Jack came back from North Wales on Friday night. A lot of people were in the house – the girls, Pocket, Jack’s nephew Joe and his daughter Lola. We were all sitting around, watching a movie. Nothing special; bolognese for dinner and a bit of banter.

Then Lulu turned to Jack. ‘It was much less stressful when you weren’t here,’ she said to him. Why did she say it? I have no idea. Jack got offended though… that bit was for certain.

This morning Delph and I went to see Linda. Our first Saturday morning session for the new year. No change – brilliant and crazy and all of it in a slightly too cold house. The sheep still munched on grass right outside her kitchen door. Afterwards, Delph and I came swiftly back home, since we knew that Aaliyah was up and ready for their Barbie day. I found Jack in the kitchen, making scrambled eggs. All good right? Delph disappeared into the living room and Aaliyah came in the kitchen to join us for breakfast.

Aaliyah was a bit rude about breakfast. It’s true. Not super excited about the meal. At the risk of sounding too Mumsnet, she didn’t bring her ‘thank you’s’ to the table. Jack caught her on this, not too bad, after all she isn’t his daughter and she and Delph are hopefully friends forever, so no need to bring the discipline home. Still, he told her. I didn’t say anything. I thought it actually needed doing – at least for the sake of Aaliyah living amongst other humans for the foreseeable future. Lulu, however, thought otherwise.

‘Dad, you shouldn’t be rude to Aaliyah. She is a guest in our house.’

‘I wasn’t being rude.’

‘Yes you were.’

‘No, I wasn’t.’

You can imagine how this progressed. Since Christmas. at the expense of my time and Delph’s peace, these two have been playing the ‘who’s the most defensive child-like person in the room game. Somedays, it’s a Lulu win, other days Jack’s clearly still got it. And it’s getting more and more tiring to watch. On a positive note, I am getting Lu out on walks in record time. I swear Fin sits by the car now as soon as they’ve start talking. Arguing means walkies!

Problem is that I can see both sides. I can see Jack’s authoritative view – three cheers for him for having a problem page for teenagers and parents open when I came home.

‘See?’ he said, intently scrolling down the page, ‘see what it says about establishing consequences?’

I nodded and gulped a little vomit down. I was more focused on the majority of the text which emphasised understanding your teenager and letting them make mistakes. I guess the consequence part really grabbed him though.

Lulu has a tendency to say things sometimes, well, that are just plain wrong. This is in her nature.. she is confident, curious and rather opinionated.

I took her, Pocket and Delph to the sand dunes afterwards. They yelled their way down the dunes. The sand flew along with their temper. Lulu picked an argument with Pocket. She asked Pocket if her parents smacked her when she was naughty. Pocket replied that her dad did once.

‘Well, I would never let my dad hit me,’ Lulu replied indignantly. ‘I think only mums should smack their girls.’

I winced. Her opinion a reflection of our family experience: me having been the main smacker in the house. I’d never thought of it the way Lulu was putting it now though. I just thought I’d been the one with the itchiest hand. The way Lulu was putting it, it was like my itchy smacky hand (not doled out very often but mostly as quick punishment for when they were fighting: ironic I know) was the alternate and more preferable version to their father’s. Dammit, I thought, why didn’t I go down that Swedish approach and never smack them? I’d created an unwitting, female version of smacking.

’That’s not fair,’ Pocket said. Her cheeks had gone dark red. ‘What was my dad supposed to do – wait till I went home to my mum’s? When I’d been naughty at that moment which had nothing to do with my mum. My dad had to do what he thought best at the time.’

’Are you sure you were only six when it happened?’ Lulu probed.

‘Yes!’ Aaliyah yelled. ‘I was six! Now leave me along with your sexist smacking opinions.’

We walked home in the rainy dusk, deflated. The dunes which we’d been using to our temper-releasing advantage were now overwhelming us. They’d won. Grassy spikes and brambles pierced our limbs, telling us to go home.

Lu and Delph had a physical altercation just before we got to the car. Lu snorted when Delph couldn’t tell the time on Pocket’s 24-hour clock. Delph shot forward and grabbed her hood from behind, pulling hard on her neck.

‘I’m going to get you arrested!’ Lu screamed at her, ‘then you’ll have to spend the rest of your life in prison!’

‘I’m not sure a court would pass this sentence, Lu’ I said. ‘They’d probably look at the whole circumstance leading up to the assault.’

Delph suddenly giggled. Aaliyah smiled her big-eyed smile. Even Lulu nodded in agreement. ‘Ok. Maybe not your whole life.’

Kindness. The most simple thing. Gets lost so easily. When you find it again; grabbing for it in the air with a net or it somehow blows back to you, it’s the most marvellous gasp of fresh air.



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