Sometimes parenting requires skills that I simply do not possess. One of those is to remain suitably solemn when the occasion requires. There is nothing that weakens my position more than my inability to keep a straight face.
I received a phone call from school this afternoon informing me that the teenager and friend had been involved in an incident resulting in both being covered head to foot with shaving cream. The exasperation in the voice was clear.
"After all the other events of the day, this was the final straw and as a result, we have told the boys that they are not allowed on the school premises again, except for their remaining GCSE's"
So he was been unofficially excluded for being involved in a shaving foam incident. When they were sent over to the little ones primary school for an escort home, I found myself incapable of an even vaguely straight face.
When I was at the end of my time at school, it was routine to fill the Deputy Headmasters air conditioning unit with flour, remove the screws from the Heads door hinge and glue the receiver to the phone. It was also fairly routine to add rum into your can of coke in the examination room, smoke on the school field and do inappropriate things with the Tippex thinner and this was assuming that you were not in the pub. Frankly, a squirt of shaving foam seemed a little innocent and I felt just a little hint of pride.
Inappropriate, probably - but I have always had a little fear of having a child that sailed through the school system with no event. In a system catering for the masses and churning out thousands of children all tutored to the same level, and on the whole - incapable of independent thought, the thought of having raise another boring individual - fills me with dread.
It also irritates me. It seems that squirting a tad of foam after the last moment of the day or girls that had the sheer nerve of wearing oddly coloured tights is enough to gain informal isolation or being sent home. I have long called the Head 'Stalin' and well famed for his lack of tolerance for any form of amusement and his UK record for the Head with most exclusions on one day - it would appear that teenagers are no longer allowed to have that moment of end of education exuberance afforded to the rest of us. Miserable bugger.
Whilst I can roll my eyes at the Stalinist approach, there is my loathing of injustice that makes me itch to go in and point out that informal exclusions are not allowed and nor, I feel certain, is it okay for a teacher to grab a child by the back of the neck. Am I alone in thinking a simple "Stop that" would suffice for most in warding off further squirting from the shaving foam can?
Teenager 3, in reliving the moment looked at me with utter disappointment when he said
"We didn't even get the chance to do anything with the mackerel"
"What Mackerel?" Say I
"The one in my bag" as he proceeds to fish out a large mackerel.
"What were you going to do with the mackerel" I ask
Now how are you supposed to keep a straight face? All over the press are teenagers that brandishing guns and knives. Gangs form, fights happen and people die. I am sitting across the table from a teenager brandishing a mackerel. The world is going mad.
As a punishment I allow him to go to a party. I call his friends mobile to check they are okay. "What are you up to" I ask. Now according to Stalin, the will be injecting by 10.30pm.
"We are bouncing on the trampoline" He replies in earnest.
I fear in terms of teenage anarchy, I have little to fear and neither do the residents of Bradford on Avon.
The middle child has just come downstairs. He is unable to sleep in his bedroom as there is a large insect with antennae poking its head out of his quilt. Reluctantly, I hike up three flights of stairs to discover the huge scary insect is in fact a feather. Technically speaking he is a teenager also. Such innocence.
There was only one moment that I managed a straight face. It was the one in that I realised that I have a son that has now left school.
I am old.