Flexibility in all things

Teenagers are not the best at decision-making which makes life more tricky for parents, who spend their life on logistics and ‘being flexible’.

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The pace of modern life does not gel well with the pace of modern teenagers and I’m thinking maybe the teenagers are the ones who’ve got it right. According to various surveys, teenagers are all for work life balance, with the emphasis on the life part.  It’s hard not to think that they have seen their parents slogging away and thought ‘not for me’. What’s more for many their first experiences of working life have been zero hours contracts which only get confirmed at the last minute and low pay.

That insecurity also means that, at least in our family, they tend not to be good at planning ahead or making quick decisions, the kind of quick decisions that working parents, whose lives revolve around logistics, require. While flexibility is great in all walks of life, and is a skill that parents are masters at, it can be one that is often stretched a bit too far.

Take this week. It was daughter three’s birthday on Monday. I have been plaguing her for weeks for ideas of what to do, what she wants etc.  With a week to go she came up with a list of things on a second hand clothes app. Half of them didn’t arrive in time and I have spent the week chasing fellow teenagers who are doing exams, abroad, working odd hours or some such and unable to post things for the foreseeable future.


Then on Sunday, having said she hated birthdays and didn’t want to do anything, daughter three announced that she would like a family outing to London, except she also wanted to watch Eurovision and eat apple strudel [in tribute to the Austrian entry]. The two couldn’t happen simultaneously, so she said maybe we could do the outing on Monday or maybe Wednesday when her sister came back from university. On Monday there was a complete change of plan. She asked if her gran and uncle could come over, but it later transpired that she was going to a sleepover in the evening. That left a two-hour window for cake and presents [the ones that had turned up] with my mum and brother in the early evening.

My mum is very into cake. Mainly because she’s pre-diabetic and can’t have it often. She therefore indulges whenever she comes to our house. I had meetings all day. My partner was popping to the shops so I asked him to pick up a cake mix. He returned with a crumble mix. I reasoned that it is more or less the same ingredients and added some chocolate powder and some Diet Coke [our binding agent for the vegans]. I left it to cook while I went on a meeting, instructing daughter three to take it out of the oven in five minutes. She forgot. Result: a somewhat hard chocolate birthday cake. I covered it in butter icing, but could only get four candles to pierce the surface. We sang happy birthday and my mum announced that the cake was delicious and took some home with her. My mum had to leave early as she can’t see well in the dark to drive. Daughter three headed out for her sleepover.


By Wednesday, daughter two had returned, looking as if she hadn’t eaten for a month and having had an emotional few weeks where exams and essays seemed to have been the last thing on her mind. We arrived home from the station ready to go out to celebrate daughter three’s birthday, but daughter three had headed to Lakeside with a friend. Daughter two was so hungry she ate a huge bowl of pasta and so when daughter three arrived an hour later she was not remotely hungry.

Only son, meanwhile, announced that he wouldn’t have been able to go on any family outing because he is revising. His sisters poured scorn on the idea that revision is in any way necessary in Year 9, encouraging him to live it up while he can before the GCSE years and beyond. I, meanwhile, caught up on work until the late hours. That’s my work life balance.  I prefer to call it a work life splurge – I feel it better encapsulates the ongoing sense of overtasking on all fronts.

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