Staying up for teenagers

I’ve warned the teenagers that they need to give advanced notice of plans to go out in the evening so I can get some sleep in beforehand and can stay awake long enough to drop them off/pick them up. Daughter one announced at the last minute that she was going to some distant town on Friday night with her exchange for a party. Initially departure time was set for 6.30pm. I was wide awake at this point, though slightly the worse for wear from a week of people not sleeping due to the heat, work and general anxiety about the state of the world. However, departure time slipped. Daughter one announced that it was not a good idea to be on time or indeed anywhere near on time. By 8pm we were in the car. Only son had volunteered to come to keep me company if we could stop en route at Sainsbury’s for a Lego collection kit [only son has come late to the Lego party – in fact, as it later transpired, too late as the Lego thing has finished].

So we set off for this distant town, not knowing really where on Earth it was except that it was to the East. Daughter one pulled up Google maps and spent much of the journey giving her friend at the other end of the phoneline an optimistic running commentary on when we were likely to arrive. We arrived at the town. It looked like a quaint English village. That’s ok, I thought. I can remember how to get home from a quaint English village. The village soon turned into a series of massive roundabouts. My brain went into shutdown mode. We arrived in a street somewhere and I dropped off daughter one and her Spanish exchange for the party/sleepover. “I have no idea how to get out of her,” I said to daughter one. “Don’t worry, mum. I’ll send you the Google map on whatsapp,” said daughter one in the manner of a person for whom technology has all the answers.

It was then that I noticed she had been drawing on the car wi-fi for the whole journey. I may be technologically challenged, but I do know that Google maps takes up a lot of data. The car wi-fi draws from my phone’s data. Last month due to use of Google maps in Wales my phone data dried up two weeks before the end of the month. Daughter one disappeared into the night.

I turned right out of the end of the road and hit a roundabout. Immediately my tired mind went blank. Only son, my co-pilot, had fallen fast asleep. I opted for a road towards Basildon, basically because I have heard of Basildon. I looked at my phone. No Google notes were on whatsapp. I got to another roundabout. A127 London it said. Hurray. I had heard of London and I knew how to get home from London even if it was likely to take a very long time.

Next there was a turning off to Brentwood. I knew Brentwood too, particularly the charity shops. The evening was getting better and better. Unfortunately, I didn’t know the bit of Brentwood that I arrived at, but after some driving around I found the way out. Only 20 minutes till home, I thought, as I struggled to stay awake. “Road closed”, said the sign. “Use diversions”. Only son woke up. “Are we at Sainsbury’s, mum?” he asked. As it so happened there was a Sainsbury’s nearby. It was in the middle of a redesign and looked like a building site, but we drew up and got out of the car. “Sorry, but the store is now closed. It closed at 9pm,” said the man at the door. It was 9.20pm. We got back in the car and headed towards the diversion signs. Around 40 minutes later, after a blast of Eurovision, we arrived home and only son broke the glove compartment.

All in all, it was not top of my best Friday nights ever, but it appears to be the shape of things to come. There is another party next Friday to send off the exchange people. I have bagsied the drop-off while my partner has drawn the long straw and got pick-up. We are getting some sleep in now.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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