12 February 2014

Play date

Posted in Family life

I’m always encouraged when my teens bring a friend home, mainly because it says they’re happy to introduce the family and feel comfortable with the fact that their dad tells ‘dad jokes’ and their mum asks too many questions.

That’s not to say they’re immune to their parents’ overzealous enthusiasm. “Dad, please don’t act all funny when they come – just be normal”, is the plea.  My youngest has also been known to announce to us all: “Please can the house look nice.” The first time he admonished us, I found it amusing. The second time I showed him the vacuum cleaner and asked if he’d had a good look at the state of his bedroom lately.

With new friends, we’re usually on our best behaviour. Everyone is polite and speaks in a calm voice. For example: “If it’s not too much trouble, sweetheart, would you mind bringing the dirty plates to the kitchen,” as opposed to the usual; “How many times do I have to ask you to pick up after yourselves and how difficult is it to put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher!” We’re all light and loveliness with new friends around.

Old family friends know we’re not actually always like that.

Not so sensible was my daughter’s recent request that we vacate our home when her friends came for a birthday dinner. Perhaps it has something to do with a flush of independence, but my ‘sweet sixteen’ treasure asked if the entire family, including her two brothers, would make ourselves scarce for the evening.

I have no idea what embarrassment she thought the four of us would inflict but we listened after she said her friends had done the same. We listened! On reflection, we were insane. It was only when we were driving down the road that I thought that perhaps parents coming to retrieve their daughters would consider us very bad parents for leaving 20 girls to their own devices. It turns out, one did. “Who’s in charge here?” she asked my squirming daughter. “They’ve gone to see a movie,” sounded rather hollow.

She’s since apologised many times and sheepishly admitted she wished she’d asked us to stay, especially when trying to make homemade pizzas for 20 teens each with their own favourite topping.

The good news is that they seem to quite like us – there are returning friends. In the midst of all the cringe-worthy parent comments, we must be doing something right.

Lois Nicholls

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