He was just 13 weeks old when my midwife rang one night. She was anxious about me. Where to start: my "elderly primigravida" status, my exploding appendix which caused the baby to come early, the house renovations that left me without a kitchen or bathroom, my breastfeeding struggles and, and, and…
I thought she was calling with some sympathetic advice. But no, fueled by what sounded like a chardonnay or two, my midwife felt compelled to give me wise words about my son's future.
Her advice – the bits that made sense anyway - went something like this: "You'll need to watch out once he turns 13," she said. "The girls, they'll be after him. They'll try to trap him, mark my words, and he won't see it coming."
And there was more: "Teenagers … be very suspicious. If you drop them off at the movies, drive round the block and make sure they really HAVE gone to the movies. If not, follow them."
And finally, "Don't believe anything they tell you."
How I laughed afterwards. What was she talking about? My baby was 13 weeks old! I had more important things to fret about, like whether it was too early to take him to Wriggle and Rhyme at the library.
Her words faded in the following years, a blur of bedtime stories, skinned knees, school fundraisers, ripper rugby, scooters and birthday parties. But by crikey did they come back screaming back into my consciousness when the boy and his mates (male and female) turned 13.
Suddenly he was as tall as me, his voice dropped overnight and alarming amounts of thick, curly hair appeared on his legs. And he developed attitude.
Priorities went from getting Player of the Day to acquiring 3.4 billion Instagram followers and monitoring a Snapchat account that was busier than Foodtown on Christmas Eve.
Doing "streaks" every day became a life-or-death must. Brushing his teeth or remembering to wear deodorant, not so much.
Sadly, much of the advice I laughed about in 2005 is now of little use. My son doesn't even bother to pretend he's at the movies. He and his mates have somehow already seen every R16 movie on some screen somewhere long before it hits the Berkley in Mission Bay.
I find this out when we're skimming through Netflix trying to find something suitable to watch as a family. Going to the movies, what a joke.
The thing is, some – but not all - teens are extremely street-and-tech savvy. They have older siblings, cousins, friends who can get them RTDs, vapes and invite them to parties you have no idea about. You might think your young teenager is still that sweet, innocent child but how would you know?
Take this year's Lantern Festival in the Auckland Domain. The boy asked if he could catch the train to Newmarket and go to the festival with a group of school mates.
That's nice we thought. A change from finding out days later that he and his friends have been leaping into water from very high vantage points - at the Viaduct, wharves, lighthouses, tops of houses - and been chased by security guards and cautioned by police. The Lantern Festival, good family fun. Yay.
I did think it odd that his Snapchat location showed him in a dark area near the Auckland Museum that night and the festival showed up as bright lights some distance away. What noodles we were.
Apparently the principal of a private girls' school had received intel and sent out a warning to parents beforehand. Half of Auckland's teenagers had arranged to meet in the darkness at the museum.
Too late I discovered about the drugs, drunkenness, the mass brawl that broke out and the police who arrived. My son was pushed out of the fracas by a policeman and he scarpered – the most sensible thing he did all night, I told him.
One mum shared a video on Facebook. She'd actually had the gumption to check out what her kids were doing, much to their horror. The video showed hundreds of young teenagers clumped together outside the Museum, accompanied with the words "If anyone is wondering where their teenage daughter is or where all the cut-off jeans in Auckland are…"
The next day I noticed a mark on my son's thigh that looked suspiciously like a love bite or, as the kids call them, a hickey. Here's his story: a random girl started "sucking on my leg" when he was lying on the grass in the dark talking to his friend. I stopped breathing while I grappled frantically for a response.
No, just kidding, he said. The mark was caused by a vicious bullseye hit during a lunchtime game of sting pong (table tennis) at school. I took a breath, and laughed. You had me going there for a minute. And then he played his final hand. "The hickey's on the back of my leg."
A Hamilton friend discovered her young son was lured to the house of a Year 9 girl he'd never met. The girl had followed him on Instagram and invited him over when her parents went out.
When she pulled his shorts down and tried to perform oral sex, he turned and ran - just as the parents arrived home. Later, he asked his mum: "Does this mean I've been sexually abused?" That's not a conversation she was ready to have.
I've agreed to a party at our place next week after exams, just some Year 9 friends - girls and boys. I'll order in pizza, make sure there's plenty of water and non-alcoholic drinks. Put up twinkly lights and warn the neighbours there could be some thumpy music. Blow up the air mattresses so some of the boys can stay over. Sorted.
But a coffee this week with the mother of an older boy has left me in a state of terror. The warnings pour out like upturned RTDs.
"Check all the bags and backpacks for alcohol, otherwise they'll vomit over the pizza. The girls will sneak in vodka in their pump water bottles," she said. "And check for nicotine vapes and crackers."
