It takes a long time to train your teenage children to understand domestic chores. About a hundred years, probably.
Yesterday I went to a friend's house for lunch. Husband stayed behind, hunched over his laptop, working. Teenager and one of her brothers (now an OTT, or Older Than Teenager) were still asleep.
(That's what they do at the weekend. It all comes of getting in so late the night before. Sometimes they watch TV. Or eat toast. Or wander about the house putting objects in different rooms – laptops, phones, chargers – which, much later, I return to their original places. Like a challenge in The Cube – can she remember where it all came from? – but much less interesting.)
At some point in the afternoon, while I was still at my friend's house, there was a sudden downpour of rain. I remembered all the washing on the line. (OTT had just got back from studying in Germany. In his luggage, he had packed souvenir bottles of beer. Which had burst. Oh joy.)
I said to my friend Anna, 'What are the chances of anyone at home bringing the washing in?'
She thought about this. 'None?'
But strangely, when I got back, there was a pile of folded clothes on the table.
Just before supper, I came downstairs to find all three of my grown-up offspring in the kitchen.
'So,' I said, 'who was responsible for bringing in the washing?'
My daughter looked wary. Both sons stared at me, saying nothing.
'It was a good thing,' I said. 'I'm not complaining.'
'Oh,' said my daughter, her face clearing, 'in that case, it was me.'
'And me,' said her brother.
'It would have been me, too,' said the eldest, 'if I'd been here.'
'Sorry about the pillow,' said the middle one. 'I forgot the pillow.'
My heart sank. The pillow had taken the brunt of the German beer explosion. I had been lovingly drying it on a patch of grass in the back garden for two days, plumping it up in the sunshine, trying to re-fluff sodden drunken duck feathers.
'Where is it now?' I said.
'In the washing basket,' said my son.
Two steps forward. One step back.
More on Parentdish: Surviving Teenagers: The phantom vacuum cleaner