It's Friday night. My daughter has a friend round – she's going to stay over – and my husband and I are half-asleep on the sofa watching a DVD. I am just wondering whether Russell Crowe has got very short legs (or is, in fact, forced to walk like an arthritic gnome because the part demands it) when my daughter appears in the doorway.
'We're going out now,' she says.
Out? It's half past ten at night. In my sleep-lagged brain a vague memory surfaces. It's someone's party nearby. She was talking about it earlier, but I'd sort of assumed they'd abandoned the idea.
'Where?' I say.
'To the party,' she says. 'We're meeting the others at the bus stop.'
'But I thought you said it was local.' I struggle to sit up but I feel like I'm glued to the cushions.
'It is,' she says patiently. 'We're meeting the others, and then we're all walking there together. If it's no good, we'll just come home.'
This seems like a sensible plan. But I'm not happy. I feel I should protest. Yes, it's a party in a house just round the corner. But it's dark. Should I allow them to go?
My daughter is looking at me.
'What's wrong?' she says.
'You do know,' I say, 'that there was a shooting round here once.'
This is, unfortunately, true. We live in south London. But it was about five years ago and miles away in the opposite direction from where they plan to go.
'Oh, Mum,' she says.
My husband looks at me.
'I'm just saying,' I say, scrabbling to stay up on the moral high ground.
They go out. I go to bed clutching my mobile. I lie there, wide awake, while Halloween figures with long fingers and mirthless grins flit in and out of my frenzied imaginings.
Some time later they return. I count the two sets of footsteps – every single one of them – until I know, with relief, that they're safely tucked up in bed.
But I can't sleep. Tomorrow's Saturday, and I know for a fact there's another party planned.
When you have teenagers, the fun never stops.
Does this sound familiar? Do you worry when your kids are out at night?