Monday 11 December 2017

Son gets school disco problem off his chest

YOU are folding laundry when you notice your 14-year-old son at the utility room door. This child is a runner, a footballer, he plays rugby, and is a straight-A student to boot. This kid doesn't have time for hovering. "What's up?" you say conversationally.

"There is to be a Christmas disco," he says glumly. It's sort of the first real disco for his year, and ...

Of course you can go, you say cheerily.

"Thanks, Mum," he replies, not looking happy.

Thing is, his trainers are wrecked from all the running.

He knows you and Dad have had millions of pay cuts because of the recession, but he really can't wear his school shoes to the disco. He looks at you pleadingly. "Don't worry, we'll get you a new pair," you say comfortingly.

And there's another problem, he says worriedly.

He's not giving out, but he only has the one white polo shirt and the last time you washed it, it came out sort of pink from being in the machine with some of the Wolverine's under-things.

No problem, you say. You were going to replace that polo shirt anyway.

Alas, however, his demeanour fails to brighten.

The shoulders, you notice, slump and frown deepens. "What else?" you ask kindly.

"Well, you know," he says uncomfortably, "there were, sort of, rumours going around all week in school."

"What sort of rumours," you ask.

"About the Christmas disco. And girls and stuff. Some of the lads were, you know, talking about stuff. Like, you know, girls' chests and things."

The hairs on the back of your neck prickle. Dear God, you think. They're only 14.

"And what were the lads saying," you inquire, casually folding a pillow-case.

You won't tell a soul, you pledge. Honest to God, you say cheerfully, you've heard it all before.

Your son gazes at the ground. "The thing is, some of the lads were talking about, you know, touching girls' chests and things like that."

"Touching girls' chests," you repeat encouragingly, pulling another pillow-case out of the tumble drier.

"Some of the lads, see, were saying that the girls were letting boys feel their chests, sort of."

And what did he think about that, you ask blandly.

He wasn't sure. He doesn't really know about girls' chests.

The two of you are silent for a moment.

"Best to keep things clean and friendly," you advise.

He looks relieved. "That's what I thought," he mutters.

"And here's the other thing," you say. "You might genuinely believe that a girl means one thing but she might actually mean something else.

"Which could be kind of dodgy, because if she didn't mean what you thought she meant, you could find yourself in big trouble." Just to be sure there is no confusion, you mention the Wolverine. "Look at your sister," you say.

He relaxes. Wolverine is held up to her younger siblings as a blackened example of what not do about anything.

"You know the way she tends to have these moods," you observe.

"One minute she's your best friend. She's in high old form altogether and the two of you are having a big laugh. And then, you know, you happen to say or do something quite innocent and suddenly she gets nasty. Really nasty. Know what I mean?"

Your son nods and shudders.

"Well, the thing is, quite a lot of teenage girls can be a bit like that," you say.

"They can be a bit ... well, hormonal. You don't want to be on the receiving end of that sort of unpleasantness from some girl and her parents and possibly the gardai because there was a misunderstanding about her chest." He blanches.

"Keep it clean and friendly," you counsel.

"God I will Ma. I will," he pledges, looking terrified.

You and your son have just finished and he is setting the table, when, with her excellent sense of timing, the Wolverine charges in.

Following a foiled escapade involving friends, a car, and a trumped-up sleepover, she is grounded, disillusioned with life and in need of a scape-goat.

Her eye lands on her mild-mannered brother who is counting out cutlery.

"Mum, he stole my CD player!"

Your son glances up, taken-aback and not a little outraged.

"You told me I could borrow it for my French homework," he says. His CD player had stopped working and, he claims, the Wolverine said he could have it for as long as he needed it.

"I did not," she screams. She stamps up to him and thrusts her face into his. "Give it back. This instant!"

You sigh. You give your son a hard look.

"Did she give you permission to take her CD player?"

He swears.

She stamps her foot and swears she didn't.

You believe him but, you decide, the CD player belongs to the Wolverine, ergo, if she wants it back, it must be returned.

You accompany the pair to ensure that the hand-over takes place under peaceful conditions.

Your son furiously plugs out the machine.

He takes the CD player into his sister.

You leave them to it. As you go downstairs the shouting begins.

"You're not even using the CD player, you're listening to music on your phone," your son roars.

"So?" she taunts him.

"You told me I could have it to do my homework. You know you did and you lied to mum about it. And you don't even use it!"

"Well," the Wolverine sneers, "I changed my mind about that then didn't I? And you know what, I still won't be using it! Ha! Ha! Now bugger off, squirt."

As your son barges out you call your family to dinner.

"She lied," he says. "She gave me permission to take the CD player and then she said she didn't."

"So, your sister changed her mind, did she? Your word against hers, is it? Be careful out there," you say.

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