Often when I am experiencing one of my now almost daily, mid-life career quandaries I have to remind myself how lucky I am. As the mother of two teens, I get to try out new career options on a daily basis. Short order cook, chambermaid, laundry assistant, relationship counsellor (although my skills are often rebuffed) education advisor (ditto) youth club worker, money lending service (make that giving, not lending) mini cab driver…………. The list goes on.
My most recently acquired skill manages to rise above the usual menial jobs I thought I’d left behind in my own teens, when trying to earn enough money for a bottle of cider. I now find myself assuming the role of private detective. Imagine, inch high private eye, wearing COS. I was unaware how finely tuned my skills were, until I found myself advising another mother over coffee, on what a bong is.
Snooping on a teen requires dexterity and stealth and more than a basic knowledge of technology and street slang. This is where lots of parents go wrong.
I recently had a distraught mother tell me that she had read her daughters dairy (so last century, modern parents read their MySpace pages) and thought the teens had been getting naked at her house. Her 13 year old had written ‘Dora was bare rude on Saturday night.’ To those unfamiliar with London street talk, one would naturally assume some sort of Roman orgy had taken place. Luckily IHPE was able to set her straight. Bare means either, extremely, or lots of, as in ‘I am bare tired, or, I have bare pairs of red socks. Its easy to see how she was confused especially as rude also has two meanings. Rude as in unpleasant and rude as in ‘He’s a rude’. FYI here are a few basic words, the mother of any teen needs to know.
Nang – cool
Buff – good looking
Peng – good looking face
Butters- unattractive face
Hench – muscley
Bait – obvious
Yard – House
Crib – bedroom
Weed – cannabis
Shook – scared
Pulled – snogged
OMG – Oh my God
WTF – what the f…k
LYSM – Love you so much
BMFL – best mates for life
LOL – Lots of laughs, lots of love
Knowing this terminology helps when deciphering text messages, MSN and MySpace. Although as teens get older they become more efficient at using passwords, therefore making online and phone detection more difficult.
Detecting use of illegal substances is not such a hard one. Running upstairs to change as soon as they come home is often a sign and should be followed up with the good old tried and tested, sniff test. Cleaning teeth and sucking mints is also an obvious sign. Teenage boys are not known for their personal hygiene and any unnatural cleanliness should be thoroughly investigated, it could mean smoking, drinking or they’re love.
Always be wary of their friends with divorced parents. Not because they may be damaged by the break up. Oh no, they are always the most popular of the group. They have two yards (houses) to use and possibly parents who don’t communicate. Thus allowing a free yard on a Friday night (I was at Dads when you were away for the weekend, honestly) Yeh right, you were re-creating an episode of Skins in the living room!!
It’s often good to invite their friends round and bring up controversial subjects over dinner. If they are in the midst of an experimental phase they will be keen to discuss the subject in an objective, sensible way. ‘What do think of Banksy, art or vandalism?’ was a recent dinner table conversation, which set my alarm bells ringing. Sure enough, after a quick room search I found two permanent markers, a sketch book with graffiti designs and two spray cans.
Maintaining contact with other parents also helps when investigating. They can often unwittingly give the game away with a simple sentence. ‘Sounds like they had a nice time on Friday at the party’ What party, I thought they were on a school field trip!! A quick text to best friends mum to see if he is allowed to go the rave in Epping Forest, is often helpful when finding reasons to say NO.
Mysterious disappearances often happen and need a whole new set of detective skills Keeping your teens friend’s mobile phone numbers is useful when your own teen won’t answer his or her phone. Best friends don’t know your number and will unwittingly answer their phone.
There is no doubt that technology allows the nosey parent more access to our teen’s lives than ever before. But the problem is, what to do with the information that we find. How do we explain our underhand methods of detection, without betraying the sometimes delicate relationship we have with our teens. I constantly emphasise the need for trust and honesty, and pride myself on my liberal, open relationship with my children. Isn’t being a teenager all about finding ones own way in the world, having secrets, experimenting, and gradually removing oneself from the security of our parents.
As I write this my son has left his MySpace page open on the computer and I am not going to look at it. As the truth is, I don’t want to know. Although I did just offer to pay his sister to tell me if she ever though he was doing anything life threatening !!