Little children make lots of mess. You get toys everywhere. You get juice spilled on the carpet.
Sometimes, after a battle with puréed carrots, you long for the kitchen to be industrially steam-cleaned.
But a bit of elbow grease, and order is magically restored.
Teenagers, on the other hand, achieve the kind of devastation that only Sarah Beeny could enjoy. My house is falling down? Yes - and I've got the cracks to prove it.
This is partly because teenagers are big. They slam the front door at 4am, and deep fissures appear in the hall. The sofa on to which they have thrown themselves over the years is curiously misshapen, like a pile of mashed potato. Carpets continually beaten by size 10s are thin and threadbare.
This slow decline is not helped by teenage habits. The walls in my 18-year-old's bedroom, for example, are pockmarked by ripped-off Blu-Tack.
'Oh dear,' I said, looking at a particularly large hole. 'What are we going to do with that?'
'Cover it with Blu-Tack?' he said.
You can't expect to bring up a family and not get wear and tear. All that chipped paint is quite sweet if you remember what caused it (the remote-controlled Batmobile, probably). But it's tough when you haven't got enough money for a magical makeover. Old and threadbare is one thing. Broken and unusable is another.
For quite some time, the lampshade in the kitchen has been held together with a wooden peg. Finally, I couldn't stand it any more, and splashed out on a new shade. I was just admiring its clean, light perfection, when my 16-year-old suddenly noticed the change.
'What happened to the old one?' she said.
'It was broken!' I said.
'But I loved it!' she said. 'We'd had it all my life! It was part of my childhood!' She narrowed her eyes. 'You didn't throw it away, did you?'
So here's the deal. Not only is the house falling down, but I have to let it rot in peace
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