fancy, a tiny shred of gossamer-light whimsy in comparison to the jack booted reality of life with teenagers. The Shah and I actually met somebody once who responded to our moans about our children with the killer phrase “Oh Vienetta will never be like that,” with a totally straight face. Vienetta was 4 at the time. The Shah laughed so hard that twin jets of snot flew from his nostrils and we both had to be stretchered out, in need of oxygen.
So – although all attempts to deal rationally with teenagers call to mind King Canute trying to hold back a hurricane of hormones, I humbly offer you a few pointers to help you navigate these tricky times.
1. 1. You have to be prepared to lose your ranking in your child’s affections. Whilst many idiosyncrasies apply to boys and girls differently – this one is equal. All that matters from now on is their friends; and I mean they are ALL that matters. Pestilence? War? Famine? Death? GCSEs? All of these will simply score a resounding “Meh” with your average teenager.
2. 2. Along with number 1, you must be prepared to be treated like the saddest, most stupid being that ever walked the earth. The minute you open your mouth, the eye-rolling will start and the loud sighing will set in shortly afterwards. You know nothing, your opinion counts for zip. Get used to it.
3. 3. As soon as your child’s age hits double figures, the bathroom door will be firmly locked, hair will begin to sprout in previously bare areas, they will grow at the rate of about a foot a week and sudden body awkwardness will happen upon them. If you should be stupid enough to walk into their bedrooms without knocking (assuming you can crank the door open – see number 6) you can expect to be screamed at. “LIKE, GET OUT” will become a familiar sound.
4. 4. Lose any ideas of smugness you may feel when you hear about others’ travails. When you learn that Jessica’s parents came home to find the house trashed, a strong smell of weed in the air, their darling daughter in flagrante delicto with an Albanian car valet, a herd of miniature goats shredding the garden and a London Routemaster bus parked in the pond, do not snigger. It could be your turn next.
5. 5. Do not imagine that, now your offspring can sleep for England, your nights will be any easier. You have moved on from pacing the floor with them in your arms to pacing the floor while they are in the King’s Arms, necking pints of Snakebite as fast as they can. Stand by with the bucket when they return.
6. 6. Small children are messy. Large children are twice as messy with half the excuse. Both sexes will store all their clothes on the floor; the boys because they simply can’t be arsed to open a drawer and the girls because they are constantly trying on every shred of clothing they possess before declaring, “I’ve like, got NO CLOTHES.” (This last remark accompanied by a murderous look that suggests you are Scrooge’s first cousin).
7. 7. More on the thorny issue of clothing. This is akin to tip-toeing through a newly-laid minefield. Let us take the sexes separately. Boys:- your formerly sports-mad, healthy-looking little lad may well transmute into a slouching, grumpy, ashen faced Goth whose long fringe exists purely to be flicked back at regular intervals and, oh yes, to hide the heavy black kohl ringing one eye from you, his parents. He will inexplicably wear all his trousers so that the waistband is half way down his buttocks and the crotch flops around his knees. Girls: - this is like a minefield x 10. No scrub that – a minefield x 10 to the power 3 trillion. Your erstwhile freckle-faced, tousle haired tomboy may well transmute into something that wouldn’t look out of place on the arm of a priapic Premiership player. Despite your cardiac arrhythmia, my best advice is to say nothing because whatever you say, IT WILL BE WRONG. When your daughter asks for your opinion of her outfit just as she is about to leave the house (and remember, she has tried on every damn thing in her wardrobe so there is no room for manoeuvre here) LIE THROUGH YOUR TEETH. To help you out, here are a few suggestions for right and wrong responses:-
Here darling, let me adjust your hemline...
My memory’s longer than that dress.
Didn’t the shop have that top in another size?
Now I know where Viz got the inspiration for Fat Slags from.
That’s a refreshingly modern look!
You look like a ten bob slapper.
What unusual boots! I didn’t realise Cowboy boots were back in!
Yee hah! Ride ‘em cowboy! (This phrase is particularly inappropriate.)
You have a lovely sun kissed look
Oi Jaffa! You’re more orange than Pippa Middleton.
Didn't Princess Beatrice wear something similar to the Royal wedding?
You look like the bastard lovechild of Chi-chi and a Unicorn
1. 8. As a responsible parent, you will want to make sure that your children receive a balanced diet with all key nutrients accounted for. You will undoubtedly plan meals carefully throughout the week. You will then come home to find your 6 foot son standing at the open fridge door, eating planned meals 1,2 and 3 whilst moaning that there is “like, NO FOOD in the house” before shambling off and leaving the fridge door wide open. You should also develop the culinary skills of a Masterchef finalist because nobody will ever want what you have actually planned to cook as they all seem to imagine that they live a Michelin-starred existence and there is some sort of menu from which they can choose every night. Learn the phrase – “it’s Spag Bol or nothing,” and use it often.
2. 9. Driving – another bone of contention (as if there weren’t enough already). When your kids reach 17, they are likely to demand driving lessons. Then they will demand “like, a decent car”. At this point, you should expect attitude over gratitude as they declare that they are “like, not driving that heap of shit” gesticulating wearily at your much loved, if elderly, Ford Focus. If you are foolish enough to point out to them that putting them on your insurance is likely to cost a couple of grand, they will rear up and screech “IT’S NOT LIKE, MY FAULT – I DIDN’T ASK TO BE BORN YOU LOSER. BEN’S DAD’S BOUGHT HIM A FUCKING ASTON MARTIN WITH PERSONALISED NUMBER PLATES. YOU’RE LIKE SOOOO CHEAP.”
3. 10. The moment you utter one small word of dissent about anything (or even if you just repeat a request as mild as ‘could you pass me that plate please?’) you will be instructed to “LIKE CALM DOWN!” said in tones that suggest you have just had a three hour screaming tantrum.
To be honest, I'm exhausted just having written that lot down, much less having lived it for quite a few years now. The good news is that they do (eventually) emerge from the teenage chrysalis and something semi-human appears, something that can actually hold a conversation without grunting or screeching and does, occasionally, show affection and gratitude.
Oh, but just one more thing before I go .... all other parents are cooler than you. Fact.