Surviving Teenagers: When can you ask them to turn the music down?
"They're having a party," I say to my husband.
He yawns. "I'm going to bed."
Half an hour later, my eldest returns home. The noise levels the other side of the wall are increasing by the minute. This doesn't make sense. Our neighbours are lovely and considerate. They wouldn't have a riotous social gathering in the middle of the working week.
Then the penny drops. Our neighbours have gone away for Easter, leaving their student son in charge.
I pace around the house. Bizarrely, despite the joyful yelling just a few feet from his pillow, my husband is fast asleep. Back downstairs, I say to my son, "What should I do? Go round there? Maybe they don't realise how loud it is."
"It's only 11pm."
"I know. But it's Tuesday. I've got to go to work in the morning."
At midnight, when only me and the kitten are still up (she's picked up my panic and is racing from one end of the hall to the other like a Duracell bunny on speed), and the party's spilled out into the garden, and the front door is crashing open and shut every five minutes as yet more revellers arrive (will the stained glass survive?), I take my courage in both hands and pick up the phone.
But no one answers. The music's so loud they probably can't hear it ringing.
I stand there in the hall, paralysed by indecision.
My internal debate goes something like this:
1. It's still the school holidays. None of my lot have to get up at dawn.
2. It's perfectly reasonable to round off the Easter break by celebrating with a few friends.
3. I am absolutely certain that my own teenagers are equally loud when they go out partying.
4. My neighbours are lovely. I don't want to cause a rift.
5. When I was a teenager, I once put on music at 1am and woke up next door's five-year-old.
6. I am turning into a miserable, moaning, middle-aged git.
This gets me nowhere, because inside I'm wailing, but it's Tuesday! And I can't get through a whole day's work on no sleep! And I don't have any earplugs!
So at 1am I go round there. The house is packed. Of course we'll turn the music down, they say, all anxious concern. Sorry. Sorry we've kept you awake.
I go back home and get undressed and climb into bed. And they do turn the music down. But by then there's so much adrenalin coursing round my system that I lie there, eyes wide open, as if I've just been told there's a bomb under the party wall.
At around 4am, when the stragglers are whispering their goodbyes in the front garden, I'm still awake.
So my conclusion is this: I think, on balance, however teenagers behave, it's probably better to grit your teeth and pretend it's not happening. At least that way you might get a few hours' sleep.
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