‘He should represent South Africa at sleeping,’ was the SMS we received from Keegan’s host after he had been in the UK for a few days. Any parent of a teenager will know about the amazing capacity for sleep that the average adolescent carries. In fact, it is sure sign that your kids are about to enter the teen phase when they cease to wake with the morning sparrows and bounce around the house when most normal people are still sleeping.

When they were small my kids had this annoying habit of asking me if I was awake when clearly I was not. The shut eyes, the rhythmic, almost musical, snoring and occasional dribble should all have provided ample evidence that the current mode was ‘sleep’. But not, it seems, to my sleep disruptors!

It got worse when they brought home a wake-up ritual custom-designed to irritate parents. It involved a little fist pummeling my forehead whilst my eyelids were simultaneously yanked open, accompanied by a cheery, ‘knock-knock, who’s there?’ As unwelcome harsh light penetrated the furthest reaches of my skull, bouncing off the inside of my cranium, my nose was given a wrenching twist (‘turn the key’), and finally a squashing of my mouth, leaving me looking like an overdone kissing fish, and the words, ‘and walk right in’.

Strangely, Vicky was never subjected to this kind of abuse. I’m not sure what she did, or threatened to do, to be granted such immunity. But whatever it was, I wish I had followed a similar line of action. Having been woken up in this rough manner for several years has left its scars but my therapist, a kindly person, has assured me that in time I will cease to wake up screaming and hiding under my pillow.

Of course when the kids hibernate into the teen sleep pattern it provides a complete reversal of positions and the best opportunity yet for revenge. This, together with ‘embarrassment’ (something that doesn’t take much mastering and can be effortlessly applied), are the two greatest weapons in a parent’s armory. However, just as one begins to utilize the chance for revenge, turning the torturous knock-knock maneuver on its former perpetrators, mom comes to their defense. ‘Shame, leave them, they need their sleep’, or, ‘Just remember who will be looking after you in your old age’, are two of the incomprehensible defense tactics that come to mind. Of course there was also the ‘grow-up, you’re acting like an imbecile’ approach, which oddly enough served to motivate rather than deter. It was sound evidence that I was on the right track in serving my former captors some of their own medicine.

All of which proves that what goes around, comes around. Or in the more eloquent words of some ancient wisdom, you reap what you sow.

Leaders would do well to remember this wisdom.

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