As doting concerned parents your children’s teenage years can be the most traumatic. In later years you can look back fondly at what felt disastrous at the time.
Our daughter Tina was a wild one; gregarious, loud and with a large social circle. As her peers started having their 16th birthday parties she suggested many a wild idea, from hiring a ferry to taking over a hotel for the night. Not withstanding the cost, other considerations such as responsibility for a group of children (many of them not yet 16), the influence of boys and the impact on other people all determined that it could not be done.
Gradually we persuaded her that a garden party with a small marquee would allow her to invite enough friends, have alcohol in a controlled environment and do as they please. Oh, and no boys!
And so the day came. The problem with a DIY party in your garden is that you have to do all the work. Well, Dad has to do all the work. Firstly move all the garden ornaments and furniture out the way. Secondly erect the marquee. Then strategically place all the benches and tables around the garden to protect the plants. Prepare the food, secure access to the garden, keep out of the way etc.
Of course, whilst the parents put in all the leg work Tina is spending hours preparing herself. Why is it we all spend our youth trying to look older and all our later years trying to look younger?
The party is a huge success. Everyone enjoys themselves and there is loads to talk about and facebook afterwards. That’s because of the drama.
Drama number one is because no boys are allowed. They all hang about on the street waiting for the girls to come out and see them. Dad stands guard at the garden gate not allowing any of them in. Then there is a bust up and a sobbing teenager comes running back in. Boyfriend attempts to follow to be met by Dad blocking the way. The lad throw a punch. Dad swerves and swings the garden gate to meet the punch. The boyfriend, shouting in agony beats a retreat having come in contact with a hardwood wooden gate.
The next incident happens when another girl seems to want to spend more time with her boyfriend than at the party. Tina grabs her and frogmarches her out of the garden, throwing her on the pavement. She twists her ankle and grazes her leg. An angry Mum come to pick her up shouting abuse at us.
Finally, another friend with an allergy to cola spent the night drinking it with rum. Parents are called whilst she comes in and out of a semi epileptic state.
Eventually they all leave and Sally, Tina’s best friend, stays the night.
The next morning we check the garden. The furniture is fine, the marquee is fine, but the flower beds are liberally spattered with teenage sick. We make Tina and Sally, very much the worse for wear, get on their hands and knees and clear up the sick, the sneaky cigarette butts and the bottles.
Many years later we look back on the day as nothing more than part of growing up. Tina now works in theatre and Sally has just come back from representing the UK in an international beauty context.
The garden and all its furniture haven’t changed at all!