The horror! Being a dad to a teenage daughter
Secret spycams, professional bouncers and police call-outs — Five fathers confess how they handled their little girls growing up
It’s a father’s worst nightmare: your teenage daughter throwing a party in your absence while errant boys run amok, turning your family pile into a pit of adolescent hormones, pilfering spirits from your drinks cabinet and staining sofas that no amount of artful cushions can conceal.
Worse still, then, for James Shaw, who made the fatal error of checking his home CCTV app while out at dinner — only to see his daughter kissing a boy at the gathering he had been promised would be “all girls”.
On his return, an altercation ensued, which resulted in the father-of-two being punched in the face. Not the kind of post-party infamy his daughter was likely looking for. While the technology Shaw employed may be new, when it comes to parenting teenage girls, some things never change, as fathers below report from the frontline ...Alastair Campbell, authorThere are quite a few contenders for the prize of which of my daughter Grace’s teenage misdemeanours sparked the highest score on my exasperation meter. There was the time her mother Fiona and I were dining at Chevening with then-foreign secretary David Miliband and then-Australian PM Kevin Rudd when Grace rang to say Starbucks had called the police, because she was messing around in one of their cafés.
Or the time I looked out of the top-floor window at home to see Grace and a group of pimply youths passing round what looked like a giant spliff in the garden.
Or the time she insisted on booking her own flights from Greece — “I’m not a child, Dad” – then discovered on arrival at Athens airport she had paid on my credit card for a plane that flew a month earlier, and I had to call in all my BA contacts to get her home. I could go on.
Nor was she that great at gratitude when I got her out of a hole. “Dad, if you talk to me like that again, I will not even mention you in my first Bafta acceptance speech,” she would tell me when I dared try to pull her up.
Yet she has never lacked confidence, or the ability to make me laugh, which meant my frustration never lasted too long. That’s why Fiona and I will be bursting with pride at 10pm tonight when she makes her TV debut with feminist prank show Riot Girls.
Admittedly, there are parts of it that I am moderately relieved my mother is not here to witness (should any grandparent have to see a granddaughter flash a huge fake pubic beard?). But I also know Mum, too, would be proud and happy that Grace is coming good after all the sleepless nights she used to give us.
Simon Mills, journalistNo sooner is the front door closed and the car pulling away from the drive than mayhem begins. Music. Booze. Chocolate. Cigarettes. Bouncing on furniture. Breaking stuff. Boys are rounded up and arrive with cannabis in their pockets and their tongues hanging out.
Oh, you can try to keep a lid on things by hanging out at your own kid’s party for a while like some perky copper and saying “I’m not here! ... just have fun!” while you pass around the cheese straws, but really, your daughter will hate you for this and her friends will leave early and call it “the worst party ever” on Facebook.
In my experience, it’s much better to lay down a few basic rules, hide the valuables and hope for the best.
My ex-wife and I once went away on a skiing trip leaving my eldest daughter, Laurie, at home.
She claimed tiredness and an urgent need to revise for her GCSE mock exams. What she actually did was have a big party, which was evident as soon as we walked through the front door; the distinctive smell of flat lager, sticky alcopops and Marlboro Lights in the air. Furniture arranged all skew-whiff; cushions turned over to hide stains. Oh, and an official note from the Kensington and Chelsea police who had, apparently, dropped in at around 3am.
What did I do? I lost it for bit, moaned about the damage, made some half-hearted threat about grounding her ... and then plugged in the Hoover.
How may people did you have in here? “Just a couple of friends,” she lied. Any boys? Actually, don’t answer that.
Peter Stanford, writerMy daughter’s 17th birthday coincided with beginning at a new school. We thought we had prepared well, supplying modest amounts of low alcohol beer, and her older brother had come home from university with two friends to be on the door.
It started at 8pm. By 8.30pm there were about 50-60 people who weren’t on the guest list loitering in our front garden. We had planned to go out, but at that point we decided it was probably better to stay put.
From the roof terrace, I suddenly saw all these people climbing over our neighbours’ back gardens and breaking down their fences to get in: I was shouting, “go back you can’t come in here“, but they didn’t listen.
