Bill Linnane: 'When you realise you're a killjoy and not a cool dad'

I had big plans for New Year’s Eve. I was going to celebrate it in my traditional way – by complaining about how meaningless it was on social media until I lulled myself into a deep smug sleep at 10.25pm. This year was different.

Our eldest decided she was going to throw a party for a small gathering of close friends. This was how I found myself in my own kitchen asking two dozen teens to please go and play beer pong in another room as they appeared to have created a beer turlough on my lovely laminate floor.

I had such great plans for this whole affair – I was going to be the cool dad, asking the kids if they had any dank memes they would like to share, or if Drake had been cancelled yet. Obviously this all went south when I realised I was really less of a cool dad and more of a killjoy.

The entire party idea was a big step for us as it was going to involve alcohol. It was clear she and her mates drank from time to time – to assume otherwise would be foolish – but we had resisted letting her drink at home.

This was slightly different; she was now at the age where a party with zero drink was not really a party and nobody would bother going to it. So this was peer pressure manifest. We either bought a slab of rubbish beer or she ended up Emily Dickinsoning herself in her room for eternity. So we got cans, and lots of them.

Before the party, I had visions of being able to relax and enjoy an adult beverage while the teens played Ludo or somesuch, but about an hour in, it was clear I was actually going to be part caterer, part fun police; cremating pizza and oven chips whilst asking if that kid staggering around my hall was going to be ok.

Then I realised some teens had escaped the confines of the house and were roaming free range around the garden, in much the same way the lemurs do in Fota Wildlife Park. The pressure was mounting as I realised they were all under my care; that if one of them fell into a septic tank or got eaten by a cow, it would be my fault.

Hardest of all was keeping an eye on my own child, especially since there seemed to be some young blade floating around her. My wife and I had an occasional huddle, where we pondered what was going on. “Who is yer man? Never seen him before, they seem to be loitering in each other’s company a lot?”

And loiter they did, for when I woke on the couch at 3am and went looking for my darling child, I found her and this chap down the end of the drive where he was allegedly waiting for a lift home.

I told them to come back inside and this is when the young gent’s PR offensive started – he was delighted to meet me, he heard so much about me, that I’m always telling funny stories in the paper about my daughter.

Flattered that he knew what a paper was, I told him I hoped she hadn’t cast me in a bad light. He said no, she always said she loved me very much. Hot damn, I thought, this kid is good.

Eventually he was collected and I was able to properly grill my child – who was this smooth talking chap, where did he live (please don’t say town, those people are too worldly), did he have a sizeable farm with road frontage?

We got very little out of her and she slumped off to bed, but not before confirming that he was in fact her boyfriend, and that we needed to stop asking questions or she would never tell us anything ever again.

Naturally my wife confirmed all my daughter’s worst suspicions about us by suggesting the next day that we have this young man round for dinner, as clearly this is a made-for-TV movie set in 1970s America. No, we won’t be doing that, it was decided. But it was a milestone – not her first boyfriend, but the first we were allowed to meet, and not her first time having a couple of cans, but the first time we allowed her to.

There are certain things that are inevitable in youth – we can fight them or we can accept they are happening whether we want them to or not. The heart, both young and old, wants what it wants, be it love or a big bag of cans.

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