NZ Woman's Weekly

The terrible teens

The youngest daughter turned 14 with a flurry of social activity. Friends turned up, one at a time, for hours on end. I was worried they’d wear the front door out.

No-one had mentioned to me there was going to be an all-day birthday social at our place. The daughter and her mother gave me their “I’m sure we told you” looks when I found out about it, but I could tell they knew they hadn’t told me.

I was working at home on the birthday – as I do these days – so having the house gradually fill up with teenagers was an interesting challenge. At least, I thought it was going to be. But it wasn’t really so bad at all. These kids were polite. Girls smiled and said hello; forthright boys shook my hand and looked me in the eye.

As a father of five girls, I’m not used to having boys look me in the eye when we meet. Boys who are friends of daughters, that is. And it’s important for any father of daughters to be able to distinguish “boy friends” from “boyfriends”. The latter deserve little mercy or understanding. But it’s not time for that sort of talk yet. I have a little time to prepare myself – though probably not much.

She’ll be the last of my children lost to the awful inevitableness of adulthood. Still, that’s why we’re given grandchildren, I guess. On that subject, I have another one of those due any day now. I won’t be attending the birth. I’ll hold myself in readiness at a dignified distance. The last time that particular daughter gave birth I accidentally attended.

Thankfully, it was so crowded in the delivery unit I didn’t see much – though I certainly heard pretty much everything. I’ll be looking for signs of change in the newly 14-year-old daughter. I’m not sure if 14 is one of those dangerous ages – like a teenage equivalent of the legendary “terrible twos”.

When you think about it, 14 could be that – the beginning of teenage-hood, which makes me wish I hadn’t thought about it. It’s not a very pleasant thought. But there are few signs of terribleness so far, though it’s very early days.

Seeing we’re on the subject of early days, may I mention my beloved wife has fallen into the habit of setting her alarm clock for a time earlier and earlier in the morning? It wouldn’t be so bad if she actually got up for the bell, but she doesn’t. She lies there, thinking about getting up for as long as 20 minutes, leaving me to fall asleep again, only to be woken a second time when she decides to bound out of bed.

Any suggestions that she might set the alarm a little later and rise a little sooner don’t go down well for reasons she doesn’t explain. As a result, I find myself getting up earlier than I really want to, leaving me wondering if this is a sensible time to be starting a day. Though I really shouldn’t forget that being in a happy relationship sometimes means making little sacrifices along the way.

Finding myself up sooner than usual to start a new day maybe isn’t such an awful thing. But if it gets much earlier, it’ll certainly be getting there.

Issue 1541

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Simon Barnett’s 7 magic rules

In this week's issue of New Zealand Woman's Weekly magazine: Simon Barnett reveals his seven magic rules for raising girls.

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