Crackers? Yes crackers, or "nangs", those silver-bullet shaped canisters designed for whipping cream. Full of nitrous oxide (laughing gas). The kids crack them open and inhale. It gives them a 20-second head-blowing rush…pretty harmless apart from the risk of brain damage, memory loss, nerve damage. Oh joy.
So here's a warning. Living with a 13-year-old can put you in a constant state of flight or fright. They're a self-assured, self-entitled generation who have replaced walking and biking with Ubers and Lime scooters. You're considered unreasonable if you don't let them get Uber Eats, stay up until 2am or have mixed (boys and girls) sleepovers.
For any parent with a youngster coming up to 13, or even a 13-week-old baby, this is my advice.
•Don't believe anything they tell you... (that bit of my midwife's advice at least still stands). You will need the antenna of a bat and the spy instincts of Bond to navigate your way through these tweenage years.
•Do a regular sweep of the child's bedroom and backpack. Along with dust balls and lost socks, you could well find a vodka bottle behind a drawer, a condom hidden in the cut-out pages of The Emerald Dragon (buried on page 69 if they've got a warped sense of humour), or a vape stuffed inside a rubber toy. Using a metal detector is quite acceptable.
•Don't think just because they still chat to you at bedtime that you know everything that's going on. They're the only ones who know that.
•Make sure their Uber rides, or Zoomy or Ola, show up on an account on your phone, not theirs. How else will you catch them going to a party when you thought they were at a friend's house?
•No cash. Instead put their pocket money on a debit card. That way you can see exactly what he or she is spending it on. Of course there are ways round this, like buying food at the tuck shop for a mate and getting cash in exchange. Be alert.
•Don't let your teen start running his or her social life. Remind them they need to discuss plans beforehand and ask permission. Always touch base with the other parents involved.
•By all means check their Instagram and text messages. You'll learn which girls want to lose their virginity to your son, who has been sending photographs of their naked breasts (the girls were 12 when they did this), who has been sneaking out at night, and you'll read language that you didn't believe your child and his/her friends were capable of using. Not for the faint-hearted.
•Ask for the name and number of a parent who has invited your child to stay, then ring and talk to them. Be suspicious of texts that read, "Hi, would love to have your son to stay tonight. I'll make sure I have them in bed by 9pm. All phones will be in the kitchen." That is probably your child's friend texting on his mum's phone and then deleting it.
•Be suspicious of texts on your child's phone supposedly from parents saying they will be home to supervise. They send the text from a friend's phone after changing the user name.
•Be suspicious of questions like "is that house empty?" It turns out kids use the mailboxes of empty houses to send vapes and goodness knows what else to so that their parents won't know. One trick is to transfer birthday money to a Prezzy card so that the purchase can't be traced back through a credit card.
•Track your child's movements using any technology you can: Snapchat location, Find my Phone, location apps, use it all. One mother tells me she discovered her 13-year-old was at a beach at 1am when she thought he was at a friend's house in a different part of Auckland.
Netsafe's CEO Martin Cocker tells me that with the advantages and benefits of new technology come abuses and risks. We give children cellphones for their safety and Uber accounts so they can get home safely but then they use them for other purposes, he says.
The key is to be realistic about the fact that those flip sides exist and understand what they are, Cocker says.
He thinks putting a location app on your child's phone is fine from a safety point of view. Cocker can track the progress of his own young son when he catches a train from school to his father's work.
And if you're seriously worried that your child is mixing with the wrong crowd and up to no good, there is the full spyware option that lets parents know who they're texting or calling, where they are and what they're looking at online.
Says Cocker, "We never encourage parents to install those high-end spyware apps but it is good to know they exist if parents have a very real concern for the safety of the child."
For someone who started as a reporter using a manual typewriter and a landline, it's all a bit bewildering. But there is hope. My son's downfall is that he, in the end, can't resist telling me a secret (the trick is to pretend that you're not interested), or making me laugh about his escapades after the fact.
And he has a friend who is a complete blabbermouth. Pssst.. Harry, I say, handing him a chocolate fish. What's this I hear about…
And kids these days, they know stuff. "Mum, I'll never smoke, it's disgusting " my son tells me. "I'll never do drugs. That's just stupid. I might drink…a bit." The sly, lopsided grin tells me he's already sampled, although I've picked up that he doesn't much like beer and the RTDs make him feel too full. Excellent.
When he was 6 and I made him go to a swimming lesson rather than a playdate he bellowed during a full-blown meltdown, "You are RUINING my life!"
I sighed. "That's my job, you see," I explained at the time. "One day you'll get it."
Nothing's really changed. I'm still ruining his life. It's a fulltime job.