So teenagers CAN be trusted while parents are away | BBC Radio Solent's Alun Newman

I would like to dedicate this column to all those parents who should know better but simply can’t change.

By Alun Newman
Saturday, 24th July 2021, 6:34 pm
It was supreme parenting which brought this about. Wasn't it?
It was supreme parenting which brought this about. Wasn't it?

Last week Mrs Newman and I were able to disappear for a few nights on our own.

Even though we’re old and boring and sometimes talk about plants together, it still feels exciting. It’s like we’re bunking off school.

However, in order to disappear we had to do the ‘rundown’ with the kids amid much protesting from them. And, yes, it is a ‘we’ thing as well.

I always say things like ‘they’ll be fine', 'they’re old enough to get married’, ‘let’s just trust they’ll be okay.'

Even with all this guff, I still find myself stocking the fridge with meals’ talking to them about the importance of fruit and vegetables; asking for receipts if my money gets used.

For good measure I also add setting alarm clocks, making good decisions and staying safe online.

There’s no need for any of this. I’m aware that things change when I’m not micromanaging.

Do you remember changing your behaviour when you’re in someone else’s house, meeting a friend's parents, at a buddy's house for dinner?

You become this well-heeled version of yourself. You become the very thing your parents are asking you to be at home but it seems impossible.

As education has ceased until next term, I have all family members working.

This is a feather in my cap but I’m not complacent. Oh no.

I've been here before and had children quit jobs for divers reasons such as ‘the customers are rude’, ‘I don’t really get retail’, and ‘I’m on my feet all day’.

I’m used to disappointment and save some emotion for such eventualities.

However, it came to pass that Mrs N and I finally managed to disappear for a few days and embarked on some quality time.

I say quality time but it was peppered with the never-ending pinging of my wife’s phone as different people checked-in, made requests and spent about an hour saying goodnight.

To be brutally honest, I was expecting to hear that some team members had refused to go to work because of illness/Covid/missing buses/alien invasion.

When we returned home I expected the house to look like a giant had given Ikea a good shake.

I expected the dog to be wearing an apron, cooking out of desperation.

I was wrong on all counts.

Sure, there were piles of either dirty or clean clothes around the house.

Yes, the bin was full of energy drinks and ‘share’ bags of sweets.

Yes, there was a hard-to-distinguish smell but a well-trained nose would have gone for ash/smoke residue of some sort.

Aside from that, everything was still standing.

Even better than that, everything was fine and individuals were chatty. I bristled with content. Job done. Perhaps.

Yes, there were stories of work and tired feet and pay that was coming in. Future plans were being made.

Some ‘post’ had actually been opened and read. Had I banged my head? Was I Bobby Ewing in Dallas and in some elaborate dream?

No. I was faced with reality and I couldn’t decide whether I liked it or not.

It could be the case that my children are better off without my micro-managing after all. Perhaps they really will flourish under their own steam.

Even more extraordinary, could it be that my wife and I have done a half-decent job as parents?

It was all too much and it will take me time to assess the real impact of the past few days.

In order to revert back to a far more comfortable place, I told my son that he really, no really, doesn't need to watch YouTube while brushing his teeth at midnight.

Yes. Back in the old slippers. No need to panic! As you were.

UNDER PRESSURE TO BE A MAN

Along with a lot of men I’m drawn to the world of Special Forces (SAS or SBS, we could discuss which is more incredible over a pint for maybe an entire evening or weekend away).

However, when God was handing out Special Forces DNA, I think I was a last-minute bolt together.

Let me hit you with the criteria for not being a soldier. I need glasses or I’m blind, I have hayfever, dust allergies and asthma, I hate camping, get irritable when I’m cold and wet and I’m no good with Ordnance Survey maps.

These characteristics and many others mean I don’t get to write books about my exploits that you can buy in supermarkets. Books with quotes like ‘I made a gun out of my teeth’ and ‘I walked seven miles in a desert with no water carrying a camel’.

As none of this great stuff is coming my way, I’m limited to simple yet still manly pursuits. These are as close as I can get to being special forces ready. I have a hand vacuum cleaner that, when I switch attachments, I do it like James Bond building a sniper rifle assembled from a stainless steel obviously-it’s-a-gun case.

Now, to add to my repertoire I have just purchased a… pressure washer! I know, it’s probably ‘age and stage’ but it’s great. It’s just me, armed to the hilt in the world’s smallest garden. I’m not saving the world. It won’t make a tough-guy book. But with my M16 lance, I can clean the patio. I hunt problems and sort them. I washed the bins, doorstep and a desk tidy. Then I wrote my name in the dirt and drew an amusing picture.

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron.

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