Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Teenage Test

I think I’ve turned a corner with my teenage daughter.  You know, the corner you metaphorically take on two wheels as you flee from stroppy moods, scowls, huffs, puffs, and general whines of, ‘It’s not fair,’ or (drop a gear and hit the accelerator for this one), ‘Can I have some money?’ So what’s the reason for this shift in direction?  Well I’ll tell you.  It’s because earlier this week my daughter asked a question which, quite frankly, was astounding.  I see it as a milestone.
          We’d just finished dinner.  The table was covered in dirty plates and glasses.  The worktop was littered with paraphernalia.  As I put my knife and fork together, my daughter stood up and said, ‘Do you need any help?’  I’ve waited fifteen years for this question.  It’s nothing short of a miracle.  I was so gobsmacked I couldn’t speak.  So Eleanor took it as her cue that help was not required. And swiftly fled.
          I think the real reason behind this sudden thoughtfulness is due to her lack of input being flagged up whilst staying overnight with the boyfriend’s family.  The boyfriend is very practical.  Unlike his girlfriend.  So when he knocked on Eleanor’s bedroom door with a full English breakfast, my daughter was thrilled to bits and tucked in.  Downstairs there was a small matter of a kitchen looking as though a bomb had gone off.  Greasy pan.  Congealed saucepan.  Fat splattered get the picture.  Being a teenager who has, up until now, not lifted a finger at home, it simply didn’t dawn on my daughter to lift a finger while away either.  And boys are boys, so naturally this boy forgot all about the mess.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Minutes later the two of them had hopped on a bus and tootled off to do a bit of shopping.
          When the boyfriend’s mother returned from work – tired and looking to cook dinner – she wasn’t too chuffed at having to roll up her sleeves and get scouring before she could even pick up a potato and get peeling.  When Eleanor and her chap returned, the pair of them were taken to task.  And rightly so.  But I’ve been flabbergasted at the change in my daughter since this event.  Her bed has been made, clothes have been folded and put away, laundry has been taken to the bin, and even her desk has been tidied.  So the secret to training your teenager is clear.  Forget nagging.  Forget pleading.  Or shouting or bribing or acting all depressed and downtrodden and miserable.  It’s simple.  Get somebody else to put the verbal rocket up your teenager’s backside.  Because your teenager might not listen to you, but they definitely listen to someone else.  David Cameron should take this on board and offer it as a public service to all harassed mothers of teenagers. 
          Which reminds me.  What is adolescence?  That period in life when parents become more difficult...

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