Parents are unruly creatures. When I was a teenager, I could never figure out how mine were going to feel about things. I could disappear into town all day with a fiver in my pocket from the age of 12, and they wouldn’t bat an eyelid. I could rent movies with an 18 certificate and they would gladly watch them with me. But then they could draw the line in what felt like utterly random places: I had to be home by midnight, and not a minute before. I wasn’t allowed go to music festivals. I couldn’t sleep over in a boy’s house, even if he was just a friend. The list goes on. Even today, I still struggle to understand why my parents let me do some things, but not others.
However, I have realised one pattern: most of the things my parents wouldn’t let me do, turned out to be pretty crappy anyway. Look, I’ll prove it. And if you assume I’m lying just to make you feel better, well… I’m not. Shh.
I wasn’t allowed to go to festivals until I was 18, and you better believe that I went mere days after turning the illustrious one-eight. My friends had already been going for years – some since they were 15 – and I was fed up of feeling left out of their stories. I was ready to tick everything off of my festival bucket list in three days: I was going to share a water with a minor celebrity. I was going to meet a mystery boy at a silent disco. I was going to have that kind of complicated festival hair that is woven with flowers and glitter. I was going to be IT.
The reality? By day two I wished that my parents had extended the ban until 21, or possibly 30. I was too poor to buy the incredibly expensive (not to mention unhealthy) food at the festival, and was instead slowly giving myself scurvy by subsisting on Nutrigrain bars and lipgloss. Everything I owned was damp, especially my socks, which seemed incapable of drying and very capable of giving me trench foot. You can imagine my delight when, on the Sunday morning, my friend got an asthma attack and we all had to leave early.
Staying out past midnight
Look, I’m an adult who can go to bed whenever she wants and doesn’t have to answer to anyone, and I still leave the party at midnight. Believe me, nothing good is going to happen after the witching hour.
Another thing that you should wait until you have actual money to do. At 19, I backpacked through Spain, France, Amsterdam and Germany, where my budget was £38 a day, exactly. That’s including accommodation. Needless to say, I spent a fair amount of nights “sleeping under the stars” – which, believe me, is nowhere near as poetic and romantic as it sounds.
Your parents think you’re too young to go on dates? I’ll let you in on a secret: dating is not good when you’re young. It’s not good when you’re old, it’s basically good never. Sure, going out to a restaurant or to the cinema or to a gallery with someone you really like is great fun, but ‘dating’ – as in, turning up at a place and eating food with a near stranger – can be absolute hell. You never know who is supposed to pay and you always forget the point of your story halfway through. Avoid this one for your entire teens, or your entire life if you can manage it.
Going on holidays with your friend’s family
This is something that, when I was around 13, everyone started doing. Suddenly, families everywhere seemed to be extending free holidays – FREE! – to feckless pre-teens who did nothing to deserve it other than befriending their wretched spawn. I was incredibly jealous of all this free holiday action, especially because everyone who went on holidays together seemed to return with a stronger, more sisterly bond.
My parents were cynical about the prospect of letting me go on holidays with other people’s families, partly because they were afraid of having to return the favour, and they were not the kind of people to give some rando teen a free holiday.
However, time taught me that going away with your friend’s family is not all its cracked up to be. You’re basically expected to be a guest, 24/7. That means no arguing, doing exactly what your friend’s parents tell you to do, and going along with their weird family traditions and crap car games. Who wants that? You’re supposed to be on holiday.