I’m not a very good parent of teenagers. I have a very active imagination and it is mainly set to potential disaster, which may not be best when it comes to teenagers. But sometimes it pays to be cautious. Daughter two has become a bit of a recluse of late so when she announced she was going to a birthday party on Saturday night followed by a sleepover everyone was slightly surprised and encouraging.
Daughter three came along to drop her at a distant station where she was meeting her friends, mainly out of curiosity and because she wanted to get a topping for her pizza.
“Just drop me and leave,” instructed daughter two firmly. As we arrived there were large groups of teens outside the station, most of whom daughter two did not know. There must be several parties in the area, I thought. Daughter two crouched down low in the car. Her friends were nowhere to be seen. Daughter three and I parked in a corner of the station car park just to check that daughter two had met her friends. “Are they nearby?” I asked when she came over. Daughter two had no phone reception and no idea where the party was. Daughter two waved her phone around. “They’re on a train,” she said. “Which train?” I replied. They live miles away and there were possibly multiple trains they needed to take. “I’ve asked where they are,” replied daughter two from outside the station. “They don’t know,” came the response several minutes later. This was not looking good.
Daughter three needed the toilet so daughter two took her into the station. While they were gone three boys ran up to the station. Two of them were on their phones and looked a bit freaked out. “They’re going to smash us,” said one. They jumped onto the next train. I could hear police sirens in the distance. This was all not looking very promising, but daughter two said it was nothing to do with the party and announced that her friends were just arriving. We waited to see them as the police sirens faded and then left, telling daughter two to text when she reached the party.
About an hour later daughter two texted that she was in East London and nearly at the sleepover. There was nothing about the party. Had they gone all that way and then stayed for only five minutes? “Bad party? Let me know when you get there,” I replied. An hour and a half passed. Nothing. I texted again. “Are you there yet?” Nothing. I rang. Daughter two didn’t pick up. Then about an hour later she texted that she was at the house. “I was just about to check the BBC news to see if everything was ok,” I texted. I thought she would think I was being a bit over the top. “I was a bit worried I was going to be stabbed on the way here,” she replied. Oh dear. I am a bad parent whose over-familiarity with the news and over-anxiety about life in general has tainted the lives of my children.
The next day I picked daughter two up from the station. Apparently she never went to the party because some boys raided it with metal rods and started beating up all the boys there. The boys we had seen at the station were running from the party. The police sirens were due to the party. This was all announced with very little drama as if it was an everyday occurrence. She didn’t think anyone was badly injured, but it was not perhaps a good first introduction to going out for daughter two. “I’m never going to a party again,” she announced.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.