My flat is best described as having character, and bijou. I love it, because it has an upstairs, like a real grown-up house, a rarity in these parts. I love this photograph, taken in the smallest room in the house, which just happens to be my living room. It sums up beautifully the inordinate amount of space teenagers can occupy, and covers perfectly the two different definitions of room, both a specific area within a house, or space to move!!
My Nearlynonteen had his butterfly moment today. That moment when he finally spread his wings, ready to fly. He had the first of his A level exams this afternoon, and by ten o’clock this morning he was pacing the floor with a major case of nerves. He has worked hard for this, condensing two years work into one, and juggling two jobs at the same time. So those wings were spreading already. But today he was angry. With his friends, who hadn’t bothered to study, who couldn’t understand why he was so concerned about doing well. That’s when I knew the butterfly moment had arrived.
Darling Daughter took herself off to Nepal for six months when hers struck, to live up a mountain in the middle of nowhere, with a family who spoke no english, to teach sexual health to teenagers. Loved it so much she did the same thing in Cambodia the following year!! Eldest Boy went to Uni, moved in with his girlfriend, ignored all those who said “It will never last!!” and ten years later the two of them are still blissfully happy and having a ball!!
Mine was at seventeen, when I left home, moved to Edinburgh, and had the most amazing two years of my life!! The Eighties were a good time to be a teenager, and a hairdresser to boot!! I spent half my time in London, did hair shows in the States, prepared models for photo shoots, and partied like there was no tomorrow!! I met my Bestest Friend Ever, and was still with my Torn-Apart. I could run in ridiculously high heels, and dyed my hair a different colour every week. I lived every second of it, let the sun shine on my wings.
So the Mum in me felt a pang when I realised that he was going to fly. But the rest of me thought “Yes!!” Because I want him to relish his butterfly moment, every damn second of it!!!
P.S. Just thought you might get a bit of a chuckle from these photos!! Looking at them, I was less of a butterfly, more of a Death’s Head moth!! It was the Eighties, that is my only defence!!
Apparently, it is not acceptable for a mother to ask her son if he has a hicky on his neck whilst standing in the queue at the bank! I live and learn!
Living in Gibraltar means that in order to see my family, I am quite frequently On The Move. The photo above is of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Southern Spain, taken on one of my many flights home. I love travelling, in particular flying, and would do far more of it if I could afford it!! Not so my Littley, it is his idea of hell, as can be seen from the photos below, when he reluctantly joined me on this trip!!
Rather than soaking up the atmosphere and view, he just slept at every available opportunity!!
In order to make the travelling more palatable, I booked first class seats on the train. Littley insisted on wearing the chair back cover over his head for the entire journey, much to the sniffy disdain of our fellow passengers!!
In the weeks before my first face to face reunion with Torn-Apart, I suffered a severe crisis of confidence. This was, after all, someone who hadn’t seen me for thirty years, at which time I had been a fresh faced young woman, barely out of her teens. Now I had hit the half century, had four children, and time and gravity had taken their toll.
The body part that took, as usual, the brunt of my self-loathing, was my stomach. No amount of careful eating, or vigorous exercise has ever persuaded it to revert to its pre-birth firmness. One particular evening, as I stood in profile in front of the mirror, poking it with a despairing finger, my Littley walked into the room.
“What on earth are you doing, Mother?” he asked.
“Hating my belly,” I replied. “Look at it, revolting. Why can’t I have a proper flat tummy?”
His reply was unforgettable.
“Why would you want to have a *V* stomach? (Referring to the shape formed by perfect abs). A bloke would need a crab claw hand to get hold of that! What you have is an *O* tum, far more friendly and comfy, like a little pillow. Think of it as your own little piece of Playdoh. If the guy gets bored, he can make little models of stuff with it!”
I can’t claim that it did anything for my confidence, but it did make me shout with laughter!!
This gallery contains 19 photos.
I have just had one of many somewhat dubious conversations with my fifteen year old. The sort where I wonder whether I should really have found some excuse to go into the kitchen and thus nip it in the bud. Except I got the giggles, and allowed it to descend into ultra outrageousness!! I am still not quite sure which topic for discussion on BBC’s political programme, Question Time, triggered his train of thought, but I suspect it may have been his brother’s remark that one of the guest politicians was a w!#ker!
“Did you know that the taste of your sperm depends on what you have eaten?” he blithely announced.
(You have probably already realised that this is the point at which I should have left the room).
Noncommittal grunt from mother, snort from older brother. Undaunted by lack of enthusiasm, he warmed to his subject.
