They want it all, and they want it NOW. In fact they've got it all and they've got it now. Kids.

Their bedrooms are self-contained housing units. They don't need to emerge for days except to top up the mini-bar. Which is just as well because you really do not want to look inside at what Hiroshima must have looked like the day after that bomb.

Television, video, DVD player, music centre, Play Station - and that's just the ten year olds.

Matching duvets, pillows and curtains, swanky beech furniture to house the CD and video collections. No bookshelves, though, because there are no books.

Walk-in wardrobes bursting with designer this, that and the other, all meticulously slung on the floor but then they don't have to do the ironing because their social life is such a frantic whirl there's just no time.

Anyway they must be protected from stress. Stress is proof that today's education standards are much higher than years ago, because we had never heard of the word before getting landed with a job, a wife and a mortgage.

And even then it was something executives got and for ordinary people it was a social stigma to suffer from stress. But it is seemingly rampant amongst youngsters. "It's stressing me out. She stresses me out. It's doing my head in."

Ah, the teenage anthem.

Pals - sometimes two or three at a time - come to sleep, or they're out at their friends to sleep over several times a week. They have the home taxi service available at all times because mum will drive if dad's had a drink.

"I'll bet you had lots of sleepovers when you were a kid, dad." No, I shared a room with my big brother, a room with frost on the inside of the windows in winter and a bed with enough blankets to crush the rib cage of a frail child.

The morning ritual - and survival exercise - was to dash downstairs and help mum hold a sheet of newspaper across the mouth of our coal fire to get it drawing, and I would marvel as a patch of the paper first turned brown, burst into flames and then extinguished itself leaving a little hole.

We got a telly when I was 15 and, later on, a secondhand Dansette Major record player.

So why shouldn't kids have these things that we never had?

You see it's all our fault. We spoil 'em rotten. Is it to make up for the things we went without, or is it our guilt about the fact that we are too busy enjoying ourselves to devote time to them? Do mum and dad really both have to go out to work full time and leave their young loved ones with their own latch key? Of course they do, they have to pay for all those hi-tech entertainment systems for the kids' bedrooms.

I have just consented - against my better judgement - to allow my daughter to go on holiday abroad with a friend and her family.

Every hour of that fortnight this summer will be hell. Not for her, she'll love every minute.

But I'll fret myself away, my work will suffer (Editor, please note), I'll turn to drink and beat my wife.

My little girl is growing up. She's never been away from me before - apart from a school exchange to Germany and that, too, was purgatory. I imagined buses crashing, ferries sinking, autobahn pile-ups, the start of round three of hostilities with Germany, trapping her in that country until she was an old woman.

I had nightmares about evil child rapists and about my girl stepping into the road looking left instead of right.

Now she's going off to a Greek island to soak up the sun. I've always been there to make sure she did not swim out too far, to make sure she had enough layers of sun cream, to hold onto her when we looked over a cliff; to pay for the ice cream and kebabs and fizzy pop.

I won't be there to cosset her in Kos. I will jump out of my skin every time the phone rings, and if it's her I'll think of how much the call is costing me. And when am I going to get a holiday, now?

You've got to let go, people tell me. It's all right for them, they never did like their kids.

Anyway, got to dash, I'm seeing my 16-year-old across the road to the pub. She's just starting her new job helping out with the food. You didn't think I was paying for that holiday, did you?

Incidentally, I may just pop over to see how she is doing. I'm sure she would like that!

Updated: 15:03 Tuesday, March 18, 2003