So what to do? It’s not like they want to come with you for days of downward dog in primitive conditions up a Portuguese mountain; they think yoga is for losers, plus there’s no wifi. And as a lone parent, the whole idea of a few days doing yoga up a mountain is to leave everything behind — especially the dogs and teenagers. Who have, respectively, fleas and exams.
“Just go, will you,” they say in exasperation. “Stop overthinking it. What do you think we are going to do?”
I am about to launch into a tirade of everything from both legal and illegal highs to prematurely making me a grandmother when I remember who I am talking to — Generation Sensible. The eldest one has dinner parties. She puts olives in bowls when her friends come over. She holds the hair of puking classmates at parties, and makes them tea afterwards. There is nothing to worry about. Or at least, this is the clever façade she presents, and one which I wholly embrace because it’s easier than imagining my house being overrun in my absence by a Facebook-advertised party.
The other one requires threats, however. If you bunk off school, I will put your iPhone on eBay and your PS4 out for the binmen. And yet throwing down threats to a teenage boy, pumped up on Lynx, Stormzy, and KFC, is like that bull-torturer who tripped over his own cape. It won’t end well. Instead, a combination of surveillance and bribery might be the thing.
The late AA Gill wrote how there is no parenting situation that cannot be improved by the proffering of a crisp tenner — or multiples thereof, if you are dealing with a brand-oriented teen. First, I mention a sum. Not a huge sum, but enough for some brand new branded leisure wear, to don when hanging out at the chicken shop, thus gaining maximum respeck from his peers, innit. (My second child is very, um, ‘street’.)
We negotiate. He will turn up at school on time, and refrain from sharing his true feelings about any of his teachers directly to their faces. He will return home from school at a reasonable hour, and repeat this pattern for three school days, in return for cash money. We shake hands. He looks pleased with himself, as though he has just conned an old lady out of her pension. Don’t forget, I warn him, I will be checking the school website every day to make sure you are maintaining your side of the bargain. Whatevs, he says. (I will be doing no such thing — why ruin a nice break with news of distant detentions?) I call a taxi for the airport, punching the air as I go.