Teenage Dating and Sibling Baggage


So Nerd Child casually slipped into the conversation that a male friend of hers would be staying over at Dysfunctionality house next week.

Just like that.

My Mumdar was alerted to something definitely very fishy behind that statement, but I initially ignored it – because I was busy. You know what it’s like when you’re multi-tasking? At the time, I was downing a bottle of wine in preparation for Kurt’s parents evening, and so couldn’t possibly be expected to think clearly.

Certainly not straight enough to grasp the obvious, underlying implications, anyway.

Kids can be selfish like that. They always choose the worst moments to dump something huge on you.

But then a sixth sense, (possibly the so-far elusive ‘parenting’ sense) sniffed out the teenage angst behind her words.

‘What did you say?’ I eventually asked, when it finally hit me that my daughter might actually be trying to ‘tell’ me something quite important, (and once again I was failing dismally in my role as confidante).

‘This friend’s coming to stay over,’ she repeated, looking in obvious pain.

‘But friends stay over all the time,’ I said, ‘so what’s the problem?’

‘Well…this one hasn’t met Kurt before,’ she stammered.

My fuddled brain finally began to make the connections Nerd Child’s already had. (To do this, I had to think of it how NC would be thinking, formulaically):

NC + potential boyfriend + good impression + KURT!!!!! = DISASTER!!!!

So before I could move into any potential mother-in-law mode, of planning extended family Sunday lunches, arranging their wedding, knitting booties and putting my grandchildren’s names down for Skeggs, it suddenly dawned on me why she might be a little anxious about this impending visit.

Her sibling baggage.


‘Okaaaaay,’ I started, my hackles beginning to rise in defense of our misunderstood (and quite obviously) mad-as-a-hatter son – her brother.

But then I saw it; the innate fear behind the usually cool, calm exterior. Nerd Child was actually terrified of Kurt showing her up – this guy must be a bit more important than the previous victims of her lair.

The siblings of kids with special needs are often forgotten about, even though they can be as affected as the parents by their sibling’s needs, and Nerd Child is no exception. Kurt is a tour de force in our house; his mood dictates the ambiance of the house; his noise is always in the foreground; he creates the eggshells that we all walk on.

For a more reserved, cerebral teenager like NC, her ADHD brother’s presence, the extreme way he lives his life and the way in which he manipulates the family, must be highly stressful. It’s not normal to see your 16 year old brother stomp naked through the house, to have to go out with him in just his pajamas, to miss events because he refuses to come at the last minute……

‘Tell me what I need to do,’ I asked her.

‘You mean, because sending him away to fight the war in Afghanistan or locking him in his room might not be considered humane?’ she joked.

‘Yes, because no matter how difficult life with your brother can be, he is part of your family and you must never be ashamed of your family,’ I replied.

The history of NC, Kurt and any of her potential suitors has been a little fraught. Kurt has three major loves in his life – having an audience, older male mentors and cigarettes – (this is quite typically ADHD behavior). So when a potential suitor bravely crosses the threshold of Dysfunctionality House, eager to please and bond with NC’s younger brother, Kurt latches onto him like a newborn to a nipple, often leaving NC out in the cold. If the guy plays a musical instrument, shows an interest in Top Gear or smokes, NC is doomed. Within 24 hours, her brother will be sharing the guy’s bed, discussing the merits of different bands with him, forcing earphones in his ears at full volume to MAKE him listen to them.

It’s going to take a certain type of guy to take on Kurt Nerd Child with her particular sibling baggage.

Her statement to me was about us needing to make some ground rules now for such occasions – to prioritize her needs for a change.

I immediately recognized that this would involve blackmail, negotiation and lots of money and/or Coco Pops.

She handed me her list of rules for Kurt:

  • No nudity
  • No jokes about her breasts
  • No sex jokes (in general)
  • No playing songs and forcing the poor guy to listen to them with threatening behaviour
  • No shouting, screaming, singing (especially the ‘Big Penis’ song) or jumping up and down for no tangible reason
  • No inviting him to smoke ANYTHING
  • No dressing of aforementioned victim suitor in Kurt’s spare Tigger or Eeyore onesie.

They sounded like reasonable requests to me.

But upon further consideration, we decided to arrange for Kurt to sleep over at the house of a fellow lunatic.

Experiment To Create The Perfect Family Christmas

Wine, cheese and baguette - what more do I need?
Wine, cheese and baguette – what more do I need? (Photo credit: Virtual Eric)


A beautiful old barn conversion nestled invitingly in rural  Brittany, France.

Perpetual rain.

Unlimited supplies of alcohol.

Vats of food (to include the annual carb allowance for the whole of the western world in French bread).

14 blood-related family members ranging from the ages of 2 to 91.

3 potential life partners desperately trying to fit in (curiously still innocently oblivious to the brown-nosing required to be fully accepted into the family hierarchy).

Enough bathrooms to service 10.

Egos, eccentricities, grumpiness, familial scarring.

ADHD (Some diagnosed, some not).

Yuletide flu.

Two teenagers (with accompanying attitude and disdain for anyone older than eighteen).

A television that seems to only play sport and ‘Bride of Chucky’.

A kitchen that seems to only allow entrance to women over 40.

A glorious open fire, an assortment of complicated remote controls, a wine/beer cellar and a couple of local French brasseries that only the male, Schwartzneggeresque members of the family are allowed to visit.

Internet connection that is limited to functioning only when standing on the roof.


Combine all ingredients gently.

Apply a liberal dose of alcohol (including aperitifs, digestifs, French beer, Champagne and red wine) along with the entire contents of the local boulangerie, fromagerie, patisserie, chocolaterie, and boucherie and continue to stir. Cover mixture and leave to stand for several hours until it finishes rising.

Place in the barn for 5 days.


The mixture of volatile catalysts of different strains will always provoke a strong chemical reaction, especially when those agents have not been in close proximity for a while. Once you add foreign agents to the mixture too, the end result is not always predictable.

The flu virus was added to test the true cohesive strength of the agents, and although at several points during the experiment it appeared as though its power to damage the infrastructure might succeed, the familial bonding did in fact remain in tact and several of the agents managed to improve their French medical vocabulary at the local pharmacie as a result.

Most agents behaved in a stereotypical manner when isolated in the zone. Males tended to congregate close to the tv room and alcohol supplies, occasionally venturing to the refuse area or local brasserie (more commonly referred to as a shed or cave) for bonding purposes; females congregated close to food and the dish washer, anywhere that it was possible to ‘chit-chat’, occasionally resorting to the local shopping centres for bonding and regrouping sessions.

Some reactions noted were of a less innovative nature. Uncles falling asleep mid-course and mid-conversation at the dinner table; teens retaining a permanent scowl, particularly when addressed by distant relatives in the over 40 age bracket or when presents did not materialise due to over-consumption of alcohol (and hence loss of sense of time) by irresponsible adults; old men becoming grumpier; the ADHD cohort proving that physically climbing walls is indeed a possibility on more than six Cokes, (handed out by well-meaning relatives).

Overall, the results prove that the family Christmas is not dead and certainly never predictable.