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Kids! Who'd Have Them?

Another thing you may find hard to take is the family-participation issue. It used to be fun when they were smaller and you could just toss them all in the car and go out for the day. Vacations, too, were a real delight to look forward to. Now, the older ones aren't interested. Being honest, they hate the idea - it just isn't cool any more. If you insist on taking them, be prepared for a whingeing session of Olympic proportion. The possibility that you can salvage the occasion by inviting one of their friends to come along might work, but if it does it will be a miracle. More likely than not, you'll spend all of your holiday wondering where they are and what they're doing, and will be extremely lucky if they don't have a falling-out which ruins it for everyone. Make a safe provision for them to stay with someone you trust, then just go. Leave the past where it belongs and continue to recall those good memories of times when they were happy to be a part of family life. As your kids are trying to do - and you aren't making it easy for them - move on and make new memories without them. The apron-strings will have to be cut sometime, and it's better you do it than them.

Their friends, of course, are a major concern. The ones we get to see, and that's not many, seem like a bunch of losers. This impression is usually an assumption based on our blinkered view of life and what we consider to be acceptable. It's not just the clothes, hairstyles, tats and jewellery inserted through every conceivable part of their anatomy - it's their off-hand manner. How could our little girl or boy even think of keeping such rude, undesirable company? Well, they do, and they aren't "little" any more. They are approaching adulthood and can make up their own minds about whom they wish to be with. If we don't like it, that's our problem. How can we cope with it? Well, maybe we could try to communicate with these oddball strangers. They are people, after all, not an alien species as we are inclined to think. I recall a group of teenagers fronting up on our doorstep. They all wore black leather, chains and studded belts, fairly intimidating considering it was night-time. As it turned out, they weren't about to effect a home-invasion, just wanted to know if our daughter was in. She wasn't, but was due back shortly, so I invited them in to wait. By the time our "little" girl returned, we had got to know these kids, and they were nothing like we imagined from first impressions. After that, we were far less concerned for our daughter's safety, having met some of the crowd she was hanging out with.

Naivety is one of our worst failings. We have this misconception that our children, despite their obnoxious attitudes, are little angels. What we see on the evening news only happens to other kids, probably from broken, dysfunctional homes; but we are sure ours would never be into drugs, or commit crimes, or drive so recklessly. If we're wrong and exceptionally lucky, we'll receive a visit from a police officer informing us of some incident our child is "alleged" to have been involved in - they prefer not to make positive accusations until after the judge has passed sentence. This leaves us shocked and stunned, but wiser, nevertheless. Unfortunately, most of us don't get this wake-up call. We continue in blissful ignorance of what our kids get up to after they go out. We can imagine, of course, and the possibilities are frightening. Perhaps we ought to interrogate them, get to the truth? If they are into something sinister, they are unlikely to admit it; if they insist they are not, there's every chance we won't believe them. Either way, we'll be dissatisfied, and we'll alienate them even further. There is no win-win solution here. You simply have to trust that your kids are doing the right thing. If they aren't, you have to be there when they stumble, and that means 24/7. In the meantime, you carry on with your life as if nothing is wrong - which, at the moment, it isn't.

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