“How did scientists discover that fact? Does that mean someone tasted it?”
Brother showing interest now, mother trying to keep features arranged into facsimile of responsible adult.
“I mean, how did they advertise that job? And who applied for it? Did they leave school with that as their career ambition? Or perhaps they were targeted as unsuspecting unemployed wine-tasters? Do you have a discerning palette? Are you looking for new challenges? Can you think outside the box?”
Features going into meltdown now, brother already cackling.
“”Hhhhmmmmm…….I’m getting hints of garlic, with high notes of chilli and cumin, and…….let me see……a backnote of german lager! Am I correct?” “Ok Barry, lets do the reveal….. ” (brother does suspenseful drum roll) “….and you’re correct!!!!!””
Both boys now doing fake audience rapturous applause, responsible adult crying with laughter!!
Yesterday, my fifteen year old son went out. Voluntarily.This is an unparalleled event in my household, brought about only by a major power cut, which meant he was unable to use his laptop! To play a game that he has explained in huge detail to me, over several hours, and about which I am still none the wiser. I dont do games of the video or P.C. variety, although I am a cut throat bitch when it comes to Monopoly. My boys did try to initiate me in the ways of Xbox and Playstation, but gave up after a wasted day of watching me try, in vain, to get Shrek through a gate, and having to physically wrestle the fake instrument from my hand as I failed miserably at Guitar Hero!
Deciding to take advantage of a rare situation, I asked him to take out the rubbish as well.
“But I am meeting Josh.”
“Yes, and you have to walk past the bin housing to get there.”
Cue deep sigh, and rolling of eyes, and the best damn answer I have heard in a long while.
“Mother! That’s like saying ‘Oh, you are flying to Tehran? Could you solve the Iraq conflict, it’s on your way?'”!!!
Teenage logic at its best!
I think teenagers are amazing!! Perhaps not the most normal of mums, I never really understood the attraction of very small babies. Apart from the glorious smell of Johnson’s Baby Lotion, and an excuse to consume ridiculous amounts of Farley’s Rusks.I loved all of my children instantly, but I can honestly say that I didn’t truly enjoy them until they developed their own unique personalities, and started questioning the world. There was also the mistaken belief that because I had a large family, that I liked other people’s children too! NO!! There are exceptions, some lost souls that I felt compelled to protect, and the rarest of all, the two babies of my much younger friend Jess, who are the most edible of boys! But generally? NO!!
People warned me how awful teenagers can be. Told me their horror stories. Including my mother, who waited with an almost malicious glee for me to experience the horror she had endured. Mainly from me, I suspect. Because I really did push those boundaries as hard as I could. But maybe the trick is to retain that little bit of teenager inside yourself. Just to remember how you felt, and what you really needed at that point in your life.
So! My 10 rules to surviving, and enjoying, your teenagers.
1. Your Teenagers Are Not Your Friends.
Why would they be? Do you ever remember having friends your age, when you were in your teens? Let’s face it, anything older than 23 is considered as ancient, in their world.Your job is to be banker, driver, chef, good listener, cleaner, housekeeper, and ultimately parent.
2. You Are Not Cool.
No matter how cool you, or your friends, or their friends think you are, in your teenager’s eyes, you are a fool! That will never change!!
3. You Can’t Dance.
Even if you were a prima ballerina who danced with Nureyev, you have no sense of rhythm, and should never be seen dancing, not even in your own house, to your own music! And never do the hands raised above the head mum dancing, because they will DIE!!!
4. You Have No Taste in Music.
They invented music! Including The Stones, Bowie, and Joy Division! You are simply trying to jump on their bandwagon. Do not ever download anything they already have, or try to discuss new bands. See number 2. You are a fool.
5. You Have No Taste in Fashion.
Do not ever attempt to buy them clothes. Your only role in clothes shopping is to pay for them. If you are invited on a shopping spree, accept that it is so they can discount everything you suggest, and laugh at what you like. And bite your tongue when they turn up two weeks later in the outfit you chose to start with. Never try to wear the same outfits as them.
6. You Know Nothing.
Indeed, they are amazed that you have survived this long without having any knowledge about anything. Except perhaps how to use a washing machine, oven, bin, and arrange a student overdraft.
7. Do Not Social Network.
Even though you have had a Facebook Account since before they could write, do not try to write a status, share a photo or video, or comment on their status. They can, however, be as rude as they like about yours. And occasionally frape you, when they have commandeered your laptop, because theirs is in the workshop, due to a virus, or a healthy dowsing of Diet Coke!! Seriously, do not pepper your comments with text speak!! Nothing makes me cringe more than people of a certain age who insist on using lol!
