Jeremy Watson: 'Absence has made the heart grow fonder'

OH Halcyon days. I now look back on that pre-university period when, as normal teenagers, my daughters would take to their rooms with their laptops and not emerge for what seemed like days, as something of a golden period.

If they wanted to spend their time locked in cyberspace with their friends rather than having deep and meaningful conversations about their future with their parents, who was I to argue?

Arguments would have been far more likely had we spent more than two minutes in a room with each other so a tactical retreat to the bedroom - sometimes I bolted up the stairs as soon as I heard them coming through the front door - should such an unfortunate clash occur, seemed to be much the better option.

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They had their space and I had full control of the TV. What could have been better than that?

But absence appears to have made their hearts grow fonder. Now they won't leave me alone. Just when I'm coming to terms with them no longer trashing the house and enriching the energy companies by switching the heating on even though it's only minus 10, they return to remind me of what I am so surely not missing.

Within moments, the kitchen is a sea of debris and I'm retrieving breakfast bowls from under their beds. And no sooner has one hot-footed it back to uni with a suitcase full of grub and clean washing, the other turns up with a similar list of demands.

Still it's not all bad; with me insisting that myself, the missus and the cat eat up all the foodstocks that have accumulated during the last 20 years of child-centric consumer lunacy before buying anything new, our diet has become frighteningly-close to 1950s-style rationing.

When they return, however, the fridge suddenly groans with goodies such as chocolate button mousses and pre-made custard, while the biscuit barrel goes from empty to overflowing. I take full advantage.

But even when they are away in their uni boltholes, communication is becoming ominously frequent. "My bedroom roof is leaking," was one recent late-night wail from more than 100 miles away.

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"Not sure what I can do about that," I tentatively replied. "Have you been upstairs to check where the water is coming from?" "No, ring you back."

At least, girls being girls, they ring their mum if its trouble of an emotional nature that's bothering them. So boyfriend gripes, fall-outs with friends and shopping quandaries pass me by.

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I get the money calls - "could you just see your way to topping up my account for a few days, pay you back, honest". Irritating as the calls are, at least they are usually short and sweet. I should be grateful for small mercies.

This article was first published in Scotland On Sunday, 20 February, 2011

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