I was more than startled to read this article in today’s Times. If any of my children, at the age of 12, had come to give me a ‘good morning’ kiss and then, unprovoked, told me that “I’m fat, my hair needs cutting, that the bags under my eyes are the size of suitcases and that my breath stinks,” I’d have told her that sort of gratuitous offensiveness is unkind and not acceptable (I’d have been awfully hurt too, whether it was true or not). Kate Figes seems quite proud that she has brought up her daughter to be rude (or, as she calls it, ‘outspoken’). Sure, in the heat of an argument, an adolescent says hurtful things, but unless Kate is exaggerating wildly – and in that case she is being offensive to Grace – she seems to have taught her nothing about tact, thoughtfulness or respect.
I was completely out of my depth during my daughter’s teenage years and if I’d had another girl, I hope I’d have done better; adolescent boys are quite different. Even when we did have rows though, there were several things about all my children that I only became aware of when I talked to other mothers.
They never scored points off each other. If one was arguing with me, the others kept out of it.
None of them ever sulked. They would walk away (whether slamming the door or not) and on their return the matter would be over, or we would talk it through.
They were not unkind. Occasionally there was a hard personal truth, but that was rare and it was never gratuitous.
Anyway, sorry Kate, I won’t be buying your books. If I were your daughter I wouldn’t want you to be writing about me as a teenager or yourself as a menopausal mother, and I don’t want to read about it either.