The time has come. I've been sitting, waiting and contemplating, as the song goes, not that I can recall which one. Enough's enough, even where parental discretion is concerned. Yes K, my thirteen year old bundle of feminine hormones, mood swings and an uncanny ability to wrap her Dad around her little finger, which she gets from her elder sister, has got a boy sniffing around her.
Not only that, but it seems that K likes this boy, who we'll call Z, not because he Mexican, but just because. There have been a few weeks of blatant denial from K, then at some point last week, under interrogation, she fessed.
"Yeah well I suppose we're going out yeah" were the exact words.
"What, so he's your boyfriend is he?" I said, though I was easily the most uncomfortable party involved in the conversation.
"Well, you know."
It's a scary situation for a Dad. I ventured into a brief birds and bees type of talk. With hindsight I think things would have been clearer if I'd talked about men, women and sex, but no, I'd gone for birds and bees. I ended up by having faith in K, her intelligence and wisdom and telling her that she could invite Z round sometime. She did, sooner than I was really ready.
You see, the main problem for me as the Dad is that I used to be a fourteen year old boy. I know what goes through the mind of one of these kids. It begins with S, it ends in X and there's one middle letter. And, before you get all smart, it's not a number either. I don't like the thought of one of these kids sniffing around my daughter, but it's got to be better to check him out than be all strict and ban or injure him or something.
Saturday was the day he was expected. K was on tenterhooks from the time she woke up. She tidied her room, an achievement in itself, she made herself look nice and then attempted to act calm and nonchalant. A, the big sister, was as interested in meeting and checking out Z as I was. K arranged to go into Kingston and meet him then bring him back to RD Towers later. I waited for the arrival and did my own equivalent of pacing up and down impatiently; lying on the settee and watching TV.
At some point I realised that I was nervous. How should I act? Should I play the authoritarian father? Should I look down my nose at him and give him my best "I know what your game is son and you're not playing it with any daughter of mine" look? Or should I take a quiet, Corleone approach and act cool and detached, like a fridge that's not plugged in?
There was a knock at the front door and A let the knocker in. After some grunting and shuffling in the hallway K came into the living room looking awkward. The noises from the hall were a clear indicator that one of two things had happened; either an unknown farm animal had accompanied K in and it was now grazing in the hall or Z was hanging around in that teenage way, not knowing whether he should enter the room or not. As it happens, there were no animals, not farm ones anyhow.
Z was expecting K to be the perfect host, but K hadn't experienced this kind of thing before so she wasn't sure. She was looking towards me for reassurance but I hadn't done this sort of thing before either. Well, I guess I had, but I was at the other end of the food chain as it was not that long ago when I met C's Dad for the first time. He'd decided to play it along the "I know what you're game is son and you're not playing it with any daughter of mine" way so I knew only too well how it felt to be on the receiving end.
Z sort of ambled in. In that way that teenagers, when they've just taken delivery of an adult body but haven't fully read and understood the instruction book, do. He was bigger than me, not really a major feat to be honest, but he wasn't what I'd expected. Somehow I'd anticipated a man, as if it was a scene from Meet the Parents. Instead it was a boy, one who had that floppy hair that, well, flops everywhere. He wore those skater, or sk8ter boy, or boi, trainers and he had a peculiar jowly type of puppy fat going on around his cheeks. I suspect, if I had been his mother, I'd still think of him as cute.
He shifted uneasily from foot to foot and hunched his shoulders as K introduced me to him. In the briefest of moments I realised that the poor kid was nervous as hell and I felt a bit sorry for him. He didn't know whether to shake my hand or wave at me. I resisted the urge to do something mean. I also remembered that K had told me he was a drummer. He glanced over at my drumkit and uttered that important word.
Immediately we bonded.
"Would you like a go?" I asked.
We wandered over to my electronic kit, I showed him around it, played him a couple of things and then he sat down and played a bit. He showed me a groove. I tried it out and was vaguely aware of the girls over the other side of the room being shut out of the goings on. Z asked me questions about the kit and I answered them. I asked him about his playing, his drum teacher and his influences and we very quickly got involved in drummers' talk, a dangerous phenomenon.
I released him and he and K went off to look at her laptop and peruse Facebook for a while. Before we knew it it was time to drop the girls back home and Z went off to meet his mate somewhere in Kingston. K seemed pleased that I hadn't been mean to him.
It's a funny old thing you know. I don't know if this will be one of those teenage romance things that's over and done with by Tuesday, perhaps Wednesday, or if it might last much longer. I wonder how it's best to be the good parent here, balancing the different roles a parent has to play. As the divorced Dad things are different too, I have less day to day contact and influence and often have to sit in the sidelines and wait.
The last thing I want to be is one of those parents who forbids their child to hang around with a boy, but I also want to do my best to ensure K doesn't grow up that bit too quickly. It's a finely balanced act, made a little more challenging by divorce and all that goes with it.
Hmmm...and I wonder what he thought of my drumming.
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika
2 hours ago