In many ways it is easy to forget that ‘The Teenager’ is part of the family. She doesn’t want to go out with you – unless there’s something in it for her, she appears only at meal times, she is not often at home as she is staying the night with a friend and when she is at home she is either on the computer, horizontal watching the television or sleeping off the excesses of the night before.
If you are prepared to accept this then you can still have a rewarding relationship with ‘The Teenager’. This is what you must do:
1. Take her on regular outings with your credit card, give her lunch and a new wardrobe
2. Never ask her where she is going or with whom
3. Trust her to tell you the truth at all times
4. Don’t ask her to help in the house
5. Never remark on the smell of her trainers or ask when she last washed her clothes
6. Make sure all meal times are arranged around The Teenager’s social life
7. Offer to collect her from all parties at 2am or let her stay the night
8. Be prepared to pay for all outings, clothes, food etc. on demand and without question
9. Keep the fridge full of microwavable snacks
10. Never sing along to the radio when her friends are around
11. Never turn up at school driving a Skoda.
You may choose to ignore this advice in which case I now have pleasure in introducing you to my unexpurgated: ‘Life with The Teenager’:
6.30am – Get up so as to be ready to wake The Teenager up at 7am.
Wash, dress, do makeup, make breakfast, prepare packed lunches.
7am – Stick head round teenager’s door and brightly announce that it is time to get up. Expect nothing more than a bleary groan in response.
7.40am – teenager appears at breakfast table looking gorgeous but not quite clean. Teenager eats breakfast in 2 minutes and leaves, still chewing.
Clean kitchen, make beds, put on washing.
8.30am – go to work.
4pm return from work, start to prepare dinner
4.30pm Teenager returns home, walks through door, says ‘Hi, what’s for dinner?’ followed by ‘Yum, when will it be, I’m starving?’ or ‘Yuk, got any pizzas?’ depending on whether the proposed meal is junky or healthy respectively.
Assume it is something healthy – you are after all wonder woman. This is where it gets a bit sticky. You can either respond to her pizza question in the affirmative or, if you are a good and patient parent, you can say ‘I’ve cooked this meal and it’s good for you so please eat it’. This will be greeted by either: a) Compliance (good hair day) b) Storming off but compliance with sulking (normal day) or c) Stand up row (PMT day).
After a weekend of outings and a squeezed in homework session on Sunday The Teenager’s bedroom floor is probably invisible under a layer or two of clothes, makeup, guitars, tissues, hair paraphernalia, hats, scarves and other more unsavoury articles. You have been waiting all day for her to come home so that you can get her to tidy it up. Unfortunately you have just created an atmosphere of non-cooperation by insisting on the healthy dinner. Undaunted you climb the stairs and suggest it might be a good idea if she tidies her bedroom before her clothes walk out on their own. This may result in: a) ‘OK’ (you faint) b) ‘I’ve got too much homework’ (followed by a long and futile argument about how she will be able to concentrate much better if she has a clear floor and desk) or 3) ‘*!**!!**’ or words to that effect, resulting in a stand up row.
If you get the ‘OK’ you need to recover from your faint as soon as possible. You will soon notice the sound of loud music accompanied by the tapping of the computer keyboard. This will either be the teenager doing her homework in the mess with the music on so loud you can’t think – so how can she? or she is corresponding with a friend on MSN. In either case she is not tidying her bedroom.
You know that you must be consistent with children and teenagers and so if you have asked for the bedroom to be tidied that is what must happen. I will not relate, verbatim, the ensuing conversation but let it be recognised that it will be protracted and involve threats regarding money and future outings. Eventually the bedroom will be tidied after a fashion, at least you will be able to see the makeup stains on the carpet again.
The evening ends when you fall into bed to the sounds from downstairs of the washing machine spinning The Teenager’s clothes and the beeping of the tumble drier, full of more Teenager clothes – there’s a whole bedroom floor-full to be dealt with after all. From upstairs you can hear the music, turned down but still playing, the plonk, plonk of MSN messages passing back and forth and the intermittent sound of Crazy Frog announcing the arrival of a text message or call. Occasionally The Teenager can be found fast asleep in the middle of all this mayhem or watching television in another room.
So this is the pattern of your weekdays. The weekends follow another, more wearing pattern. The teenager’s social life depends largely on your co-operation. If you want an easy life, don’t ask her where she is going, with whom and especially whether there will be a parent there. The teenager would have you believe that all her friends hold parties with the agreement of their parents who obligingly go out for the whole night. Your response to this should be ‘Oh, that’s great. What’s their telephone number? I must call and thank them for their offer of hospitality to you’. The look of horror in The Teenager’s eyes is something to behold. Inevitably this will lead to more debate of the heated variety.
Unfortunately teenagers have nowhere to go unless they have money. Money, of course, offers them the opportunity to purchase things you would prefer them not to have and so teenagers tend to be broke until they get a Saturday job. Once they have the job you can relax a bit as they are usually so tired on a Saturday night they want to stay in and have an early night. It also teaches them how hard it is to earn money, which may, if you are lucky, reflect in their attitude to you and your money.
Before they can get a job though they are attracted, at the weekend, to areas where they can loiter, look menacing, annoy adults and shop keepers, keep warm and meet with each other. Try not to be ashamed of them, they may look menacing but most of them are pussy cats really. Ungrateful – just like pussy cats, always asking for food – just like pussy cats, always wanting to be somewhere inconvenient – just like pussycats and making lots of noise while you are trying to get to sleep – j. l. p. c.
If you are thinking of having a family, bear all this in mind. You may think that being woken four times every night by a screaming, hungry baby is just a stage that will pass and then you will have a joyful, warm, fulfilling relationship with your child who will eventually leave for university at the appointed time and continue her life as an independent woman of the world, leaving you and your beloved to resume your honeymoon (with more importance placed on contraception). Do not be misled; a child is for life not just for Christenings.