The fridge is where the heart is

2009-11-13 00:00

ONE of my teenage children’s less endearing behaviour traits is how, when they’re hungry (which is, apparently, all the time), they’ll wander through to the kitchen, open the fridge, then stand there staring ruminatively into it for several minutes. It drives me completely dilly.

“What are you waiting for?” I’ll ask snippily, while my son scratches his bum and contemplates the contents of the open fridge. “Something to jump out and into your mouth?

“Close that bloody door! Haven’t you heard about the energy crisis?”

“But I don’t know what I feel like,” he’ll say, using a tone that clearly implies I’m being unreasonable and uptight.

I thought this was a result of bad parenting on my part — some vital lesson I’d neglected to teach my children at some important milestone in their lives — until I realised that all teenagers do it. It’s part of the whole adolescent package, like suddenly developing gigantic feet or losing the ability to communicate in anything other than monosyllables.

In fact, teens’ relationship with the family fridge can be a source of ongoing grievance for a parent.

My children and their friends love our weekend fridge, which is the same fridge we have during the week but which is usually restocked on Friday afternoons. I go to the local supermarket and run up an eye-watering grocery bill, the provisions of which the teens are very keen to help unpack into the kitchen cupboards and fridge when I get home.

This isn’t because teens are by their very nature helpful beings (excuse me while I laugh darkly), it’s because they’re scoping out the supplies.

The minute everything is unpacked and I’ve retired to my bedroom for a lie-down with a cold flannel over my chequebook to help me cope with the financial shock, the assault on the fridge begins.

It’s as if the teens — and there are almost always at least two extras at our place on weekends — take it as a personal test to see whether they can empty the fridge by the end of the weekend. Inevitably, they rise with remarkable dedication to this challenge and accomplish their mission with a zeal that would produce amazing end-of-term results, if only it could be channelled into school work.

Household fridges are also, I’ve come to realise, a teen measure of the suitability of any venue for visitation.

“There’s nothing in their fridge!” is a verdict of such damning negativity that you can be certain the owner of such an ill-provisioned kitchen appliance isn’t going to be graced with another teen visit any time soon.

Which might explain why my children and their friends favour our house as a weekend venue (and, as a corollary, why parents who prefer their weekends quiet, uncluttered and chaos-free, restock their fridges on a Monday).

Perhaps the real measure of when your children finally cut the apron strings isn’t when they move out of home or get their first car or even find gainful employment. It’s when they buy their own fridge and stock it themselves.

— Parent

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