Who’s the teen?
Tracey Hawthorne’s children are not impressed by her wild ways.
I came to on Sunday morning with my 17-year-old daughter leaning over me, placing two Panados and a glass of water at my bedside. Then she stamped through to the living room, where she noisily stacked CDs (I am not sophisticated enough yet to have my music on MP3). Every time I heard her say ‘Eeuw’, I knew she was matching an Abba or Neil Diamond CD to its cover.

By the time I’d finally dragged myself out from under the duvet, brushed the black off my teeth and found something I could wear that wouldn’t hurt me, she’d mopped up the worst of the mess – she’d stacked the empty wine bottles into the recycling boxes, wiped the counters, emptied the ashtrays and put on a full dishwasher load. Oo-er.

My own parents were hopeless hedonists. They laughed off our reckless teenage excesses (mine and my three siblings’) with a carelessness that didn’t negate how much they loved us (I think). I remember finding myself in their bed one morning, aged about 17, horribly hungover, after one of their legendary parties. I can’t remember how I’d come to be there. My parents, having found me ensconced when, in the wee hours, they’d finally stumbled to bed themselves, had chosen not to disturb me, and had instead made themselves a couple of cups of coffee and waited for me to wake up. Not that they were kind when I did: ‘You’re on shit patrol this morning,’ my dad reminded me, amiably, when I finally opened my eyes. ‘Shit patrol’ was quartering our huge Joburg property with a plastic bag and a spade, picking up the leavings of our pack of hounds. Nice.

Now a parent to teenage children of my own, I’m aware of being a good role model to my kids. I eat properly, I pay my taxes, I don’t drink too much coffee.

But now and again, the wheels fall off. Friends will come round, another bottle (and another, and another) will be opened, and before we know it, it’s 3am and we’re dancing to ‘Cracklin’ Rosie’.

My kids aren’t impressed by this. Not at all. ‘Turn down that infernal music!’ my daughter will shout, eventually, leaning out of her bedroom, hair awry. ‘This is not going to help your psoriasis,’ my son (aged 18) will say with skin-tingling disapproval, when I’m rooting about in the fridge the next morning for something greasy to eat.

I’ve come to be of the opinion that children rebel against their parents the only way they know how: by not doing what their parents did. (I don’t, for instance, make elaborate Madras curries in pumpkin shells, which was my parents’ dinner-party trademark.) And from this I deduce that my teenage children will avoid irresponsible partying. Although they may also not pay their taxes.

Do you think kids rebel against our vices? What’s your family’s story?

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