A phone call to home while I’m in Holland.
A delightful chat with Jessica and Ben. Monosyllabic? No, they weren’t that communicative. Then again, teenagers do come with compensations. After last week’s list of things I miss now we’re four years from an empty nest, here’s the other side of the coin. The dark side to small children. Room 101. And five things that are in it...
The Party Bag: In the unlikely event that I’m allowed into Heaven I shall spend some time hurling abuse at the man who coined the term “paperless office”. Then I’ll set about the numbskull who came up with the idea of the Party Bag. Electrically coloured sweets full of e-numbers. A super-bouncy ball that careers around your kitchen until it finally breaks your favourite beer glass. And the ridiculous competitiveness of parents.
“Well, Lucretia’s party bag had a specially engraved pen. Crayons? No-one will ever speak to us again…”
It’s a children’s party for goodness sake. Did we need to be given presents for going to a party?
Vomit: Which frequently followed hot on the heels of the Party Bag. Vomit is not unknown in teenagers, but by and large they’ve learned to direct it. Even if it’s onto the cat after they’ve staggered home at five in the morning.
Small children just throw up, wherever and whenever. I remember one night: it was the days when I slept naked. I leapt out of bed to my howling son. Didn’t bother with a dressing gown. Held him. And felt the sick trickling down my back.
Then they grew up, went to school and caught those bugs that came with projectile vomiting. How I remember my darling daughter directing an unerring stream straight into my groin. Happy days…
Teeth Marks: There’s 21 months between Tom and Jessica. How can I put this? They’ve always been competitive. Jessica was small, delicate – and ferocious. She went through a phase where she kept her big brother firmly under control by biting him.
“Have you bitten your brother?”
“Well what are those teeth marks on his arm?”
“It was his own fault for being stupid.”
She grew out of it fairly quickly. Not long and she could be in your office. Don’t try and steal her parking space.
The left-over fish finger: Young children are not conducive to losing weight. You don’t have time to exercise – and there’s always something to keep you going. Fish fingers, chips and peas.
As you clear away you see that Jessica’s left half a fish finger on her plate – and there’s a bit of mayo on the side. Hashtag NomNom as they say. Eggy bread was my particular weakness. I could always be relied on to eat a slice of eggy bread. And then my own dinner. “Another new belt, darling?”
Baby Food: When Tom and Jessica were little I’d religiously trudge round the supermarket stocking up with Apple and Carrot, winter vegetable and sundry other little pots of gloop “full of the essential goodness your baby needs”.
They all tasted the same – of nothing at all.
We couldn’t be bothered by the time Ben arrived so he had whatever we had. Curry, chilli, spag bol – they all went into the blender and then into Ben.
Result? Tom still hasn’t progressed past Pizza Margherita, Jessica lives on sausage sandwiches and Ben eats everything. Take him out to dinner? An absolute joy, as long as the curry’s hot enough.
In the interests of fairness, I tried to finish off these lists with one more. “Five things I love about teenagers.”
I’m stuck at three…