Parenting Teens? I’m making it up as I go along
Hello, my name is Rachel. I live in Bedfordshire and I am the mother of a seventeen year old. There are days when I have no idea how that happened. I think I blinked and missed it.
If I ever meet Dr Miriam Stoppard she and I will have words over her book Complete Baby and Child Care. As a newly-minted mother in the summer of 1997, I read her book with all the diligence needed to pass an exam. As Dr Stoppard is not noted for being a total fruitcake, I placed my faith in the good Doctor’s words as I embarked on this magical journey of parenting. First of all I have to take issue with the tone of the book. By the time I’d read it, I was under the impression that being a mother was going to transport me into a state of perpetual bliss. Well, the word state was right – I was most definitely in a state – but I think I’ll swap bliss for stress. Dr Stoppard failed to mention a few key things about baby and child care; such as, how to do it when you’re on your knees after three months of no sleep and your baby is facing major surgery. Where’s the chapter on ‘when it all goes tits up?’ It’s not there. It’s never in any book on childcare. Of course, I was doing my early parenting without access to the Internet. These days, I wouldn’t recommend any new parent buy a baby care book – just Google it. There is no way that your baby is going to conform to what a book says, but someone on an internet forum probably has a child doing the same thing as yours.
These are minor details. The biggest issue I have with the book, apart from the fact that it peddles the ‘being a mother is easy and wonderful all the time’ myth, is that it purports to be ‘complete,’ but stops at the age of five. Er… There are thirteen more years until the child is classed as an adult, where’s the help with that bit, Dr Stoppard? She doesn’t say. Instead, her next book was about the menopause. So I’ve been trapped in a no advice wasteland for the past twelve years, making it up as I go along. We’ve not done too badly. The ‘everything pink and fluffy’ phase has been and gone and the cuddly toy addiction is waning, although there are still two special ones on the bed. The heather-coloured bedroom walls have been graced by the likes of S Club 7, Justin Bieber, and that wolf boy from Twilight before slowly turning a shade of black. She’s now into rock music, specifically heavy metal and the walls are now covered in various men in black leather and scary make up. This is exacerbated by the semi troglodytic existence of never opening the curtains. It may be noisy, but at least it isn’t Justin Bieber. She reads Shakespeare and Bram Stoker, teen fiction and Kerrang. She is complicated and cute, angry and apathetic and swirls with emotion like a kaleidoscope. In many ways she’s like me and then again she’s very much not like me. It took me forty years to pluck up the courage to let one person read a story I’d written, while she regularly uploads videos of her songs onto YouTube and broadcasts to the world.
I’m not conscious of having done any active ‘parenting,’ it’s just been a lot of muddling through as situations have arisen. Just like the baby books in the early years, there’s advice and then there are your particular circumstances – which rarely fit the text book. We’ve fought a few pitch battles, but have been thankfully free of major traumas. As you don’t start me on the state of her room…
Until next time…