I have blogged before about my three lovely, wild, frustrating, up-and-down teenagers. In just a few months, the oldest will be twenty years old and hence no longer a teenager. He will still be at home briefly before travelling to Japan to learn the language and absorb the culture he has been mesmerised by throughout his teens. The next son will be off to Africa around the same time, a passion in his heart for that huge, complex continent, a worry for his parents as he makes his journey. The youngest, now sixteen, is in Year 11, GCSE madness all around, gobby, lippy, a young woman who stands up against injustice who can be a joy to have around or a minefield of emotions to pick our way through. I wouldn’t be a teenager again for all the tea in Waitrose. It’s the best of times and the worst of times and yet when they go, how I will miss the mess, the half-drunk coffee mugs, the slamming doors, the late-night taxi pick-ups, the heaps of washing, the nagging, the moaning …
Okay, so here are my five things:
1. Teenagers do need a lot of sleep, they really do. They have a different circadian rhythm to the rest of us and need those lie ins. If they need to sleep, let them. Just as it’s wrong to wake a sleeping baby, so it is wrong to wake a sleeping teen. On your head be it.
2. If they want a party at your house and they want you to go elsewhere for the evening (remember Abigail’s Party), then go. Take the dogs, the booze (they will bring their own whether you like it or not) and your iWotsits. Give the neighbours a heads-up and a curfew of eleven o’clock – which sounds fair, as long as it’s not a regular event. After all, you have to put up with the neighbourhood toddlers all summer, screaming in their paddling pools. What goes around comes around. Your teenagers were once toddlers. One day those neighbourhood toddlers will be teenagers. We all have to live together as as a community. (Our neighbours have been awesome.)
3. Praise them the same you would for any child. Show them they have talents and gifts and even when they feel crap about life, remind them of a funny incident from childhood.
4. Hug them, whether they like it or not. Even the grumpy boys.
5. Put a big map on your kitchen wall with stickers for the places you would love to visit. It gives you stuff to talk about at family meals. It shows them that their tiny, troubled life is a speck on the planet. Their worries are usually first world worries. Let them go to Japan and Africa or wherever, but yes, it will be really hard.
And I know I shouldn’t blog about my teenagers but they won’t read this. After all they haven’t read their mother’s novels. But maybe one day, when they are on their travels, they will turn to their mother’s words on the page, or remember their mother’s words to them over the years, the dos and the donts and the ILoveYous.
PS. The Generation Game is still on Kindle at 99p for the next week. I need those sales for my teenagers food and loo roll consumption.