Surviving Teenagers: What Happens At Family Reunions


We have gone to stay with my parents for the weekend. It's Sunday morning. My dad is outside in the April sunshine sorting out the recycling. My mum is on the phone. It's 10 o'clock.

"Do you think,'" I say to my husband, "we should wake them up?"

Back in London, we wouldn't dream of pulling duvets off sleeping bodies until about midday. But it doesn't seem right for our offspring to be unconscious at a family reunion.

My eldest appears, dishevelled but awake.

"Is your brother up yet?" I ask.

"No," says my eldest. "I did try kicking him but he didn't move. I think he might be dead."

Half an hour later, son number 2 staggers into the kitchen, blinking in the light.

"You're up!" I say brightly.

He squints at me suspiciously.

"Any sign of your sister?"

He shakes his head. "The door's shut," he says.

My mother makes endless rounds of toast. If she's surprised that a large loaf has been reduced to a few crumbs in a matter of minutes, she says nothing.

It's now 11 o'clock.

"I'll just go and see if she's awake," I say.

Surely my daughter has slept long enough? But the door's shut. Very gently, so as not to jolt her from her dreams, I turn the handle.

"What?" she says.

The curtains are drawn. The room is full of sunlight. She's standing there, glaring at me. "I'm sorry," I say, realising that I've barged in without knocking. "I thought you were still asleep."

"I'm getting dressed," she says icily.

"I'll see you downstairs," I say, backing out of the room. I have, as usual, done the wrong thing. I wish – not for the first time – that I lived in Downton Abbey. Then the job of waking teenagers would fall to servants trained for the purpose.