8. You Do Not Have A Love Life.
Nor have you ever!! They were the result of immaculate conception! You know nothing about love, or sex, eeiiiuuuuuw!! Why would you, because you are soooo old!! You will never understand how they feel, but will still have to sit for hours while they explain it in minute detail. But you cannot give any advice, because you know nothing!!! And should you actually start a new relationship, that will always be revolting!!! Anything more than waving to each other from opposite sides of the room will always be unacceptable!
9. They Have Different Sleep Patterns.
Accept this! You were the same once. It is a battle on school nights, but just go with the flow on weekends and holidays. You get to go to bed when you want to now, and enjoy lie-ins on a saturday!!! And a Sunday!!! Also accept that they will eat everything in the cupboard whilst you are asleep!!
10. You Cannot Plan Their Life.
You must have rules. Teenagers are programmed to fight these, but they secretly like the boundaries you set, seeing these both as a challenge, and an indication of your genuine concern for them. Never force them in their choices academically, just encourage them to achieve their best. If they want to be a road sweeper, make sure they are the best damn road sweeper ever!!
Most of all, just love them!!! They are mad, outrageous, opinionated, aggravating, irritating, and absolutely wonderful!! And only with you for a very short time!! And if you embrace them, they will make you remember how wonderful it was to be their age!! And give you back a little of their youth!!
My irrepressible sense of the ridiculous has always kept me from being overwhelmed completely by the events in my car crash of a life. It is very much a family trait, and a gathering of my clan invariably transcends into a riotous display of wit and madness, resulting in gloriously helpless laughter. My father was a controlling, often brutal man, with a mercurial temper, but a possessor of huge charm and ready wit, which enabled him to mask his true character from the outside world, and meant any revelation about our tormented home life was met with disbelief by those who thought they knew him well.
I have learned, over the years, to control the laughter bubbling up inside me, as it is not always appreciated by others. Years ago, my best friend chose to inform me, in the middle of an Adam and the Ants concert, just as I had popped a very large piece of toffee into my mouth, that the mother of a mutual friend of ours, had committed suicide. The sight of her earnest face, with a white stripe painted over her nose, struck me as so inappropriate, that I burst out laughing, spraying her with the half chewed sweet! She refused to speak to me for several days.
My children have inherited the wit gift, each one having developed their own unique slant. My oldest son, now in his late 20’s, a self confessed geek, is a master of the monologue, or rant. My daughter, most reticent of my offspring, nonetheless has a razor sharp tongue, and can demolish the most belligerent of opponents with a few well chosen words. My mother has the same talent. As a cathartic exercise, on the collapse of my marriage, I had my first tattoo. Never much given to subtlety, it was of semi-epic proportions across my lower back. Proudly, I sent her an image of it, and received the following reply. “Well done, darling, you now look like an ageing lesbian.” My youngest son has a deliciously surreal imagination, and made all of us collapse recently when, on being told by his brother that he looked edgy, replied “Don’t be stupid, I’m the curved bit on a bar of chocolate!”
But it is my middle son, now 18, who has perhaps a humour closest to mine. This has led, over the years, to accusations that he is my favourite. Totally untrue, it is just very difficult to chastise a child who reduces you to hysterical giggles. One of his earliest gems was at the tender age of four. I lifted him from the bath, and, standing behind him, wrapped him, robe like, in a towel. He looked up at me, and in a deep voice, said “Luke, I am your father.” Brilliant!!
His finest talent, however, is his ability to lapse into any character, and have a completely improvised conversation with me on any subject. These can be a few lines only, or can last for half an hour or more. And so to the conversation on the ‘plane.
It was conducted in a Cornish accent, no reason for that, just seemed to work!!
Him: So who are you then?
Me: I’m Jesus
Him: You can’t be Jesus, you aint got a beard.
Me: Thats cos I wax.
Him: But that would hurt.
Me: I’m Jesus, I feel no pain.
Him: Thats a lie right there, you cried on the cross.
Me: No I didn’t.
Him: I saw the pictures!
Me: It was raining that day, they was raindrops.
Him: So how are you and Judas these days?
Me: Not to good, given the cash bung thing.
Him: Yeah, I noticed you had blocked him on Facescroll!!!
Cue helpless laughter, at which point the woman sitting in front of me stood up and glared at me over the top of her seat. Both of us slid down, trying to suppress giggling, and he whispered into my ear.
“If you don’t know who is the most annoying person on the plane, it’s probably you!!”