Archive

Tag Archives: teenagers

IMG_0404
How to explain to Duncan that his girlfriend can’t come and live with us, after falling out with her mother?

The world of a sixteen year old is very different from that of his middle-aged parents.

I do feel sorry for him when I refuse. It’s true we do have the space – though we don’t actually have a room spare to give her. But he can’t see what we lack – and maybe it is just as well that he can’t. As a family, we are chronically short of time, and energy. Duncan’s sister Julie has been very ill over the winter, in and out of hospital. She needs to know that she can take the time and space she needs to recover without worrying about anything else. And Joe and I need to be able to relax when we come home from work – years of caring for Julie have taken a heavy toll. The last winter has been tough on all of us, we just don’t have the emotional resources to deal with anything more demanding than deciding which movie to watch.

The Elsa we have seen is a lovely girl – kind, resourceful, and sweetly vulnerable. Other people’s teenagers are always more appealing than your own. It’s been a pleasure to have her around. Perhaps it would do us good to open up to someone outside the family?

But no, reason kicks in: is this really doing Elsa any favours? Most parents are there for life: she will have to mend the relationship with her mother sometime. At sixteen, storms come and go – but let’s face it, back at home in your own bedroom is still where you would rather be. And what will she do if and when she falls for someone else if she depends on Duncan’s family for a roof over her head?

2015/01/img_0398.jpg
I’m not a big fan of diets, but here I am downloading the NHS diet plan and back to counting calories.

Julie has been in and out of hospital like a yoyo the last week, so our family life has been pretty chaotic. But as soon as she started to stabilise again, she declared that one of the things she wanted to do was lose weight.

Now in the aftermath of crisis Julie’s head is not in a good place. Dieting can seriously mess with your head at the best of times: all those obsessional routines about calorie counting, all that guilt when you “sin”. She’s already surveying the wreck that is her sixth form career after two months of chaos and trying to work out how to recover that. To diet as well: is that a good idea?

I figured the best thing would be to offer to be her diet buddy. I could do with losing a few pounds anyway, and by dieting alongside her I could offer her support and moderate some of the extremes of behaviour.

In fact it’s been quite fun. Its been a few years since I’ve looked at the world of dieting, and there are lots of apps and much better sources of advice. I insisted we try the NHS plan because it is moderate, and because Julie had already successfully used their running program last year. We printed out the star charts and put them on the fridge, as instructed, and signed up to a free calorie logging app which allows us to be “friends” and share information. There’s been a fair amount of giggling and “Did you know…?” conversations. It’s fun to work on a project together.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/813/46462826/files/2015/01/img_0397-0.jpg
For millennia, human beings have adapted successfully to colder climates by wearing clothes and shoes. Leathers, furs, the wool from farm animals, rubber and now synthetic polymers, have all been used to solve the basic problems of heat loss, and water repellency.

But despite the accumulated wisdom of generations, teenagers still leave the cave on a cold winters night without a coat or a decent pair of shoes. For as long as there have been clothes, there have been harassed adults telling teenagers to put something warmer on. No doubt somewhere up above the Arctic circle, there are Inuit teenagers walking about outside in T-shirts and trainers while Inuit parents yell at them.

Today I broke my winter hibernation and braved the horror of the January sales for the single purpose of getting Duncan a decent coat and a pair of boots that will withstand another two months of snow and ice.

What I want to buy: a coat that is warm, weatherproof and well made, shoes that have a sole with decent grip.

What a sixteen year old wants to buy: a coat that makes him look cool, a coat that folds away to the size of a postage stamp when he takes it off (or which actually vanishes into thin air), shoes that make him look six inches taller.

We battled long and hard, up and down the heaving aisles of January shoppers. But the task has been completed at last, and I can rest up for another year. I have fulfilled my parental obligation to purchase appropriate winter clothes for my ungrateful offspring, who will almost certainly entirely neglect to wear them.

IMG_0290.JPG
It’s that time of year again: the start of another academic year. Everyone who has ever been a child or raised a child in the Western Hemisphere will recognize that this is the time of new beginnings. Small children start school, bigger children chafe in new uniforms, and many teenagers leave home for the first time against a backdrop of reddening trees and the freshening winds of autumn. 

