His Royal Stoner
Being sniffy about the royal family is a truly great British pastime never better illustrated by the recent furore over Prince Harry’s experimentation with drink and drugs. The palace staff who alerted Prince Charles to Harry’s hi jinks aren’t the only ones who should wake up and smell the whiff of marijuana – try sticking your nose inside your own kid’s bedroom – do not be surprised to be greeted with more than the odour of six day old socks. I have a pair of teenage sons and a large circle of friends that comprises numerous other parents of similarly aged teenagers; friendships forged back in the school playground in the halcyon days when we still arranged our kid’s social life and the only smack involved in a play date was a scrap on the football field; and there is not one family who doesn’t think they have suddenly been invaded by the teenagers from hell.
Look at this, said one of those mothers recently, holding a photograph of her two angelic sons age three and five; tell me what happened to my boys? One, aged thirteen, already makes regular forays into her alcohol cupboard, drinks Bacardi Breezers as parties then spends the next day sleeping his hangover off, and generally refers to his mother as a ‘dork’. Another fourteen year friend of my son was nearly suspended from his top public school for logging on to a pornographic web site during a class lesson, and yet another was brought home in the middle of the night by the police after being caught ‘tagging’ at 2am, whilst supposedly asleep at a friend’s birthday sleepover. Oh wait, no -the last one was/italics/ my son. We were just relieved he hadn’t been caught breaking and entering – not because he has a history of such behaviour – but because the truth is, you think you know your own child, but you just never know.
This time Prince Charles seems to have got it right. Everyone soberly agrees that he acted like a ‘responsible parent’ by sending Harry off to a drug rehabilitation project for a day to learn the dangers of drink and drugs first hand. I would say he’s jolly lucky that his child would talk to him, let alone agree to do anything he suggests. Most of us are faced with our once biddable children refusing outright to do anything we ask, whether it is tidy their room, let us know what time they’ll be home, or in some cases, even where they’re going.
Overheard at the gym were two anorectic women with cut glass accents whispering about their offspring: I just don’t know what to do, said one. He just won’t listen to a word I say – I tell him over and over and over again, but he totally ignores me. Ah – join the club of the selectively deaf teenager whose music acts like an aural defibrillator, who ignores every request to turn it down to airport runway levels, and yet can hear a girl on the telephone from the end of the street. Especially when she calls in the middle of the night. Repeatedly.
The mobile phone that was supposed to be the baby monitor of the teenage years; bought so you can keep in touch with your children as they venture into the adult world, really means that you have absolutely no control over who they speak to, when, or how often; unless it’s you when it’s conveniently switched off. Forget the notion of ‘listening in’ – the way may own parents learned, second hand from eavesdropping on a one-sided conversation on the family phone, just what their plans for the weekend might be. Parents who have given their children mobiles to keep them tied by phone to the umbilical cord soon discover that they have in fact handed them the scissors to cut the cord forever; except when they need a ride home from a distant suburb at 4am and they can’t find a cab. As recent crime figures show, you are also increasing the risk of mugging as thieves happy to relieve them of their mobile phones routinely target teenagers - but what the statistics don’t show is that most mobile phone muggers are other kids. My sons have both been mugged yards from our home, once by knifepoint, often for as little as 10p.
Faced with an aggressive teenager who is going to do what he wants when he wants whether you like it or not, naturally enough we teach our kids to just hand over the money. When we’re being emotionally mugged by our own teenager’s confrontational behaviour many of us behave in a similar fashion – we just cave in and accept a compromise. At least two fifteen year olds I know are regular, recreational dope smokers in the privacy of their own bedrooms will full permission of their own parents, and one thirteen year old regularly rolls up in front of his dad, which may be taking father son bonding a tad too far. But since the majority of adults I know are downing a bottle of wine every night, puffing their way through packs of cigarettes, albeit furtively, skinning up whenever the opportunity presents itself, and stuffing white powder up their noses when my parents’ generation passed the After Eights, we can hardly expect our kids to behave like little Princes. Or perhaps we can.