All the parents I know are saying the same thing: our kids are such horrendously rude, breathtakingly disrespectful, unbearably cheeky, defiant little brats now, what the fuck are they going to be like when they become teenagers? I don't know what it is. I suspect it might be because I don't have any friends who are still married to their children's fathers/mothers, but I'm not sure. That might just be a cheap, lazy excuse, and actually our kids are just, like, actually arseholes.
"He's so fucking cheeky," my friend, the single mother of a 9-year-old, told me the other day. "I might have to send him to one of those year-in-America-thingies once he hits his teens."
"Yeah?" I said. There is nothing in this world as gloriously comforting as a horror story about one of your friend’s kid’s cheekiness reaching unbearable cheekiness levels. "Is he really bad? What does he do?"
"He rolls his eyes whenever I tell him to hang his dressing gown up, stuff like that."
It's not nearly as comforting when the horror story isn't as horrific as you'd anticipated, though.
"Oh," I said, slightly disappointed.
"I'm just gonna send him to his dad's," she said. "On his twelfth birthday. Off you go, mate. Ciao, ciao, for now. Come back when you're 18."
"Do you really think it's gonna be that bad, once they're teenagers?" I asked, chewing nervously on my bottom lip. "You really think? I mean, how much worse can they get?"
"Jacinta," she said decidedly. "Haven't you been listening to anything anyone's been telling you?" She shook her head emphatically. "You think things are bad now. But. It. Is going to get. A lot. Worser."
I sighed. I really can't imagine how much cheekier Rico can get. The other day, as he unpacked his largely untouched packed lunch – well, when I say unpacked, what I really mean is, threw into the bin – well, as he was doing that, he tutted disapprovingly at me, like a German Opa on the U-Bahn when someone grins at a kid or something.
"I got some interesting information for you, Mum," he said.
"It's really interesting information."
"Go on, then."
"It's a top fact."
He came up to me and spoke slowly and clearly, like I was a bit simple.
"I – do – NOT – like – tomatoes."
"Yeah," I said. "I know that. I know that, actually."
"I don't like them. I don't eat them. I don't wanna eat them, and I don't want them in my snack-box."
"Yeah," I said. "I know."
"They're a vegetable I don't eat."
"They're not a vegetable," I said. "They're a fruit."
"Mum, I'm German, okay, I count them as vegetables. And I don't want them in my packed lunch. I don't know how many times I have to tell you before it actually sinks into your head."
"I just thought –"
I sighed sadly. "I just thought you might change your mind. Once you saw them there. You loved them so much. You used to love them so much. You loved them so much – you loved tomatoes – quite recently, too. And I just kind of thought that you might change your mind –"
"You thought wrong," he said.
"Yeah," I said.
"So will you remember this information from now on?" he said sternly.
"But you still like carrot and red pepper, don't you?" I asked worriedly.
"Course, Mum," he said. "I'll let you know if I ever go off them."
"I just feel it's unfair for a kid who only eats three vegetable to suddenly decide they don't like one of them. It's really unfair. It shouldn't be allowed."
He grinned at me. "I thought you said they weren't a vegetable?" he said.
Fucking HELL, I thought. What a cheeky little bastard. I don't know if a year in America will really help much. But three years in Siberia – hmmm. That should do him the world of good.