Last night, my 15-year-old, who I tenderly refer to as “Bigfoot”, offered to make dinner. P.F, impressed, said “Hey! Great initiative!” and my teen sloped off into the kitchen.
From my comfy spot in the sofa I could hear banging, clanking and slamming in the kitchen over a background of something loud and rebellious provided courtesy of Youtube. I glanced anxiously at P.F, who waved his beer bottle at me dismissingly and said: “Have a drink, cool down and enjoy it! He’s being helpful, so don’t blow it”.
He was right. I resisted the temptation to police the noisy events in the kitchen and nestled back into the cushions, relishing in the luxury of the moment. Twenty minutes later, Bigfoot shuffled back into the room and unceremoniously dumped a steaming saucepan onto the coffee table. I peered into it and was not surprised to see P.F’s favourite meal: pasta. It was excellent, too; the plateful of carbs with its gooey topping of grated cheese and lashings of ketchup took P.F and I back to our student bedsit days.
I scraped the melted cheese off my plate, glumly contemplating the fact that Bigfoot was now almost ready to fly the coop and step out into the world unaided. In the bat of an eyelid, the kid I used to play Lego with had become a giant, towering over me and cooking dinner. I am now dealing with an “almost-grown-up”.
Here’s how I’d write an alternative Encyclopedia entry to define the male teen:
The teenager is a life form occurring somewhere between the “child” and “young adult” stages of human development. Requires ample feeding and watering, and constant surveillance and reassurance.
Caring, helpful and fun, he attracts the admiration of younger children who revel in the rough games and his thrillingly inappropriate vocabulary. A little like an over-boisterous St Bernard puppy, however, the teenager does not yet know how to measure his strength. Never underestimate the utterance “oops”, which is generally followed by screaming and indicates collateral damage and a possible visit to A&E with an injured sibling.
Habitat: Generally observed in bed (position A) or draped over a sofa (position B). Occasionally exercises thumb muscles with the aid of a TV remote control. Can be inexplicably held hostage by quilt and mattress (position A) until after midday at weekends. Migrates to chosen counterpart’s home by means of bicyle if taxi service (Mum) is unavailable or on strike.
Communication: Can be haphazard and difficult on occasions. The teenager generally communicates with low-frequency mutterings which are repeated once only before the individual throws its arms up in the air, grunts and resumes position B. Open discussion requires determination, an anti-tetanus shot against jawlock, and a good knowledge of teenish (teenage jargon), unless you have a trustworthy interpreter at hand (see “chosen counterpart”).
Diet: The teenager does not have the same concept of feeding as his genitors in terms of regularity or content. It is not unusual for a male specimen to crawl out of his pit at 11a.m, appear in the kitchen in his underwear and immediately combine two eggs, a piece of rump steak and a bottle of soda for breakfast. Often, the teenager does not have any particular need for company at meal times, and sometimes only willingly communicates with his chosen counterpart. This communication preferably takes place via text messaging during family meals, and is accompanied by abundant fringe flicking and secretive smiling. Parental intervention with a “what’s so funny?” results in teenager refusing to utter a single word, after rolling eyeballs and sighing “arrêteuh, tu me saoûuuuuuuules”. (“Give me a break, you’re such a draaaaaaaaaag”).
Emotions: Complicated. Any remaining maternal rights to hugs, kisses and I love you’s are temporarily (-I hope-) transferred to the girlfriend (chosen counterpart) who is bizarrely intelligent, beautiful, funny, caring and otherwise everything you could have ever hoped for. Nevertheless, the teen remains in reassuringly close orbit around the evil maternal planet Zorg, occasionally approaching for unexpected, quickly administered pecks on the cheek. Let’s hope it lasts….