At 12.30am, the whole thing was still going on, and at one point, a scuffle resulted in a gaggle of teenage boys falling into the dustbins. I had to go and break it up.
By the end of it all the kitchen was trashed, there was a strong smell of something illegal — and some very odd stains on the Aga. The next morning I had a lot of knocking around doors and offering to pay for broken fences. It cost a couple of hundred quid — a bill I told my daughter she would be footing.
When it got to her 18th birthday, we nervously asked if she wanted another party. She said, “God no“.
We had a much more relaxed evening with a bunch of her friends in our local Italian restaurant instead.
Justin Webb, BBC broadcasterAs the father of an 18-year-old girl I say yes to spycams; to girls-only parties; and to dads being in charge. In theory.
In practice, well, you can have a plan, but as the great Mike Tyson famously said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
The first answer is to find a way of holding it off-site. I know it will cost money, but so does rebuilding the whole house.
Friends of mine threw a 16th birthday party for their daughter during which everyone behaved quite well — but after which they had to get a new patio door because the existing one had been wrenched so hard by unforgiving teenage hands.
So we duly arranged Martha’s 16th in the upstairs room of a local pub. Very successful. But having been lulled into a false sense of security, her 17th was at home and that was tough. It is a rite of passage for any dad, but you have to face it. You cannot control your daughter’s boyfriend, as you might your own son: he thinks you’re past it, as do his mates. Mates who have been drinking vodka before arriving, and see the cans of Stella you’ve bought in as an insult, rather than a gift.
“Time to go home now,” I said at the time I had pre-agreed with Martha that they had to leave. They swayed a bit, but took no notice. We eventually managed to get rid of them by calling a fleet of Ubers and stuffing them in.
For the 18th, then, there was only one option: bouncers. We hired six of them and they were just wonderful — even when the rugby boys set upon the football boys from another school. Good bouncers diffuse tension, because they are focused on keeping everyone out of trouble.
And that means you, too. Keeping Dad out of the picture, where we should be.
Mike Bullen, creator of ‘Cold Feet’There’s no such thing as a “small” party, or there isn’t for long. At my elder daughter’s 18th, there were about 40 guests. Only two of those present got drunk to the point of throwing up — the birthday girl and her younger sister. I fondly remember holding the 18-year-old’s hair from her face as she chucked her guts up into a bucket. I felt a strange mixture of love and revulsion.
A few months before, the same daughter (I’m not using her name to protect the guilty) had started going steady with a lad.
I’d always imagined that I would conform to the stereotype and hate my daughters’ boyfriends on sight and on principle. Instead, I found I was predisposed to like them.
My wife and I had “The Discussion” about when we’d allow our daughter and her boyfriend to sleep together under our roof. Once we’d established that they were “serious” (or as serious as a couple of 17-year-olds can be), we gave them our blessing.
One morning I had to ask the boyfriend to move his car. Seeing them in bed together, the duvet pulled up to protect my daughter’s modesty, was the only occasion I questioned my liberal values.
So, advice to fellow fathers: take a chill pill. There’s no security app that can stop them growing up.Paranoid Parents: There’s an app for that
A new type of smart watch includes a GPS tracker, which allows parents to log on to their phone or laptop and see where their child is. They also allow the creation of “geo-fences” around areas like a schools, sports clubs or parties, which means if the child leaves that space, you get a message. Overkill or entirely sensible?
There are any number of webcam video apps available to paranoid parents these days. Something like iCam lets you watch live feeds from your home on your mobile.
Would you like a photo of your child looking at his or her phone to prove they’re ignoring your texts? There’s an app (Teenage Tracker) for that. What about a phone monitoring service where you can see a child’s texts, photos and Snapchat stories from your phone? Yep, that’s possible too (KidGuard). Whether this level of helicopter-parenting is healthy or not is up to you.
Sydney-based microchip company Chip My Life has reportedly been “flooded” with calls from parents wanting to get their children implanted with a tracker chip, yet to be approved.
The idea would be to plant a chip under the skin that transmits the child’s location and vital signs at all times.