I sabotaged my teenagers' love lives – and thank God I did!
00:07 GMT, 18 October 2012
The moment every mother dreads had arrived. Coming home one day, I caught sight of my eldest daughter, then 14, and her new — totally unsuitable — boyfriend, lurking in the front garden. They were surrounded by a gaggle of other teenage boys, hoodies up, slouched over the handlebars of their bikes.
Every fibre in my body wanted to tell this unsavoury little group to get off my vicarage lawn and stay away from my precious little girl, Serena.
After all, her boyfriend was a lad I knew had just spent time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure for supplying illegal substances. To say I wanted him as far away from my daughter as possible would be an understatement.
Anne with her daughter Serena when she was a teen: The mother admits she invited an ex-boyfriend of her daughter's on holiday with them in the hope it would lead to a break-up… and it worked
So what did I do Smiling charmingly, I approached the group and invited them inside. Would they, I asked, perhaps like a cup of tea
The look on their faces said it all. Serena, of course, was embarrassed. And needless to say, they all cycled off quicker than I could mutter ‘good riddance’. Mission accomplished.
I was reminded of this encounter when I recently read how one in five parents admits plotting to get rid of a child’s boyfriend or girlfriend, by withholding messages, hiding mobiles, stirring up arguments or enforcing a ban.
According to a survey, the more shameless follow their offspring, eavesdrop on calls or snoop on Facebook and other social networking sites.
Mothers are the worst culprits, with one in three admitting they have won a battle to split their child from someone they felt was ‘not good enough’.
Frankly, I’m not surprised. But, in my experience, all that hard work is not always as effective as you might think.
Cunning: Anne with daughter Bink. When she met a potential boyfriend on the internet, Anne invited him for tea which then scared him off
I have learnt from experience that the quickest, most sure-fire way of seeing off someone you deem inappropriate for your teenager is to embrace them into the bosom of the family — and keep your feelings firmly hidden.
The key is not to be too heavy-handed. /10/18/article-2219368-0D74337A00000578-501_634x537.jpg” width=”634″ height=”537″ alt=”Plot: One in five parents aim to separate their teens from a partner by interfering, eavesdropping and checking up on their off-spring” class=”blkBorder” />
Plot: One in five parents aim to separate their teens from a partner by interfering, eavesdropping and checking up on their off-spring (posed by models)
This, however, was nothing compared to the challenge her younger sister, Bink, presented us with. She had been ill throughout much of her teens with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, which prevented her from mixing with her peers, as she was largely confined to the house.
It also made her far more naive than her years. When she was just shy of 17 — but with the vulnerability of someone much younger — she came to me sheepishly, saying she had good news. She’d found a boyfriend. They had made contact over the internet — at which point all my maternal instincts went on red alert.
But it got worse. He was divorced, in his 30s, with children by several different women, to whom he had no access due to a history of violence. He had, apparently, put a man in hospital and been thrown out of the Army.
Bink said that for their first meeting he had invited her to go and stay with him. Eyes shining, she told me she had accepted.
To say I felt extreme concern would be an understatement, but this was a tricky one. I could see Bink was over the moon. Her life had been ravaged by her illness, and at last she had achieved something exciting. It didn’t occur to her that there might be anything alarming about this man’s history.
My mind went into overdrive trying to work out how I was going to defuse this situation with as much cunning as possible.
There was no way I could pour cold water over her happiness. After everything she’d been through, I just couldn’t. But, honestly, it was every mother’s nightmare.
Snoop: Many parents have admitted to checking up on their children via Facebook (posed by model)
Instead, I deployed all my best tactics. Rather than putting a ban on her visit, I took a deep breath and said: ‘How lovely! Perhaps he’d like to stay with us, instead, so we can get to meet him properly’
In reality, I was dreading it. Indeed, my friends all thought I’d gone mad. They were convinced she would be raped in her bed and all the family silver would be stolen.
With this in mind, I am forced to confess I called a policeman friend who offered to run a check on the man’s licence plate. Well, wouldn’t you have, too
Bink’s ‘boyfriend’ was due to arrive at 10am on a Saturday and stay for the day.
At half-past nine, I received a telephone call from someone sounding half Frankenstein’s monster and half heavy breather, saying he was outside and where should he park Ten minutes later, I was hanging out of my bedroom window wondering if the neighbours were watching, relaying a registration number to my policeman friend, so he could run a criminal check.
92 per cent of parents are Facebook friends with their children, and 72 per cent know their child's password
I heard, thankfully, that our visitor was in the clear — and, in the flesh, he seemed painfully unworldly and odd rather than frightening. But it was still a rather unsettling encounter.
Sweetly, he had brought a load of kitchen equipment to cook us spaghetti Bolognese — his signature dish. He boiled that poor spaghetti for about an hour and when we all sat down to eat, the conversation moved like cold porridge ladled out with builder’s shovels. It was excruciating.
Afterwards, the couple moved into the living room. When I came in a few minutes later, with two mugs of tea, there was a bouncing apart on the sofa. Needless to say, I didn’t leave them alone for long.
Instead, I switched on a Jane Austen documentary I was simply desperate to watch and plonked myself, undaunted, on an armchair next to them.
It wasn’t long before the boyfriend made his excuses and hastily left, taking his kitchen equipment with him. He kept up contact for a while afterwards, but Bink never met up with him in person again.
Should I feel guilty for so shamelessly intervening Should I heck! If I’d forbidden Bink from seeing this man she could well have visited him on her own and been far more at risk.
Happily, Serena is now engaged to a man we all love. She has developed excellent taste since those early forays. Bink, too, has had numerous male friends — all of whom we have happily embraced into our lives.
Was it wrong of me to interfere like this in my daughters’ early relationships Well, you can judge for yourself. All I can say is that motherhood is one of toughest jobs in the world. And, sometimes, whether we like it or not, we need to adopt underhand steps to keep our children safe.
I wouldn’t hesitate to do the same again. In fact, I won’t be surprised if, some way down the line, I’m tempted to spy on Serena’s offspring. Pass me the binoculars, dear…