BY THE time you read this, my daughter will have reached the frankly astonishing age of 15 without ever having been arrested, been drunk and disorderly, self-harmed, had a psychotic episode, set the house on fire, been expelled from school, got pregnant, been caught shop lifting, or beaten anyone up, apart from her younger brother, which doesn’t count.
Obviously this incredible level of virtue could change at any minute, but until it does, I would like, as her mother and sole parent, to claim loads and loads of credit. In fact, all of it. Go me, with my law-abiding, school-attending, substance non-abusing teenager.
Although really much of the credit should go to the Great British Bake Off. The reason my 15-year-old isn’t dropping acid in double chemistry and getting her neck tattooed at break time is because she is too busy baking macaroons and lemon drizzles; she is more at risk from cake-induced diabetes than anything you can buy online that pretends to be plant food but keeps you up for three days. She is not so much a drug fiend as a bake nerd. Thank you, Mary Berry, for your input.
Obviously, I do my bit as well in her overall education; dragging her around galleries, going on long roadtrips where we always get lost, playing her old rave anthems from back in the day that make her cringe, and pointing her towards reading material beyond the usual teen vampire stuff. When I overhear her tell someone that of course she is a feminist, what else could any girl possibly be, I almost dissolve in a puddle of lady joy. Yesssssss, I congratulate myself. Job bloody well done.
And so it seems perfectly reasonable to invite her on a trip to volunteer at the refugee camp in Calais. What an opportunity to gain a new perspective on the world, help others, be part of a team, find a new appreciation for all that she has, blah blah blah. It would be, I suggest, a novel and unforgettable way to spend her birthday.
Her response is swift: “Mother. If you think I am spending my fifteenth birthday in a refugee camp, you must be mental.” There is no persuading her. Instead, she will stay home with her friends and a birthday cake. “You go to Calais,” she urges. “Please go. Really. Just go.”
Before I leave, I decide we should have an educational family trip to the cinema to see Suffragette. The 12 year old refuses point blank. “A load of old people in bonnets? No way. I don’t care if they threw themselves under the king’s elephant. You can’t make me.”
He stays at home, killing people on his XBox. Women chained themselves to railings to vote and have full parental rights over their own children, I tell him over the din of Call of Duty or whatever psychotic filth he has chosen over Mrs Pankhurst. “Whatever,” he says, without looking up. He pauses, deadpan. “You know she’s going to have a massive party when you’re away, right?”
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