PLENTY of people warn you about the impact a newborn baby will have on your life, but there’s a second phase of shock and awe to come which is less discussed.
When it comes to coping with teens, the conversation just becomes clichéd.
It’s true that they do, literally overnight, lose the ability to speak without mumbling and leave clothes and towels all over the floor. They do get spots and fill the house with a gagging fog of Lynx body spray (I’m sure if you have daughters it’s something like Impulse).
But who ever tells you how you’ll feel when they’re suddenly as tall as you, or have bigger feet than you?
Or when they start having friends whose Mums you don’t know from the school gates?
Or going to parties that don’t involve a bouncy castle injury and a piece of squashed birthday cake?
In a weird way, watching them grow up gives you delight and sadness.
Somehow the years between the ages of about two and 11 seem strangely simple, if a little manic. Even when I had four of them aged ten and under.
You know – most of the time – where they are, who they’re with, and what they’re up to.
Then suddenly, you don’t.
It’s easy, well, easy-ish, to allow them some independence. That mobile phone you finally relented on when they started secondary school, that might make you feel better because you would always know where they were?
Well, now it’s not only the ever extending leash, it’s the source of all the stuff you don’t know about. The Twitter feed, the faceless friends, the Facebook events, and freedom from family.
I can’t pretend I’m not jittery about seeing my elder boys grow up, grow away. And while I try to be cool, try not to hover, Bloke tells me I need to resist the urge to stop them making their own mistakes. I need to stop throwing up the metaphorical bumpers at the bowling alley.
I can’t help it, I still see my 14-year-old as that wide-eyed smiley baby who wouldn’t sit still for a moment.
Anyway, to revert to the clichés, I can still enjoy being an embarrassing mother. Apparently they are mortified when I get cross in shops, or try to hug them in public. Emptying their three-year-old sister Bonnie’s potty by the kerb when she’s caught short in the car is one of my specialities (needs-must), as well as wolf-whistling loudly in public spaces to get their attention. Strangely, they aren’t particularly bothered about the fact I write about them in these columns.
Slightly bruised by their casual list of my misdemeanours, I ask, “What about Dad, doesn’t he ever embarrass you?”
“Nah, Dad’s pretty cool.”
I give up.