'The house feels strangely empty without my teenager'

Families, royal or otherwise, are strange beasts. Sometimes you can’t live with them and sometimes you can’t live without them.

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 12:00 am
Her Majesty The Queen visiting Sheffield. Even royal families have family difficulties. Picture by Chris Etchells.

At the moment things are tense between Grunting Teen and his father. Someone didn’t inform the Nearly Beloved that their free-trial computer virus protection had run out. So now it’s all a question of security.

‘I bet my games have been compromised,’ wails the teenager, seemingly unconcerned about his school files, which were the reason we bought him a laptop in the first place.

‘Well, you should take a bit of responsibility for yourself and not rely on your parents all the time,’ mutters the Nearly-Beloved forking out for a new subscription. ‘You cost us a fortune.’

‘Excuse me,’ interrupts the disgruntled adolescent, ‘when was the last time you gave me any pocket money? You’ve literally cut me off.’

And while this is an exaggeration, it’s true that we haven’t been handing him his allowance, mainly because he hasn’t asked and also because he’s not been going anywhere to spend it.

It’s the time of his life when he should be hanging out with friends and gaining independence but instead, he’s trapped indoors with his ‘unwoke’ parents and it can’t be doing his mental health much good. ‘Grumpy Git’s always having a go at me,’ he complains. ‘He’s totally unsupportive. He doesn’t understand how difficult it’s been and how trapped I’ve felt in lockdown. He says my hair’s too long and my trousers are too short and that I’m not working hard enough. But he doesn’t offer to help me.’

‘Well, that’s not how I recall it,’ says the Nearly-Beloved when I broach the subject with him that evening. ‘The boy’s lost his sense of humour. It was just a bit of banter.

I didn’t want his mates taking the mickey out of him at school. That’s all. And I did offer to buy him new clothes online and give his hair a trim.’ I nod in sympathy for both my boys. Wires can sometimes get mixed up and meaning lost in translation. Grunting Teen hasn’t had a haircut since late summer so maintaining eye contact is becoming increasingly hard. He’s also made excellent use of this third quarantine to have another growth spurt. But whilst a new pair of jeans wouldn’t go amiss, we all know what happened last time the Nearly-Beloved was let loose on my fringe…‘And you have to admit,’ continues my indignant husband, ‘the Prince of Laziness is hardly pulling out all the stops for his exams. As for expecting me to help him, I haven’t got a clue about psychology.’ That’s the answer in a nutshell, I think to myself, whilst watching the feuding pair bolt through their mealtimes in simmering silence. My granny would have banged both their heads together to make them see sense. But addressing each other by correct title might be a better starting point. After all, it’s important to be sensitive about the names we use. And listening to each other and talking through our problems is certainly more productive than the blame game or cold-shoulder approach. Still, sometimes what a relationship needs is space.

So, it’s just as well that school has started again and Grunting Teen is out of the house all day. It’s doing him good to finally be back in the classroom and mixing with his peers. And absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. The house seems strangely empty without him. No hourly raids on the fridge. No music blasting from his room. I even bake his favourite flapjack so that the house smells more welcoming when he comes home. In fact, Grunting Teen was even smiling as he came through the door the other day. Was that because he caught his father peering out from behind the curtains, watching for his return?

‘Have you missed me, dad?’ he asks, trousers up by his calves and hair flopping over his grin. ‘Like a hole in the head’, his father replies. But there’s been a definite thaw in the atmosphere. Time and distance are great healers. You see, families, royal or otherwise, are founded on love. So, even when you feel let down, you always know they’ve got your back.