In the past decade, as the sheer volume of bloggers rises and social media has become an inescapable part of our lives, I’ve noticed a growing number of parenting bloggers, Instagrammers and Facebookers. These people are giving us all a good laugh as we get an insight into their daily lives, offering advice, support, guidance and generally being tip top folk.
But what do they really know?
Call me jaded but claiming to be knowledgable about parenting when you haven’t yet hit the teenage years is like claiming to understand Brexit. Newborns are blissfully easy. Toddlers are charmingly stubborn. KS1 kids are ridiculously cute. KS2 kids are gloriously inquiring. But teenagers? Being a parent of teenagers is a whole new ball game. A ball game where nobody knows the rules, you’re not entirely certain you’re playing on the same team and some days (a lot of days) you’re not even sure if you’re playing the same game. There are books guiding us from conception to birth, others give advice on the early years, some even offer guidance through those first school years, but nothing prepares a parent for dealing with your child’s first heartbreak. Or when they don’t do as well in an exam as they wanted to. Or they get Chlamydia. Or decide to allow the BBC to film them taking drugs at a festival. (Just me on the last one there?)
As a parent who has (so far) successfully navigated the teenage years twice, raising two into adulthood, is currently raising a third through her teenage years (*more on teenager daughters later. You’ll need a cup of tea/stiff drink and possibly some tissues for that part) and has a fourth who is yet to get to the teenage stage (oh joy, I get to do this again in 7 years when I’m 7 years older and more knackered) I feel compelled to write about the things I’ve learned, what I’ve seen and heard, the mistakes I’ve made and the laughs I’ve had along the way.
So in this first instalment of And Now For The Teenage Years I bring you…..
Secondary school is a minefield. As parents we are generally as anxious – if not more so – as our kids about the first day at big school. Will they be OK? Will they get lost? Will they make friends? Will those new friends be nice friends? It goes on and on. The day arrives, your small person goes off in their stiff, shiny uniform and clumpy shoes. Bag so big and stuffed with the items the school said it was imperative they would need that it looks like they’ll topple over. Away they go. You’re anxious, possibly feeling a bit sick, wondering how their day has gone. 6 hours later they come out and they’re OK and you think ‘thanks god’ and it’s all a huge relief… until a term later when your sweet and adorable 11 year old has become a stranger, they speak differently, peppering any conversation with words you have no knowledge of, spending hours either in their room playing XBox games that involve a inordinate amount of shouting, or watching endless hours of makeup tutorials on YouTube. They never took that over-stuffed bag, nor the items it contains, back in after the first week and you have no idea who their friends are but they seem to spend huge swathes of their day messaging these unknown, faceless people. School used to mean a lovely chat with the other parents in the playground, having their pals over after school for a play and tea, arranging to meet at the park at weekends. Now it’s like you don’t exist. Where you got notes in their book bags to tell you what the homework was or which school trip is coming up you now rely on your small person telling you this info (*note, do not – I repeat – do NOT rely on your small person to pass information on. They’re shit at it.) or you join a Facebook group of other, equally bewildered parents where there is always – praise the gods – one parent who either has some sort of insider knowledge or a freakishly well organised child who actually knows which homework needs to be done or what school trip needs paying for and you scour the group for info you might need. You are now essentially not a part of their school life, other than to drop in forgotten PE kits or buy huge amounts of weird ingredients for some Home Economics thing that no one is going to eat, mainly because it never gets brought back home (stock up on Tupperware now because you’ll never see that tub again).
Yep, alcohol. Now there’s a fun story. And by fun I mean it really wasn’t fun. At all. In fact – joking aside – I can still see images of that particular event when I close my eyes. Forever embedded into my brain. Parents have different ideas about kids and alcohol just as they do about a lot of other things. Some parents offer their kids alcohol with meals, on holiday, at parties etc, some are dead against it, as with the majority of parenting there’s no right or wrong (other than the fact that alcohol and kids do not mix, it’s horribly damaging to their growing bodies not to mention it’s like giving a 5 year old a can of red bull and then wondering why they’re bouncing off the ceiling, but each to their own) but having spent half the night in my bathroom with a pissed up teenager (not one of mine, a friend of one of mine) let’s just say it’s an eye opening experience to see kids' bodies and brains dealing with alcohol . Parents, know this: your kids are drinking at sleepovers and parties, they have got pissed in a field at some point and they have thrown their guts up after a session all unbeknownst to you. Sorry if that comes as a shock.
Teenagers apparently require a lot of stuff. And it has to be branded stuff. Gone are the days when you could grab them an outfit from Sainsbury’s or pick something up at H&M. Oh no. Those days are gone. Now even their pants must be designer and their phones top of the range. “But this is your own fault, you’re pandering to them!” I hear you cry. You think I made this bed?! Hell no, I most certainly didn’t, but it creeps up on you, you barely notice, one day they’re wearing 5 for £5 pants from Primark, the next you realise you’ve just spent £50 on 3 pairs of Calvin Klein boxers. Once it was £3 mascara from Superdrug, now it’s £30 Benefit mascara. And the bastard phone companies just keep producing newer, better, faster, cooler models and you’re trapped because the stupid software updates won’t happen after a certain amount of time so you’re left with no choice other than to buy them a newer model (and then paying almost as much on insurance for it cos you know they’re going to smash the screen within the next week or so.) Their Christmas lists stop being about Lego and Barbie and suddenly become £200 North Face tracksuits, £100 trainers and Pandora jewellery (which, can I add, is ridiculously overpriced for what it is).
My advice to you all is start saving now. Or move to some remote part of the world where there is no Wi-Fi or anything and your kids can be blissfully ignorant of the stuff they need.
That’s it for now. I have so much more to say on the subject and my next blog is going to be covering some of the trials and tribulations of parenting a teenage daughter.
(You’re still wondering about the BBC drug thing aren’t you?)