Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Where's my shotgun...?

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while now (you strange people, you) may recall a post I wrote last summer whilst drinking one too many San Miguel's at my mother's house in Spain. A strange new creature was emerging Gremlin-like from the chrysalis of my lovely innocent daughter; as if in some Faustian nightmare, my little girl's soul was being moulded by a demon's gnarly hands and foul extrusions were beginning to manifest themselves upon a world aghast.

To whit: the teenager. Puberty. Adolescence. Kevin.

Oddly, however, it all came to an abrupt halt shortly thereafter. The physical changes that we were sure would soon accompany the surliness and the antagonism simply didn't materialise. La Child continued to communicate by growls, of course, and she continued to grow. Her face became longer and her gait more assured, but all that knobbly unpleasant pubescent stuff...? No. She remains flat and childlike, and that's just fine, thank you very much.

Apart from one, minor, totally inconsequential little thing. 

Boys. She likes boys. She likes them so much that she has adopted one as her pet. She has a boyfriend. What, precisely, does this mean? "Well," she explains, "a boyfriend is someone who doesn't mind being kissed, who loves you and who when you're both a bit older will go on a date with you." Right. And what makes this particular boy your boyfriend? "He stopped running and let me kiss him." There you have it lads: exhaustion equals commitment, and don't you ever forget it.

This Valentine's Day she and her boyfriend exchanged gifts. She to him, a soft toy bear carrying a heart, her own homemade Valentines biscuits, a card 'to my boyfriend' in which she expressed her never ending heartfelt love and devotion; undelivered (she couldn't find a box big enough to send them with and he lives a long way away: shame). He to her, several heart shaped biscuits; undelivered (he sent her a photograph of them, and then ate them). One can see that the commitment levels here may not be perfectly in balance.
 
It's all very innocent really. But this weekend, under my roof, something slightly less innocent took place. She had some friends over to stay, including a boy we shall, for convenience, call 'The Boy'. La Child had the bed, The Boy had a mattress on the floor. One evening, amazed at the fact that it had all gone a bit quiet, I went up to check on them. At first, all was quiet, all was dark and all seemed normal. Then, like some startled rabbit in the headlights of a swiftly-approaching, toxic-waste-carrying articulated truck, a head popped up from La Child's bed. But it wasn't La Child's head. Oh no. Oh no, no, no. It was The Boy's head, a look of (entirely appropriate) horror on his face. And it was shortly followed by La Child's head, a look of (entirely inappropriate) resigned frustration on hers.

Yes, dear reader, the two of them had been caught in flagrante. Words were said. Measures were taken. Displeasure was felt. The two of them had been 'snuggling', La Child later explained. Slowly falling asleep, entwined in each other's arms. "And what," asked the 8 year old child, "is wrong with that?" Let me count the ways, Child dearest, whilst installing a perimeter of barbed wire around your bed and installing trenches, wire entanglements and other fortifications.

Oh, I know there was nothing remotely sexual about all this. For years now La Child has been jealous of the fact that Lady Branza and I get to keep each other company in bed every night while she is forced to share her bed with cuddly toys and a library. This is about companionship, comfort, feeling warm and loved, I get that. But it is just one more stepping stone on the increasingly swift passage to Grown Up Land. La Child is on a ballistic trajectory to adulthood and it scares me a little. What with an increasing devotion to boy bands, a seeming need to preface everything with the word 'like' and a wardrobe that out of nowhere suddenly includes crop tops and figure hugging leggings ("I'm sorry, in what parallel universe did you think I was going to let you wear that?") I can physically see her childhood floating away on a passing air current.

Regret and sadness I feel, and yes they're mixed with hope and expectation... and a little pride. Pride that she's so confident and content a person, pride that the result of our angst and confusion as parents is a young lady who is independent, and determined, and capable. But it's mostly regret and sadness. My little girl's growing up, and I'm not sure I like it.