Underneath all the parenting angst, I yearned for the days when my teenager didn’t see me as the enemy, but their go-to person and protector. The days when I didn’t in parental rage vomit up the list of sacrifices made so they could live their best life. The days when I liked my child.
When I was the parent of emerging teenagers, I nicknamed them and their crew ‘The Gibberish Generation.’ Not that they realised they were speaking gibberish most of the time – as I didn’t a hundred years’ ago when I was young. I thought my own brand of youthful nonsense intellectually insightful if scathing of an older generation who had irresponsibly destroyed planet earth. Years later, a wry smile was my only response when my own daughter accused me and my ilk of single-handedly decimating the UK housing market.
But then one day the Universe holds up a mirror to youthful affectations, gives it a metaphorical slap across the face and a one-way ticket to adulthood.
My trip to Planet Reality came via a duvet cover.
Growing up, my mother and her friends would routinely gift each other bedding – for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas or just because. My teenage self wondered what you’d give someone you hated if bedclothes was the best you could do when you did like them.
Then I got my first apartment.
Forget thread count, I couldn’t afford threadbare for my sparse and barren bedroom. My ponder then became how my mother’s generation – on not generous salaries – afforded such beautiful bed linens – some painstakingly homemade. How they ran to such luxury whilst typically feeding and raising six children and a husband. In my new world, where food was a bonus, I got woke. Cue Universe face slap.
As a parent of four, I came to recognise the signs where a once sweet child would be seduced cult-like to “the other side.” The side where ne’er a sensible word would be heard again until they graduated from the University of #Life. The side where The Gibberish Generation resided. The side where a fun and playful kid turns into The Child of Darkness.
On this dark side, I recall cooking advice from teenagers who hitherto as young children ate dirt from the garden pond. I had no idea the molecular construction of pizza could bring down the world. There governments were worried about weapons of mass destruction when a cheese & tomato deep crust was the real threat to world peace.
Then there was my child The Oracle. At this stage, I could dispense with reference tomes or guidebooks because my child knew, well, everything. There was not a subject upon which The Child of Darkness could not wax lyrical. Apparently, menopausal hot flashes were all in my mind, something I tried to remember when menopause ran down my face, pooled between my breasts and ran down my back.
Bathroom doors habitually slammed, running just short of furniture being pushed up against it. Because as a mother I had nothing better to occupy my time than trying to glimpse the pubescent bits I had brought into the world.
And with the male of the species, my friends ran a sweepstake on which would break first – me or my boys’ voices.
Frustrating? (Yes.) Infuriating? (Yes.) A royal pain in the arse? (Damn straight.) But more than that?
Underneath all the parenting strategies, I yearned for the days when my teenager didn’t see me as the enemy, but their go-to person and protector. The days when I didn’t in parental rage vomit up the list of sacrifices made so they could live their best life. The days when I liked my child.
But then one day, the Universe shifts again and suddenly you can stand to be in the same room as The Child of Darkness. They make you laugh more often than they make you cry, and are appreciative of the parenting standards you’ve tried to maintain. In short, they grow the hell up.
Having done it four times, I often prayed to the Universe to gift me the stickability it gifted my own mother. The ability to see it through without killing a child’s spirit in order to meet the brilliant young man or woman waiting to emerge on the other side.
Meet the young person who will one day squeeze my hand as a child for the last time, but letting it go for the first time as the adult who was always worth waiting for.