FREE HOUSE: two words that should never be found in the same sentence. Even worse is to combine them with this word: TEENAGERS.
We decided to trust our teenagers and leave them alone in the house for a whole day, from early morning to late evening. We calculated that they would sleep until mid-afternoon, wake hungry, raid the cupboards and, if our luck held, go back to bed.
Our only precaution was to leave BOTH of them in the hope that they would mind each other. I figured that between them they should have enough muscle and good sense to account for one whole adult.
More fool me. That’s not how adolescence works.
Husband and I, with the younger girls, had a brilliant day in West Cork with friends who we don’t see nearly often enough. We walked in a forest, collected blackberries, built a fire, grilled meat, drank wine, ate cake…all the good stuff.
It was a long and winding road home. We had one puke-stop but, you know, we coped.
As we turned into our gateway I scanned the house for any obvious signals of disaster. No extra cars crowded the driveway, no bodies hung out of windows and no smoke or flames gushed skyward. Only the dog appeared, with his head tucked under the lace curtain to resemble a bride, peering from his sentinel post and looking concerned. Our dog always looks concerned, he may have learned the expression from me, so no great cause for alarm there.
The teenagers, clean and smiling, met us in the hallway. We redoubled our suspicions.
‘What have you done?’ were my first words of greeting. I’m well known for my positive and trusting approach to parenting. Witness the dog’s face.
They laughed hysterically. Honest to God, they laughed so hard they were literally doubled over and clinging to each other for support.
They have always got on like a house on fire, these two, except when they are tearing strips off each other. They know each other’s buttons, for better and worse. I hope with all my heart that they will never forget how much they have laughed together even if it is usually at my expense.
It was impossible not to laugh along even while I scanned for damage. Nervous laughter is the most infectious kind.
On they sniggered, giggled and guffawed while I inspected the house and found it remarkable only in its unusual tidiness.
Amusement was almost souring to panic when the eagle-eyed eleven-year-old spotted something amiss with one of the framed photographs which line our staircase.
It has taken almost two months to discover the full (I hope) extent of their prank. They tell me I’m only half way there but I am hopeful (or deluded) that they are winding me up.
What did they do?
They jumped out of bed the minute our car pulled out and spent their ENTIRE free day sourcing, re-sizing, printing and pasting photos of Will Smith into family portraits.
I know. Daft. Well, I raised them.
Will Smith, looking suitably dejected, is in the group photo from our wedding day. Will Smith is caught congratulating Husband on his graduation.Will Smith poses as a sculpture on a plinth in the Crawford Art Gallery. Will Smith appears delighted to be embraced by Husband in the conservatory of Ballymaloe House. Will Smith, in a baby’s bonnet, perches gleefully on my lap. I can’t show them all to you because, you know, it might be embarrassing for Will Smith.
I left them for one day and my kids turned the house into a huge game of Where’s Willy?!
We (they) restored most of the pictures to normal this week but I have decided to allow Will Smith remain where he is not blocking any actual family members and, obviously, where I haven’t discovered his hiding places.
Here is one where Will Smith went on a riverside walk with the kids:That one had to go as he was blocking Eldest Daughter.
I love this one. Will Smith casually jogging by as the kids enjoy an ice-cream:Looks like the same eagle-eyed child may have spotted him on that occasion also.
It seems Mr. Smith may even have stowed away on our honeymoon:
If you had pulled me aside that September morning, nineteen years ago, and somehow managed to let me read this post I would have said to you,
Thank you, that is all I could wish for and more.
PS. Perhaps minus the puke-stop.