My son's room looks a bit sad now he's gone off to university. You would have thought, after all my moaning
, that I'd be glad to see it empty of odd socks, old bus tickets and dirty coffee cups. But it looks all forlorn.
"He'll be back," says my husband. "There's only a few weeks till Christmas."
On Sunday, I find my daughter in his room, using the computer. (This may be because there's more space than in her own room, which is knee-high in rubbish.)
I sit on the bed and look around at the unusual tidiness.
"I do like this room," I say.
"Why?" says my daughter, who is trying to get it back to its old state by doing some kind of art project that involves shredding bits of tissue paper all over the floor.
"Because you can see the garden," I say.
Back downstairs, I start thinking. I feel very mean, because he's only been gone five minutes. But I think about all the things I could do with my son's room.
I could make new curtains and turn it into a guest room. (We've never had a guest room. Visitors make do with a blow-up mattress.)
Or I could buy comfortable chair and a second TV and have somewhere to go when my husband's watching Top Gear.
I could empty it of everything but a CD player and lie on the floor listening to whale music. But what would he think, my son, when he came home at Christmas and found his room transformed into his mother's chill-out zone?
New research from the office products company Staples says that nearly 80% of parents convert their child's bedroom into something else within six months of them moving out.
But the survey also helpfully points out that nearly half of the children/teenagers/young people feel put out when they come home and find their bedroom's been turned into an office.
You can't chuck them out too quickly. And my son hasn't moved out completely. He's just gone off to uni for a few weeks.
"But one day," I say to my husband, "we could think about turning his room into something else."
"I could use it as a study," says my husband.
Bother. I wasn't quick enough.
- It's so unfair
Used by girls aged 13 - 18 to describe almost anything - from having to get up in the morning to being asked by a teacher to unroll their school skirt to mid-thigh. Usually muttered under the breath when the offending adult is out of earshot.</p>
- When's tea?
Usually a very important question asked <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/07/11/surviving-teenagers-or-why-boys-eat-so-much/" target="_blank">repeatedly</a> throughout the afternoon from around 2pm onwards.</p>
- I ran out of credit
What teenagers say when you haven't been able to get hold of them all evening, even though they promised to stay in touch. Loosely interchangeable with 'I couldn't get a signal.'</p>
- I'm doing it
Standard response to any practical request, like "Could you get everything off the <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/09/05/surviving-teenagers-or-what-the-neighbours-saw/" target="_blank">floor</a> in your room so I can hoover it?". Always completely inaccurate description of what's actually going on (because he or she is, in fact, texting/watching TV/catching up on Facebook).</p>
- Can I have £10?
Why? Who knows. You have become a hole in the wall: as the parent of a teenager, that's your job.</p>
- Can you pick me up?
All teenagers know that their parents secretly want second jobs as taxi drivers. They do their very best to help them practise.</p>
- Don't worry
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt; ">General response to any nervous parent asking for more information about an all-night party/bad exam result/lost house keys/late coursework. Guaranteed to make any panicky adult <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/10/31/surviving-teenagers-worrying-if-they-ll-ever-get-jobs/" target="_blank">worry</a> even more.</span></p>