I realise I have written at some length about living with teenagers but they are the source that keeps on giving and so I shall do it again.
The 18-year-old recently passed his driving test and now has a restricted licence. Of late he has been going to the gym at night after work with his friends, which is fine. On the first day having passed his test, he emerged from his room at 10pm and said “am I good to go to the gym?” and we said “Yes, of course, how do you plan to get there?”
He said “I’ll drive.”
We said “but you’re not allowed to drive between the hours of 10pm and 5am.”
He said “Oh, but all my friends’ parents let them do it.”
We said “is that right? Your friend’s parents give them permission to break the law?”
“Yes” he said, “and anyway, if anything happens I’ll take the consequences.”
“Oh, OK. Well, in that case, that’s fine” we said.
He turned and headed for the door. As his hand was outstretched for the handle we continued “except that it’s not, if you drive illegally you will not be covered by insurance – therefore it’s not happening”.
This did not go down well. There ensued a very lively debate in which tempers became frayed. Anyway, the next morning everything was back to normal and the 18-year-old, expressed his desire to borrow the family car to take himself to work and after that shift, he would drive himself to his next job, which is as a kitchen hand in one of Cambridge’s fine restaurants. “That’s all right”, we said. But how do you plan to get home from there?”
“I’ll drive.” Here we go again.
“You don’t finish until close to midnight.”
Sparks flew once more. It became apparent if it wasn’t already, that the teenager hadn’t actually taken on board anything that had been said the night before.
On a separate occasion, standing in the shower I reached up, eyes closed, to grab the shampoo, which it turns out wasn’t there. You can surely guess where it was – in his bathroom downstairs. So having finished, with hair unwashed, I went to the teenager’s room, found his wireless headphones and put them on top of the medicine cabinet in our bathroom upstairs. Sure enough, the next day he asked if anyone had seen his headphones.
You’re an adult; you work two jobs; you live in our house; the rent you pay doesn’t cover the cost; if you want shampoo or face wash, or frozen berries for your smoothies, you’re welcome to borrow our car between the hours of 5am and 10pm and drive to the supermarket. Am I being unreasonable? I think not.
But then I know of other teenagers who have an easier ride than ours. What is the right tactic? How should we teach young people to be responsible, self sufficient, and more importantly happy adults?