Monday, 25 February 2008

And another thing about teenagers: there's so much of them

‘So, Mom, can I have a couple of friends over on Saturday night?’ my 16-year-old daughter asked.

Since we were going to our seaside flat, where there’s a gorgeous beach, but no TV reception and no nightlife, so reading and resting – anathema to teenagers – are all that are on offer, I said yes because I imagined they would keep her from bouncing into my bedroom seven times an hour, throwing herself dramatically all over me and sighing loudly, ‘I’m booooooored!’

Until we were on the road she hadn’t mentioned that we would have to pick them up on the way there, and I suppose because she isn’t that good at maths, she hadn’t added up how five large people and their luggage, all our food and supplies, and a dog, were going to fit into our normal-sized family car. I did what any parent would do in the circumstances: I closed my eyes and told them to tell me when they were all packed and in.

And so we were off. And immediately back again for various forgotten items (contact lens solution, cellphone, sleeping bag, etc). And then we were off again, and I was saying, ‘Whatever’s been left behind now, that’s it, you can do without it,’ and surreptitiously watching the teenagers in the rearview mirror rolling their eyes because I was being so, like, uncool.

And then we were at the holiday flat and the teenagers were standing out on the verandah admiring the view and discussing what they should wear to the beach (um, a swimming costume maybe?) and I was carrying boxes of food and piles of bedding and towels up the stairs, until I said, ‘Hey, guys, what am I, your packhorse?’ and they all pitched in, with, of course, much rolling of eyes. (One smartarse actually said to my daughter, ‘What’s the, like, hurry?’ and I said, ‘So you don’t want to get to the beach, like, today?’ and they all laughed in that terrible patronising teenage way.)

Then it was much later and my daughter, who was still on the beach, SMSd me a please-call-me (not because she didn't have airtime but because you don’t, like, waste SMSs on your mother). I called her and she said, ‘We met some friends from school down here, can they come for dinner?’ And I was distracted by too much reading and resting and said yes without asking the vital question: how many? (And, possibly, ‘what gender?’, but what would the point have been? Of course, they were all boys.)

And when they started trooping in through the door, I felt like I was watching one of those silly movies where nine clowns climb out of a Mini although in this case it was nine great galumphing teenagers climbing into my relatively small seaside apartment.

I found another packet of pasta and added another few tins of tomatoes to the bolognaise sauce, and was able to do all this without being noticed because I was Just The Mom and the teenagers had commandeered the sound system and all the sofas and chairs. (Why do teenagers sit like that – all spread out with their legs everywhere? Each one takes up enough room for three normal people. And the boys all have Such Huge Feet.)

When I said the magic words – ‘Food’s up, guys’ – there was what seemed at first to be some sort of seismic upheaval in the room but was in fact only nine ravenous teenagers elbowing each other out the way in order to get at the grub. Following which there was an astonishing few seconds of bliss – silence but for the scrape of cutlery on crockery – before a second seismic upheaval (for seconds) and another few seconds of bliss.

Following which, thoroughly cowed, I took to my bed with earplugs.

Which must have fallen out some time during the night because I was woken the next morning by the hysterical screeching of what I assumed to be a wild animal in pain. I leapt from my bed, flung open my door, and found the four remaining teenagers (all girls; the boys had not been invited to spend the night, not only for the obvious reasons but where would I have put them?) involved in what looked like a violent scrap on the living-room floor but turned out to be a ‘tickle fight’. Ye gods.

‘You want to keep it down a bit, girls?’ I asked and they all rolled their eyes and the smartarse said to my daughter, ‘What is it with your mom?’

So I took the dog and went to the beach and by the time I got back they’d all gone out. The place looked like it had been ransacked by Visigoths but the silence was sublime. I moved a huge pile of sopping clothes and towels off a verandah chair and settled down with a good book, the dog at my feet. Heaven.

On the way back home later that day the teenagers agreed they’d had such a good time that they wanted to come again. But my daughter had a ‘really good’ idea (inspired, no doubt, by the smartarse) in addition: ‘Next time, Ma, why don’t you stay at home and have some peace and quiet, and we’ll go to the flat on our own?’

I admit I gave it a few seconds thought because on the face of it it was a massively appealing notion. Then I remembered the four hours I’d taken to clean up the dross and debris of just one night of teenage bedlam – the stacked plates in the sink, the begrimed pots, the gazillions of used glasses and coffee mugs, the wet clothes on the beds (and, for that matter, everywhere), the horror scene that was the bathroom after all the girls had ‘got ready’ in it (including lots of wet towels, all on the floor), the drifts of sand they’d dragged back from the beach in their takkies, the spillages and breakages, and I said, ‘Maybe when you’re older.’

I watched the smartarse roll her eyes in the rearview mirror and mouth to my daughter, ‘So uncool!’ and I thought, You got that right, buddy.

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Juno said...

Oh Mur, you make my heart sing.

I was infuriated by the the mess left by the 'few' friends my 16-year-old asked to have over for a little party ('few', in this context, meant FOURTEEN large teenagers).

To my mind, 'a few' means three or maybe five people. But FOURTEEN?

meggie said...

Teenagers. They should be kept in small cages until they are 22!