I know there are teenage boys in the house because they belong to me and aren’t old enough to move out yet. But, even if you didn’t, the clues are everywhere.
The kitchen explosion. It will appear as if there has been a minor armed uprising in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter how recently order had been restored. The contents of the crockery cupboards and much of the glassware will be scattered around the rest of the house, under beds, by baths, on desks. You might think this would leave the kitchen itself clear, but you’d be wrong. There is likely to be an eruption of bread, butter, ketchup, knives, smears, cheese, ham, wrappers and packets, the epicentre of which is where a sandwich was made.
The magic movement of electrical equipment. You’ll find that where there are teenage boys, there will be the appropriation of anything that’s technical and vaguely useful. This means you’ll find – eventually, for it will have moved – that your tablet or laptop has been used to look up something baffling to do with Minecraft or music, your chargers are, apparently, public property and headphones will vanish faster than you could have thought possible. “Oh, I didn’t think you were using it, mum.”
Sock shenanigans. Teenage feet appear to consume socks at a faster rate than ordinary people’s. Thus, it doesn’t matter how many pairs of entirely suitable socks you provide for them, they will still steal yours – especially your favourites. The same applies, come to think of it, to any outdoor clothing, particularly the expensive stuff. Of course, it’ll never be quite the same if it eventually makes its way back to you.
Smells like teen spirit. I’m not sure it’s what Nirvana had in mind, but teen spirit (AKA a blend of socks, dirty clothes, aftershave, hair ‘product’ and something else you wouldn’t want to put your finger on) is a ripe and distinctive affair. The only time I came across something similar was in a ferret cage.
Blowing hot and cold. Just when you’ve got used to one set of rules of familial engagement “stand over there mum and don’t talk to me,” you’ll find yourself enveloped in a disconcertingly large and vigorous bear hug. “You’re the best mum.” It’s lovely, just hard to keep up.
Deciphering the code. A decade and a bit ago, you spent years teaching the now teenager person to speak. Their first utterings were probably entirely meaningful to them but somewhat garbled to anyone else. In time, you all worked out what they were trying to say. Sadly though, you’ll have to go through that process all over again. There will be a vast range of shrugs, grunts and eye-rolls plus a few made-up words and acronyms. None of it will be easy because the teenager will assume that translation is nothing to do with them. “Word, ma. It’s sick. YOLO.”
Reaching new heights. It’s alarming when the creatures you are used to looking down on start to tower over you. The change happens overnight, and no amount of knowledge that it’s going to happen makes the transition to peering upwards comfortable.
About Facebook.. and every other social network. When the teens are at large, old-fashioned talking to each other doesn’t always cut it. You need to employ a whole army of social networks to get your message across. Facebook might work – if you think they’re friends’ll see it too, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Facetime and even boring old text might be what you need.
Real conversation. This one will take you by surprise. One day you’ll be in your usual parental position of provider of food/shelter/transport/money/unwanted advice and then the next you’ll be having a really good conversation with someone interesting and informed. Then you’ll realise it’s your teenage son and you’re really very proud of the man they’re turning into.
The platform that connects tutors and students