Tag Archives: teens

The secret of successful sleepovers – just leave them to it . . .

SLEEPOVERS didn’t exist when I was a kid. Well, they probably did, but they were a much more informal affair.

Back then things were fairly spontaneous. I might stay over at my friend’s house up the road at age 11 or 12, topping and tailing in a single bed, whispering about who was our favourite member of Duran Duran, because it had got late and it was just easier to walk home the next morning. In my teens I often stayed at the homes of my two best friends who lived in town, because I came from a village with one bus a week, my dad worked, and my mum didn’t drive. Sleepovers were born of necessity, not organised social events.

Not so today. Anyone with children of school age will probably have been nagged to have their offspring’s pals for a ‘sleepover.’

At first I always said ‘no.’ While I always liked the idea of having an open house where my kids’ friends came and went like members of an extended family, the reality was different. It’s as much as I can do to keep some semblance of health and safety with four kids and Bloke under the same roof. In short, our house is often a tip. Then there’s the added horror of strangers seeing me shuffling around puffy-eyed in a dressing gown.

But when the two eldest got to about age ten the nagging increased. Eventually I made it a birthday event – allowing a couple of boys over for a night so all the kids would watch a video and grind microwave popcorn into the carpets. I’d hastily change all the duvet covers and make up beds on mattresses on the floor. They’d all talk loudly into the night while Bloke and I went up and down the stairs telling them to keep the noise down and go to sleep in a manner than started politely and usually ended crossly. Our boys all share a room so we inevitably had a younger Billy to worry about.

Boys mesmerised by the Xbox

These days the ‘sleepovers’ happen more frequently, mostly thanks to the blinkin’ X-Box. They have school friends over to play computer games (even though technology means they can play each other online with headsets to talk to each other from the comfort of their own homes). I’ve given up worrying about what to feed our visitors. Meals are already an ad-hoc affair usually involving huge batches of pasta or oven chips and if they don’t like the vegetables, they can leave them. I can’t threaten them like I do my own children. Poor Billy now gets hoofed out of his bunk to share his sister’s room and we leave the older boys to take over the living room while we watch TV in the kitchen or go to bed early. It’s usually a weekend, they get sent to bed by 11pm, and lie in the next morning. Apart from the occasional check to see they aren’t doing anything they shouldn’t be, we leave them to it.

I can only guess how frequently this must happen if you have daughters. At the moment Bonnie is only four, but judging by the horrific tales of hair-dying disasters, nail-polish accidents and tearful fallings-out I hear from friends-with-girls, I’ll be putting off her sleepovers as long as possible.

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Don’t wish it away. . .well, not all of it anyway

A LADY stopped me in a shop this week, to tell me she regularly read my local newspaper column, and asked after the kids by name. (I blushed, garbled an embarrassed thank you, felt enormous relief that someone actually reads it).

She told me how her own children were now grown up, and that she didn’t get to see her grandchildren often, as they lived elsewhere.

“One thing you shouldn’t do though,” she said. I braced myself. Which of my numerous parental faux-pas had she remembered?

“Don’t wish any of it away, not a second. Not even the tantrums, the teenage years, the mountains of washing. Before you know it, they’ll all have gone, and you’ll miss it more painfully than you could ever imagine.”

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After babyhood, prepare yourself for the shock and awe of the teenage years

PLENTY of people warn you about the impact a newborn baby will have on your life, but there’s a second phase of shock and awe to come which is less discussed.

When it comes to coping with teens, the conversation just becomes clichéd.

It’s true that they do, literally overnight, lose the ability to speak without mumbling and leave clothes and towels all over the floor. They do get spots and fill the house with a gagging fog of Lynx body spray (I’m sure if you have daughters it’s something like Impulse).

But who ever tells you how you’ll feel when they’re suddenly as tall as you, or have bigger feet than you?

Or when they start having friends whose Mums you don’t know from the school gates?

Or going to parties that don’t involve a bouncy castle injury and a piece of squashed birthday cake?

In a weird way, watching them grow up gives you delight and sadness.

Somehow the years between the ages of about two and 11 seem strangely simple, if a little manic. Even when I had four of them aged ten and under.

You know – most of the time – where they are, who they’re with, and what they’re up to.

Then suddenly, you don’t.

It’s easy, well, easy-ish, to allow them some independence. That mobile phone you finally relented on when they started secondary school, that might make you feel better because you would always know where they were?

Well, now it’s not only the ever extending leash, it’s the source of all the stuff you don’t know about. The Twitter feed, the faceless friends, the Facebook events, and freedom from family.

I can’t pretend I’m not jittery about seeing my elder boys grow up, grow away. And while I try to be cool, try not to hover, Bloke tells me I need to resist the urge to stop them making their own mistakes. I need to stop throwing up the metaphorical bumpers at the bowling alley.

I can’t help it, I still see my 14-year-old as that wide-eyed smiley baby who wouldn’t sit still for a moment.

Anyway, to revert to the clichés, I can still enjoy being an embarrassing mother. Apparently they are mortified when I get cross in shops, or try to hug them in public. Emptying their three-year-old sister Bonnie’s potty by the kerb when she’s caught short in the car is one of my specialities (needs-must), as well as wolf-whistling loudly in public spaces to get their attention. Strangely, they aren’t particularly bothered about the fact I write about them in these columns.

Slightly bruised by their casual list of my misdemeanours, I ask, “What about Dad, doesn’t he ever embarrass you?”

“Nah, Dad’s pretty cool.”

I give up.

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