For me it is also the time to pick up the exacting routines of housekeeping after the laxness of summer. Everyone has to get up, eat and shower and be out of the house on time.  Everyone has to return home safely at the end of the day and be fed again, listened to, commiserated with, supported and soothed and finally nagged back in to their beds.  The fridge must be kept supplied with food, everyone must have shoes and the lights on the bikes must be working. 

This routine, though somewhat monotonous, is necessary. Without it we rapidly sag downwards into the chaos that awaits beneath: skipped meals, forgotten medication, chronic sleep shortages and abandoned homework assignments. I will know my children are truly adult and independent of me when they finally recognise the importance of getting enough sleep and eating regularly.

20140702-145145-53505322.jpg
My son is now at home all day with nothing to do, having finished his exams. He is 16. He has the full use of his hands, legs, eyes and brain. I have taught him to cook (and so has his school), my fridge, my freezers and my cupboards are well stocked with ingredients, and there is friendly shop at the end of the road which will give my children anything they want on credit.

So why is he ravenously hungry when I get home? He says he doesn’t know where anything is. I show him (not for the first time). He declares it is too much work to make a sandwich. Then he says he still can’t remember where anything is anyway.

So here’s my solution: the “Food, Where Is It?” poster. Just to keep him alive until I get home. All he has to do is forage for the food, work out how to unwrap it, put it in his mouth and chew. Surely that isn’t beyond him?

20140327-172400.jpg
The situation is this: I am not terribly ill, but I am in some pain and discomfort, and feeling very sorry for myself. I wait impatiently for the date of my operation to be set, with a growing list of things that have to be put off or put on hold until I know. Can I finish planning the summer holiday? Can I promise to take Julie to a university open day? Can I commit to visiting my father?

In the meantime, my energy is in increasingly short supply, and must be meted out carefully. Did I really bake bread once? I cannot imagine kneading bread dough at the moment! The house has to run itself as much as it can. I have two firm sources of support: principally Joe, who runs all sorts of errands for me, often when he is exhausted himself, and who is the proverbial pillar of strength. My other ally is the Internet: now I not only order food, but whole dinners. If you live in England, I can thorough recommend family meals from Cook, which are delivered frozen and can be heated up in the time it takes a teenager to ask (sulkily) “what’s for dinner?”

Two things that I find the energy for because they are life-affirming. My office now looks over the botanic gardens, and I walk there every lunchtime, come rain or shine, absorbing the colours, the blossom, the textures, the smells. The other is music. I have signed up for a short online course to learn about Beethoven (from Coursera) and wherever I have ten minutes alone I listen to a movement from one of the piano sonatas: really listen, not have it on as background music. Both of these are luxuries I could not even dream of last year when Julie was so unwell and so dependent that I had no lunchtimes, nor ever ten minutes alone. How I relish this now!

LEANING INTO A NEW NORMAL

With Celenia Delsol

(Un)Diagnosed and still okay

The life and times of Bridget's family as the navigate an unexpected journey with a rare genetic syndrome

Sectioned

A blog about mental health & mental healthcare

purplepersuasion

Mental health blog by a service user with bipolar disorder. Winner of the Mark Hanson Awards for Digital Media at the Mind Media Awards 2013 and the Mood Disorder category in the 2012 This Week in Mentalists Awards.

Brotherly Love

A personal exploration of autism from a brother’s perspective, including family relationships, philosophy, neuroscience, mental health history and ethics

Side by Side

A web magazine for friends, families and advocates of mental health

The Chatter Blog

Living: All Day Every Day: Then Chattering About It

partialinsight

Stroke and visual impairment

glosswatch

humourless mummy, cuddly feminist

L A F E I S T

truth slayer

Lily Mae Martin

Life in particular

One Pissed Off Rhino

You wouldn't fight a rhino with a fork - all you'd end up with is one bent fork and one pissed off rhino.

The Riddle Ages

An Anglo-Saxon Riddle Blog

annkilter

What ships are for...

Thunderhawk Bolt

That weird kid from school... all grown up

The Small Places

Life in particular

The Bipolar Codex

Kate McDonnell: Art, design and bipolar disorder