There are certain disadvantages to your children turning 18. For starters, this conversation…
“I’m going out on Saturday night.”
“Whereabouts in town?”
“What time will you be back?”
“Dunno. I’ll take my key.”
At which point you have to wave the white flag. You’ve invested 18 years in your children. You have to trust them, however vividly you remember your own nights ‘just in town, just with friends…’
And a good job Ben was taking his key – along with his triumphantly-waved ID – because Jane and I were away for the night. Not that it would stop us worrying.
“Fair enough. But text us when you’re safely home. Whatever time it is, send a text. Let us know you’re safe.”
Which he did. At 3:12am. Inevitably it woke me up. Which meant I realised my phone needed charging. Which led to me crawling round the hotel room on my hands and knees. Naked…
But that’s for next week. Back to my homework: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Your Son Turning 18.
Worry is clearly the first one. And competition is the second one: the wretched boy has started using his ID in the kitchen.
Wednesday night: and there was half a bottle of Shiraz left. I was distraught to find that my beloved was “feeling queasy” and didn’t want any.
‘Oh well,’ I thought…
Not so fast. I gave the pasta sauce a stir and turned round to pour myself a generous glass.
“Don’t we need two glasses, Dad?”
“Oh. Do we? Oh. Yes. I suppose we do…”
I wasn’t sure whether to put a tick in the ‘good parent’ column or turn myself into social services. “Yes, it’s my youngest son. Drinking red wine on a school night…”
But let’s play that ‘glass half full’ game. Only one glass of wine equals a finished report while the wife watches Bake Off.
And there’s another advantage. A big one…
“Do me a favour will you, Ben? I need to concentrate on the dinner. Zip down to the shop and buy your Mum a ginger beer will you?”
“What? Just ginger beer?”
“No. She’s not in the ‘Famous Five.’ Add the words ‘Crabbies’ and ‘Alcoholic.’ You’ll find it in the fridge. Note the spot for future reference. And take two quid off my dressing table.”
What a hero: he grabs his ID and scoots off. Brilliant. The novelty will inevitably wear off fairly soon and flashing his driving licence won’t compensate for getting cold and wet, but let’s take advantage while it lasts.
But you may as well sound the bad parent klaxon again: a week past his birthday and I turned him into such a regular that they don’t bother asking for his ID any more.
And inevitably, there’s a price to pay for my son’s door-to-door service. “I know you said Stella, Dad, but I thought we’d have Budweiser instead.”
“Why? Was it on special offer?”
“No. It’s my favourite.”
The problems of parenting. A fortnight ago I’d walk down to the shop and come back with four bottles of Stella. Now I’m stuck with Bud – and only three bottles after Ben has deducted his delivery charge.
At least Tom had the grace to wait until his first holiday from university to tell me what I was allowed to drink.
And Christmas is coming…
“What wine are we going to have, Tom?”
“Leave it with me, Ben. I’ll sort it out. Can you get Dad’s card and buy the beer?”
“No problem. Shall I ask Dad what he wants?”
“No! Don’t do that. He’s got no taste. Just let him pay…”
I’m now working on a 35,000 word e-book about the 5 day, father/son walk Ben and I did on the Pennine Way: if you’d like to read a few sample chapters before publication, just use the contact form to let me know. In the meantime if you’d like a copy of the ‘laugh out loud’ Best Dad featuring 27 of my favourite columns from all the years I’ve been writing, it’s available here for 99p on your Kindle.