Some of my young teenage daughter’s friends have been going out to clubs and parties for quite a while. When I queried why she never wants to go with them, she says there's no point in asking because my husband and I will only say “no”, or be so insistent on finding out who she'll be with, what time she'll be home, and fussing over where to drop her off or pick her up, it would all be way too embarrassing.
Does that make us bad parents? Well… in our daughter’s opinion… the answer obviously is ‘yes’.
I was, therefore, taken aback a few weeks ago when she told me she wanted, with a close girlfriend, to go and see a live band. It’s true that recently I’ve started to prepare her (and myself) for this day. During the school run when we talk about her friends going out I’ve brought up the things young girls should be aware of: like how important it is to stay with the group; not to take any tablets that are being passed around; to cover one’s glass at all times so nobody can slip in anything dodgy; and not to drink too much alcohol (she says she wouldn’t do that anyway but when the family genes fully kick in she may not stand a snowball's chance). I’ve even shared a few of my ‘there but for the grace of god how stupid and naive was I’ stories - yes, I was a slow learner in the growing up stakes. Thank goodness she's way smarter.
Even still, this conversation came out of the blue and I wasn’t sure if I was ready, yet, to say ‘yes’.
So there she was, telling me about this gig she really, really wanted to go to while I took a deep breath, reminding myself how these ideas often start big only to fizzle out into nothing - which is a good reason not to overreact with an impassioned ‘over my dead body!’ However, the longer I looked at her and felt her eyes beseeching me with such a force, I knew... I just knew... this was it. That it was time and that she was ready. But was I?
Moments later I was on my computer checking out the venue’s website. I know the place, I've taken my daughter there with friends for a sunset drink. It's pretty up-market, popular with the over 30s and somewhere I'd feel the most comfortable about her going on her own. The band she wanted to see is Foster the People and from the photo, I thought they were a boy band before I blushed, hoping they weren’t, because the keyboard player looks really hot. The blurb said they are “LA superfly indie dance rockers” (I mean – is that even English?) but guess what? It also said they'd recently finished touring with the Beach Boys… now there’s a name I recognise… and I realised I was feeling a whole lot better about the whole thing. The party was due to kick off at 3pm with international and resident DJs and would go on for 12 hours. I had no idea what time Foster the People would play, and for a moment even wondered if it might just all be done and dusted before dark. Of course that was wishful thinking.
While I stared at the screen I couldn’t help but cast my mind back to the first time I “went out”. I was about the same age and was also with a close girlfriend. But we didn’t go to see a band. We went bowling with 2 boys we’d met on holiday. Both my friend’s and my parents lurked in the car-park the whole time and at my mum’s insistence I sported wrist-breaker knickers that I just knew would interfere with my run up and sideways slide bowling technique. Not surprisingly it was all a big ‘fail’, as my daughter would say, and after fighting off the boys’ advances as we unlaced our bowling shoes, they didn’t ask to see us again… and we were glad. My daughter’s situation, of course, would be very different. This was a live gig and no boys had been mentioned. Was that a good or bad thing?
Well, my husband and I did say ‘yes’ on the proviso that we picked the girls up, and the event took place last Saturday. It was a brilliant night for them both (wish I could say the same for myself) and they were waiting at the appointed pick up place at midnight safe, sound, sober and happy.
This gig marks the latest benchmark in my daughter's life... she's entered a new phase. She's growing up – and so am I. But I wish… I really wish… I could stop the clock for long enough to say a proper farewell to the previous stage before I have to start wrestling with the latest one.
J M Leitch is author of The Zul Enigma, a factual futuristic thriller looking back at a cataclysmic event occurring on 21 December 2012, end of the Mayan calendar.