I was quite a well-behaved child – boringly so, if I’m honest. Not a goody two-shoes, just unimaginatively compliant. (This lasted until I was 15 and discovered The Ship, a tavern of reassuring proximity to the school gates.)
My siblings did their best to enliven proceedings. Setting fire to aerosol cans by the brook, one of them blew off his eyebrows. Then there was the rugby-sock incident: an adequate vessel, it turns out, in which a 14-year-old boy may unburden himself of an evening’s drinking (and kebab). But beware: when the evidence is hurled from the bedroom window, ensure adequate clearance of nearby telegraph wires so the garment does not wrap around them as a monument to one’s guilt.
Another relative, who must remain nameless, was notorious for being caught at the scene of misdemeanours – staying behind to see the look on the deputy head’s face after her house was egged or being found dangling out of the PE ceiling cavity while secreting fish.
So I smiled at Manchester University’s report that Victorian children were much naughtier than kids today – smoking and drinking, berating old ladies, stealing fruit and chasing livestock. So much for being seen and not heard.
The negative portrayal of teenagers doesn’t reflect the broader reality. But those years are, also, a time for acting up and making our own mistakes, lest we grow up coddled.