Spent the weekend at Wellington Education Festival exhibiting Stuck on homework and listening to some inspiring speeches by Sir Bob Geldof, A.A.Gill and Sir Terry Leahy. My friend and ex-child minder K came to stay to babysit the children and the house, despite my DD’s requests to be left alone ‘ You can trust us, it’s not like we’re stupid enough to have a party or something ‘. This is not all reassuring as DD has clear criteria as to what constitutes a party and apparently anything under 20 teens is ‘ A Gathering ‘. If you have ever seen 20 teenagers in one normal sized house you will know that it is more like a Viking raid than a bloody ‘ gathering’, so K stayed over to supervise.
I returned last night to find the house clean and tidy apart from a crate of empty beer bottles next the sink and my DD with what seemed suspiciously like a hangover. It turned out the empties were the result of DS and a few of his mates spending the afternoon in the back garden wearing flat caps and sunglasses drinking ‘like northerners’ in celebration of the visit of J’s Manchester cousin. Only a couple of lads were still there and no one was the worse for wear so northerners are clearly a good drinking role model. DD on the other hand looked decidedly ropey. She had spent the previous night at a party .‘ Yeah, about 50, definitely a party, L’s parents are so cool they didn’t even mind when P was sick in the pond. There’s, like, fish in it ‘. ‘ Not anymore ‘ I tell her. ‘ So, you appear to have a hangover…’ “ It’s not a hangover, I just drank a bit much and I don’t feel very well today ‘ . ‘ That’s what a hangover is. And you’re too young to have one so no more parties for a month ‘. I ignore the immediate rise in decibels as DD berates me for my meanness and lack of understanding as to what it’s like to be young – she’s wrong of course, it’s because I remember only too well what it’s like to be 15 that I can see through DD’s flimsy attempts to pass off her first hangover. She slams the kitchen door loudly behind her as she leaves the kitchen and I put some washing on, empty and reload the dishwasher and debate whether to go out for a bit with the most low maintenance and easy going member of the family – the dog. DS enters the kitchen. ‘ What’s for supper, I’m starving? And can you take me to rugby tomorrow and I need to get some new shoes…’ ” I kneel down beside the dog and whisper in his ear ‘ I like you best ‘.
Friday night and my DS is out celebrating the end of GCSEs with a group of his friends. In the week that saw the publication of yet another report detailing the dangerous rise in teenage drinking, I am prepared for the worst when he appears in the kitchen dressed in his going out clothes, a vapour trail of hair product and deodorant behind him.
‘ We’re going to celebrate the end of our exams, can I have some money please? ‘ ‘ Where are you going?’ I am expecting the mumbled name of some tenacious teenager who has somehow persuaded his or her poor parents to let them hold a party where much excessive drinking and unsuitable jolly japes will take place. ‘ Nando’s ‘. ‘Oh ‘. I am thrown for a moment but recover quickly. ‘ But where are you going after Nando’s? ‘ I have him now. ‘ Home. J is staying, his parents are away and I said you wouldn’t mind. So can I have 20 quid please? ‘ I hand the money over happily, it’s a small price to pay for a celebratory night of fine dining with one’s companions, and think about the contrast between this Friday night and the one about 18 months ago when I received a call from a friend of DS informing me that DS ‘ wasn’t very well ‘ due to ‘ er, you know, too much alcohol ‘. I was surprised by the news as he had left the house less than 45 minutes earlier to head to the downs ‘ to hang out ‘, so much damage had been done in a short time. We established he was conscious, sitting propped up against a tree being poorly and had consumed 3 cans of lager and about half a ( small ) bottle of vodka. I fetched him home and mopped his brow while he groaned ‘ Why do I feel so bad, why do I feel so bad? ‘ Like the rest of us DS learnt the hard way that evening that what seems like the best fun ever can rapidly turn into a nightmare of head spinning, sickness and occasionally A & E, something obviously forgotten by hundreds of lashed up Take That fans Old Enough To Know Better this week.
DS returns at the appointed hour, ie. 11 o clock, barely even smelling of booze and looking every inch the model teen. Something I doubt he is going to replicate when he goes to Newquay in a few weeks – oh God.
I got so worked up before my A Level history that my mum went out and bought me a packet of fags to calm my nerves. Half way through the kids’ GCSEs and things are surprisingly peaceful in our house. My teens require food, sleep and sympathy for their exam state but fortunately no nicotine. My DS used our new website, www.stuckonhomework.com to do his maths ( I know it’s a plug but it really works ) while DD, who is sitting 3 science modules, figures she can always re-sit if things go badly and could I pleeeeease just go away ‘ And yes, I will do some revision when I’m ready, stop nagging! ‘ So just as I was congratulating myself on a calm, stress free house with both teens present and correct in their rooms while I head off to bed at 11pm on Saturday night ( sad I know but I am 103 ), five teenage friends of my DS traipse through the back door, one of whom – J – is covered in blood.
It transpires that he had been kicked in the face by a lad whose brother he had brawled with at a party earlier in the evening and amongst other minor cuts and bruises he has a small but deep cut under his eye which needs stitches. I clean it up as best I can and make the usual mummy noises about being lucky no one was carrying a knife and how martial artists always say the best weapon you have are your feet because they will take you away from trouble and ..They all nod politely but I know my words are falling on deaf adolescent ears – they are young and so think they are invincible.
Contemplating his eye in my make-up mirror J says ‘ Chicks dig scars ‘ and they all laugh.
7pm on Friday. DS and DD are in their bedrooms, he with his new GF, she her first proper BF and I am on Parent Sex Patrol. This involves a series of strategic visits throughout the evening to prevent any actual sex taking place while acknowledging the basic, primitive and overwhelming teenage need to ferret about under the quilt in a state of semi-undress with fellow sweaty adolescents. So, when the children Have Company I leave them to get acquainted for about an hour, lulling them into a false sense of security that the parent downstairs is going to behave and leave them to it. Then I take in a pile of clean laundry having noisily announced my arrival to give them a minute to adjust clothing, smooth down hair etc etc and ask the red faced couplers if they require anything, a cup of tea or soft drink perhaps? ‘ No thank you very much ‘ they all say politely, smiling pleasantly while their eyes beg ‘ please go away, go away now please ‘ and so I do. To reappear 10 minutes later asking if they are really sure they don’t want anything? ‘ No!’ Not so polite this time, but I am happy enough having made the point that I might come in At Any Moment so activities of an intimate nature must be kept at the level they can be interrupted at a moment’s notice.
Back downstairs my BF and I have a mutual chuckle about the frustrated hormonal couplings above us while watching this year’s hopefuls showcase their questionable party pieces on Britain’s Got Talent. An hour to go until the suitors depart, so one noisy trip upstairs to deposit something in my room which will be enough to scare them into introducing some space between their heaving, hormonal selves and one final actual visit with ‘ a bit more laundry ‘ and a bright smile which is topped off by opening the bedroom window, ‘ I think we need a bit of fresh air in here, you both look a bit hot…’ indicating that all sexual shenanigans are now at an end. I almost feel sorry for them – almost.