It’s mentally exhausting. Trying to work it all out. Teenagers behave with such abandon – I read an article that suggested it’s how their brains are wired. The mood swings. The love/hate. The outfit choices. The sheer, unadulterated unreasonableness. Self with a capital ‘S’. To be honest I can laugh about it much of the time, but occasionally (this weekend) I wanted to cry. The kind of parent I thought I was, the kind I want to be, gets obliterates. And we get a crazy lady in return. One who says strange (sometimes shameful) stuff. ‘She drove me to it!’. And after all my teenager daughter is, on the whole, a good girl; I can hardly complain.
I do wonder whether it is exacerbated by the timing of my life? I maintained it was a good thing to be a young mum; she’s 13, I am 40. Many of my peers are still in the toddler/rice cake stage. I look back on that like a distant, somewhat scary memory. But my own teenage years don’t seem all that long ago and I feel like I hurtled into adulthood like a missile; met my husband at 18, married at 25, baby by 27, career, dream house in our thirties. Here I am splat bang at 40 and the missile course has come to an abrupt stop!
Meanwhile I try to console myself with the knowledge that maybe boy teenagers aren’t quite so hard?!
I keep reverting to what seems basic and sensible. Consistency, especially between my husband and I, in setting boundaries. Thinking ahead to what really matters and what doesn’t. Picking my battles – wait, isn’t that advice for the parent of the toddler? Flash back: ‘No, you can’t go outside without a coat, wearing only a synthetic Disney princess outfit’. Knowing deep down that if I just keep my cool it will all be fine. The quick-fire ‘can do this/go here/have that person over/get collected at 11pm’ questions that litter every conversation. The realisation that if I say no, sometimes it’s fine, sometimes it’s Armageddon. The somewhat frightening transformation that make-up can create. Boys. Boys who come round and smell of teen aftershave. Well – not even aftershave, more like liberal use of body spray. There’s no shaving – yet.
Being balanced and measured about all matters. Bolstering self confidence. Providing safety. Providing money (endlessly – I should have shares in Costa Coffee and their ham and cheese panini sales). Being the grown up.
It’s something else, I can tell you.
And always – the spectre of danger, catastrophe, a wrong turn, a poorly judged acquaintance, a lie, the time she goes to a party and finds there is no adult in charge, just marauding teenagers, fuelled by alcohol, a million little things that could go wrong. And then conversely the million things that can go right; the aced test, the charm, the mature opinion that you know you’ve shaped, the smiles and the beauty and the sheer hopefulness of a whole life ahead. It’s enough to make me burst with pride. Look what we did.
Take a deep breath…