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Opinion

Sam Delaney: My teenage daughter and her mates terrify me

But I'm chalking up a decent parent victory following her birthday celebrations.

Pizza

Photo: Jordon Kaplan/Unsplash

My daughter wanted to have her mates over to celebrate her 15th birthday. Sure, I said. But there were some conditions (hers, not mine). She wanted her mum, her brother and me to fuck off out of it for the evening so they could have the house to them-selves.

Also, she wanted me to lay on a Domino’s delivery and some prosecco. What if her mates got pissed and their parents blamed me? No problem, she said. They’d stay the night so their parents would never actually get to see them inebriated. A watertight plan.

I found myself saying yes to everything. It took a couple of days for the absolute piss-take nature of her proposal to sink in to my tired and weary brain. After which, I went back to the negotiating table with some conditions of my own. If she wanted me to lay on booze then there was no way I would be vacating the house. I would, however, get her mum and brother to make themselves scarce. 

My wife is a light sleeper who gets a bit, erm, volatile when she is awoken in the night. Also, she is far less intimidated by teenage girls than I am. So when they stay awake noisily talking shit all night, it’s a nailed-on certainty that my wife will storm in on them and make a massive scene at least twice.

I, on the other hand, am shit scared of both my daughter and her mates – they would have to be literally on fire for me to enter the same room as them and start issuing orders. Plus, these days, I will sleep through anything. My ability to kip any time, any place, anywhere is magical. I shut my eyes and – BAM! – I’m straight off to the land of nod, with no chance of even a stir for the next nine hours. Lovely stuff.

So I laid on three bottles of prosecco to be shared between seven girls. I figured this was enough for them to feel like they were having a mild piss-up without actually getting pissed up. These girls are amateurs, they have no idea what feeling battered is really like, with all the horror and dread and confusion. But they understandably crave some sense of escape from their lives, defined as they are by schools and bus rides; petty friendship dramas and suffocating social media obsessions; anxious parents and strung-out teachers; meaningless rules and existential dread.

One day they will learn that the only way to cope with these daily assaults on their emotional wellbeing is to face them head on, not try to escape into the corrosive oblivion that alcohol provides. But I can’t explain all that to them now. It would make no sense. They have to try this shit out and, hopefully, come to understand the futility for themselves. Until then, I’ll buy them their cheap bubbly wine and get a couple of jumbo pepperonis delivered to the door for them to soak it all up with.

On the night of the do, I packed my wife and son off to the mother-in-law’s, then locked myself in my bedroom with a bag of salted pretzels and a bottle of zero per cent lager. While I watched Midsommar – a profoundly disturbing drama about a batshit Swedish cult – I heard occasional shrieks and whoops from downstairs. I didn’t go down to investigate. These kids are nice, middle-class suburbanites. What’s the worst that could happen? I’m teetotal and my wife barely drinks. There is no alcohol in the house for them to raid beyond what I bought specifically for the party. I let them get on with it.

When I was their age, I was out and about guzzling booze in parks and on the streets, completely unsupervised. Most parents back then forbade alcohol so everyone had to do it in secret. I’d like to say it didn’t do us any harm but, 30 years later, I ended up in rehab, so… What’s the solution to all this? Hard to say. Prohibition doesn’t work: it just drives teen drinking underground. Allowing them to do whatever they like is a risky strategy too. Keeping it within the confines of the home, with a semblance of control over exactly how much booze they can access, seems the safest bet. 

None of them puked or died and they’d all pissed off home by 10 the next morning so I’m chalking this one up as a victory. I like to think of it as iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove parenting. One-nil to me.

Read more from Sam Delaney here. Follow him on Twitter here.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member.You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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