This week on Outnumbered … Pete takes Ben camping to see a meteor shower. Sue tries to prevent Stacey from giving Karen body image issues. And Jake can’t decide whether to apply for university or take a gap year.
Another week, another set of ten top tips for parents from the desk of Pete and Sue Brockman.
1. Avoid bucket list-style articles
They only make you feel guilty. Anyhow, odds are that whoever wrote 50 things to do with your children before they become teenagers is a jobbing 20-something journo who has never even had children, let alone teenagers.
2. Know your euphemisms (I)
Shiniqua is a little … patisserie-shaped.
As a mother of an image-conscious daughter, it pays to have a variety of ways of saying ‘fat’ without using the offending word itself. But when Sue says ‘patisserie-shaped’, exactly what type of patisserie does she have in mind? Pain au chocolat, perhaps?
3. Know your euphemisms (II)
You don’t have to worry about being a … nice size.
And, of course, there is a subtle difference in the euphemisms you should use when talking about your own children rather than someone else’s.
4. Consider the consequences
What this country needs is more intelligent crack-heads.
Pete laments his car being broken into again, but I’m not sure he’s necessarily thought this one through properly.
5. Proactive parenting
I’m not spying. I am carefully monitoring.
Sometimes being a caring and attentive parent can require a little online detective work, such as checking what your daughter has been buying at school on her lunch card. Think of it as proactive parenting (even though it is spying, really).
6. Some questions are best left unasked (or, at least, unanswered)
Ben, did that noise have anything to do with you?
Pete hears something in the woods that sounds ominously like a felled tree crashing to the ground. Ben emerges from that general direction moments later looking guilty. Do you ask the question? Two words: plausible deniability.
7. If gentle persuasion fails, lie
Stoke, party capital of Europe!
Sue tries subtle hints to get Pete’s god-daughter Stacey away from Karen. She tries unsubtle hints. But when all else fails she refuses to concede defeat and offers an attractive incentive for encouraging Stacey to venture to a less-than-obvious location. Sometimes as a parent the end justifies the means.
8. Avoiding the worst-case scenario
You’re buying friends with doughnuts? That’s a relief.
When faced with the prospect of the worst-case scenario, even the second-worst option has to be considered a win of sorts. Sue’s concern that Karen is eating 16 doughnuts a week is assuaged by the revelation that her daughter is finally making friends at school through their stomachs by giving them away. In the greater scheme of things, that’s not so bad. Take the victory, however small.
9. Keep up with the times
Why isn’t anyone called Janet or John any more?
Probably because this isn’t the 1950s? If you haven’t got an apostrophe or at least one letter that scores you at least eight points in Scrabble in your name these days, you’re nobody. At least that’s what my children’s friends Zanet and J’ohn tell me.
10. Father-son bonding
We all think we’re a bit weird because we’re the only ones who know all the stuff that goes on inside our heads.
Pete and Ben share a special moment as father admits to son that, no matter how old parents may seem to their children, they were all weird, insecure teenagers once too. Although obviously we were much cooler.