Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Balls of steel

The teenager has balls of steel.

They were evident from an early age, in complete contrast to me. When I was a child my mother was a formidable figure. I crossed her at my peril and suffered early bedtimes as a result. But sending a child of the modern era to their bedroom is no punishment at all, not when they have a laptop, a wii, a mobile, a flat screen TV and Sky+. If I were a Daily Mail reader I'd liken it to incarceration in a young offender's institute or holiday camp as they like to call it.

The teenager fears nothing and no one. This could be translated as a lack of respect or simply 'spirited'. I sit somewhere in the middle and just say 'Balls of Steel'. I vaguely remember that fearlessness and invincibility. I enjoyed it for just a few years before getting knocked up at 18. The teenager is fond of asking teachers, 'Is that a rhetorical question?' when challenged about pretty much anything. At Chav Towers more than two syllables counts as extra credit.

When I was 7 I can remember creeping silently onto the hall landing and hearing grown up sounds of a gathering downstairs. They enthralled me those adult sounds, what could be happening in the mysterious world my parent's inhabited after my bedtime? I was under strict instructions not to cross the stairs. The teenager at the same age would hop out of bed, casually stroll right down into the living room and ask if there was any chance of some toast. Good thing there there was nothing 'adult' going on in my living room. The most risque thing would have been me having a sneaky fag while watching Coronation Street.

Witness the balls of steel in evidence just the other day when I come home to find The Teenager's best friend cleaning our bathroom.

''Uh, hi, why you are cleaning our bathroom?''

The teenager appears from her bedroom to quickly explain her nifty bit of delegation.

''Hi Mum, yeah, it's cool. She wanted to help me.''
''She wanted to help you clean? I asked you to do it. It was the only job I gave you.''
''Not strictly true Mum, I had washing up to do as well.''
''But that was from yesterday. It's the holidays. You've had all day.''
''Not really. I didn't get up till 2. It's only 6.''

I remove a scouring pad and some Flash bathroom cleaner from her best mate's hands and apologise and tell her we're not in the habit of getting our guests to scrub the limescale. The teenager has already moved on and is laughing to a boy on her mobile while making a bad job of cleaning two day old risotto off the frying pan.

Which leads me to only thing that The Teenager does fear, removal of her phone. I have attempted this several times as punishment for various misdemeanours but she guards it like a Colombian drug lord guards his AK47. She sleeps with the phone under her pillow and even takes it into the bath with her.

The balls of steel were in evidence again just a day later when I discover pictures on my computer of The Teenager and friend and two boys who look like they'd rob your grandmother for her Murray Mints.

The pictures were taken in my house, the time shows it was past midnight, about 6 months ago. I am confused until I remember I was away for the Valentine's weekend with the American and had entrusted The Teenager to my mother.

I ask her about the pictures. Her face says busted but I can see her brain going 90MPH behind the eyes. She's thinking-how much does my mother know? The game of strategy begins.

''So when were these taken?''
''It was a Saturday night, early.''
''Funny because this one was taken at 12.30 a.m.''

Battleships. Teenage Ship down!

''So where did you tell Grandma you were that night?''
''At my mate's house.''
''And where did you actually stay?''
''And these boys?''
''I swear to go they didn't stay here and we didn't do anything wrong, like drinking or anything. They only stayed an hour.''

''Funny 'cos there's one photo here taken at 10.45p.m and another at 12.30 a.m.''

Ship two down!

She pauses for thought ''I swear to go they didn't stay here and we didn't do anything wrong like drinking or anything.''

I do that disappointed face that always gets her. Bored of sinking all her ships I send her to her holiday camp to reflect.

A hour later she is washing up badly without being asked and I am cooking a dinner of gruel and dripping and deciding on what punishment might have any effect at all.

Cheerily she says ''I guess now is not the best time is not the best time to ask you if I can go to Bristol next week for a day trip?''

When I have picked myself up off the floor laughing I tell her that no, now is not the best time to ask. You have to admire those balls of steel. Or brass neck cheek as my Dad would call it.

Either way, she's got metal, you gotta give her that.