Next month our youngest turns thirteen and we will be parents to three teenagers. It’s a tough ride with some fun times inbetween but the weird thing is it takes us back ten years to when they were little kids.
We were a little slapdash and had three children within four years. It’s a bit of a blur looking back … the extreme sleep deprivation (and I mean extreme), the tantrums, the temperatures, the toing-and-froing from ball parks to swimming pools to the dreaded swings-and-slides of Peckham Rye. The late nights, the early starts. The tears at bedtime, shouting at requests to tidy-up, the hump when asked to hurry up or pick socks off the floor…
One of the main differences between these groups of self-obsessed non-adults is advice and shared experience. You have it coming at you from every direction when they are little – health visitors, NCT, a network of stay-at-home parents to drink tea with, Tumble Tots and music classes …
But where’s the manual when they hit teenagehood?
You’re kept at arms’ length from their teachers, there’s no health visitors, no more play-dates, just grumpy young people slouching round your kitchen and eating the contents of your fridge and raiding the drinks cabinet.
1. Wine: when they are toddlers you can’t wait for Bedtime so you can have a glass of wine. When they are teenageers you have to hide the wine from them before they drink it when you have gone to bed.
2. Bed: when you have a toddler you have to get up at the crack of dawn and watch ridiculous television. When they are teenagers you have to drag them out of bed while it is still daylight.
3. Self-obsession: toddlers think the world revolves around them. Teenagers think the world revolves around them.
4. Boundaries: toddlers need to know there are boundaries so they can push them. Teenagers: what are the boundaries?
5. Hugs: toddlers like to wrap their legs and arms around you, even when you are busy and otherwise occupied e.g. at the checkout or on the loo. You have to hunt down your teenager to get a hug off them (but it’s worth the effort – especially in front of their friends).
So my conclusion? Supply secondary schools with play equipment. Let every classroom have a sand and water tray and a box of dressing up clothes. Teenagers need to have fun and play and act like toddlers every now and then … and give them a hug whether they want one or not…
And will someone please write that elusive manual for me.